Finding your voice after a stroke

A stroke can happen to anyone at any age, but is more common in the elderly.  It is caused by a blood clot or bleed in the brain.  The parts of the brain that control our language, speech and communication are spread out across the brain, but many are found on the left side.   Having worked with people who have had a stroke both in the NHS and in private practice I have witnessed how devastating a stroke can affect a person’s communication, but have also seen people recover well.

Aphasia, or dysphasia, is the medical word for language problems caused by a stroke.  A person may have difficulties understanding what is said to them, reading, understanding what objects are,  gestures or facial expression.   They may have problems expressing themselves through the spoken word, writing, drawing or using gestures.   Some may speak in long, rambling utterances unaware that they are not making sense.  People may lose whole grammatical parts of their lexicon (words) such as verbs or nouns, or specific groups of words.. such as words related to the body, vegetables, places.   Language disorders after a stroke have fascinated researchers for years due to what it can teach us about the brain.

However, for the person affected by the stroke, their friends and loved ones it can be devastating and frustrating.  People often become isolated and depressed by their difficulties to communicate. Speech and Language Therapists and charities such as CONNECT, Headway and the Stroke Association do wonderful work to help people rebuild their communication and lives.

Therapy for aphasia includes both ‘impairment’ based therapy (doing exercises to rebuild the neural connections) and ‘functional’ based therapy (using a total communication approach to get one’s message across through drawing, gestures, writing, speech, apps, communication aids etc).  Therapy usually includes family and friends to help them be effective communication partners.

It is not uncommon for the first few weeks and months to see rapid improvement in the language after a stroke as the brain begins to heal.  Improvements after that can be slow but steady.   The individual may experience low mood, fatigue and lability (emotions swaying dramatically) for some time, but this usually passes.  Patience is key.

If you are interested in therapy for aphasia please contact the clinic or get in touch with the wonderful charities that support those who have aphasia.

Stammering Therapy – Acceptance

the-kings-speechPeople who stammer have many expectations from therapy.  Most people want to achieve greater fluency, whilst others want to feel better about themselves as communicators.  In my experience, the best outcomes have been achieved when people develop a greater ‘presence’ when communicating and acceptance of the stammer.  Many of us are frequently caught in the ‘mind reading’ trap of thinking that others may think less of us due to our vulnerabilities or perceived flaws.  Therapy for stammering needs to ‘toughen up’ the person to be less bothered by the stammer, worry less about what others may think of them and get on with communicating ideas, feelings and thoughts in an authentic, comfortable way.  The individual also needs to develop greater kindness and compassion towards themselves.  Therapy to achieve all this includes psychological approaches integrated into speech therapy approaches, such as Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Narrative Therapy and CBT.   The Voice and Communication Clinic uses these approaches effectively in the treatment for our clients. Contact us to find out more…

What causes stammering

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Most people are fascinated about stammering. They ask me what causes it and what they should do when people stammer.  I tell them that stammering is a multi-factorial condition that is caused by a predisposition to it due to the wiring in their brain.  If you are not sure what to do when people stammer I would advise you to just allow people to talk, just like anyone else.  Be patient, kind and authentic.  If you are not sure, you could always ask them!

Speech and Language Therapy

kids-in-circle-lying-downSpeech and language therapy is not about elocution

People often ask me if I am going to make them talk better when I tell them what I do for a living. Most people do not realise that Speech and Language Therapists work with all types of communication disorders and disorders of swallowing and feeding. We work in many places including schools, hospitals, prisons, clinics, mental health centres, old-age homes and in research institutes.  We work with premature babies and the dying and elderly.  We work with loss, disability and death and try to help people achieve their potential in their ability to communicate with everyone in order to live meaningful, fulfilling lives.  It is a privilege to do this work and can be very challenging.

First blog post

This is a new world to me

Blogging ! A new way of communicating

That is what speech and language therapy is all about – enjoying effective communication to meet all our needs.  Imagine what life would be like if your communication was impaired. Imagine if you found it hard to get your words out, such as for those who stammer, or have problems with your voice and find it physically difficult to talk. Or perhaps one could have a problem with the brain and find it hard to find the words or understand what people say.  Others need machines to help them communicate.  Think of Stephen Hawkins.  His muscles for speech don’t work due to ALS, so he uses a device to express what he thinks.  Speech and language therapists work with children and adults to help them engage with the world by supporting their speech, language, voice and communication. Welcome to my website and blog.  I provide therapy for voice, speech and language.  Please look at the voice and communication clinic for more information and enjoy my blogs.