Speech therapy is often thought of as a way for young children to better develop their speech – whether learning how to say the letter “r” properly, or getting rid of a lisp. While it does both of these, speech therapy has many more purposes and works with many populations.
One of the problems a speech therapist works with is called apraxia, in this case apraxia of speech.
What is apraxia of speech?
Apraxia is when someone cannot translate what he wants to into motor action. In the case of apraxia of speech, a person can not form the words he wants to say and translate the words into speech.
While in some cases this may caused by a progressive neurological disorder, it most commonly happens after a brain injury, most often a stroke. About 60% of all apraxia of speech cases are due to a stroke.
Apraxia is called a neurogenic disorder, which means that it’s related to the nervous system. What happens is that the person wishes to say something, but something disrupts the idea on the way to the motor capacity, causing the system to fail. There are several parts of the system of speech, and this disorder falls into the part of the system known as articulation. The person knows what he wants to say, but can not process the thought into audible language.
How speech therapy helps
A speech therapist can diagnose apraxia based on examining how the patient makes certain movements with his mouth, even though the referral will come because the speech is impaired.
With time and speech therapy, someone with apraxia can greatly improve his speech. A typical speech therapy system is once a week, but if the case is severe, it might be as much as 3-5 times a week. In the case of a stroke, rehab might require speech therapy every day until there is a noticeable improvement.
The speech therapy involves a great deal of practicing letters, sounds and words. The idea is that as saying the words and sounds becomes more frequent, the patient will become more familiar with them, creating new neural pathways in his brain that will be able to transmit the thoughts into speech. As the patient feels the sounds and words in his mouth in the way that the speech therapists helps him with the motor aspect, he will become more used to it and more able to do it again in the future.
Part of this also is practicing moving his mouth in certain ways even without the attached sounds, just to get used to those movements. The patient will also be guided to say full words or phrases, to practice moving from one sound to another.
Of course, the process will change as they go along. At the beginning, he will probably be asked to say just a few syllables or words, but as they mark improvement, he will add more and more words as well as phrases and full sentences to his repertoire, building on the initial foundation.
If, as in rare cases, the damage is too severe and the language is not developing, the speech therapist might recommend moving to an alternative form of language so the patient can communicate more effectively. Sign language or typing might work out very well as other options.
Hudson View Rehabilitation Center offers excellent speech therapy and full range of rehab therapies for patients who have had a stroke or other traumatic brain injury. Our staff comprises full trained and experienced doctors and therapists to give our patients a broad spectrum of care.