Regaining gift of speech after stroke | Ascension
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Regaining gift of speech after stroke

Steve, 81, said he’s never been a talkative person. But when a stroke took away his speech, he was determined to regain his ability to communicate.

Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, a language disorder that leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others. It is estimated that about 20 to 40 percent of stroke patients develop aphasia. 

“The way I explain it to people is that my mouth is a mess, but my brain is fine,” Steve wrote in an email with help from his wife Carla. Thanks to speech therapy at Ascension Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center in Pensacola, he is making progress. 

Immediately after his stroke, Steve had issues with aphasia and apraxia, a cognitive disorder that prevents a person from carrying out a learned movement. He said he had to relearn the alphabet, but with speech therapy has started to “retrieve his working vocabulary one word at a time.” Aphasia has also affected his writing composition, but not reading silently to himself.

Juan Suarez, MA, CCC-SLP, Steve’s speech pathologist at Ascension Sacred Heart, said everyone has experienced the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon when one cannot recall a familiar word, but aphasia is more profound than that. 

“Aphasia affects a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension, so a person may have trouble understanding, speaking, reading or writing,” Juan said. 

Depending on the severity, language therapy can help to improve communication by restoring as much language as possible, teaching how to compensate for lost language skills, and learning other methods of communicating. Steve has benefited from a multimodal treatment approach that utilizes verbal and nonverbal cues to communicate, such as using gestures for words, and practicing sentence completion and simple introductions.

Steve said once he relearns a word, he can retain it. But he still misuses or omits little words, like the, an, of. 

“Spellcheck and the internet are a blessing,” he said. “I have found this journey to be fascinating, however, without Carla’s help it would probably be impossible. She now calls me ‘Chatty Cathy.’”

Ascension Sacred Heart has three convenient locations for speech therapy, including Pace, Pensacola and Milton. For more information on speech therapy, call 850-746-0100