The Essex Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation understands that following a stroke, treatment for difficulty with speech (called “aphasia”, or sometimes “dysphasia”) is one of the main concerns for our patients and their loved ones. While the degree and permanence of speech ability lost due to a stroke varies dramatically with each individual instance, there is a general structure for assessing and treating this issue immediately following this unfortunate occurrence.

Language difficulty usually results from a stroke or brain injury on the left side of the brain. Within 24 hours of suffering a stroke, a patient should receive first an informal assessment and then a formal assessment by a speech language therapist for difficulty with language and with swallowing. These professionals have specialized tests for determining the degree of impact and for developing effective strategies for recovering as much previously held ability as possible.

Patients speech may be affected by a stroke in a number of different ways that involve various strategies for and chances of recovery. For instance, a patient may have difficulty understanding language (called “receptive aphasia”). As an alternative, they may understand just fine but have trouble speaking words correctly for neurological reasons (“expressive aphasia”) or for muscular reasons (“dysarthria” or “dyspraxia”). Some may even have trouble reading (“dyslexia”) or writing (dysgraphia”), or any combination of these challenges.

Regardless of the particular difficulties experienced, a speech language therapist will tailor a treatment plan to the patient’s specific needs. Common strategies include naming pictures, practicing mouth and tongue movements, and practicing breath control. A phenomenon called “neuroplasticity” helps the brain repair and rework itself, and it is best achieved through the repetition and consistency that the therapists will suggest. Not all ability is recoverable in every instance, but dedicated speech language therapy work will guarantee the optimal results.