According to studies, 21% to 38% of stroke survivors can develop aphasia. However, there is hope, as it is treatable. Today’s digital technology has given rise to the era of online therapy, which is showing great promise as a method for treating aphasia.
This article aims to explore the advantages of choosing aphasia therapy online, set expectations for those considering it, and offer guidance on maximizing its benefits.
What Is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a condition often resulting from damage to the left hemisphere of the brain, which impairs communication skills. This impairment may stem from incidents like strokes or head injuries, or emerge slowly due to brain tumors or infections.
It’s important to note that individuals with aphasia may not align perfectly with a single classification and may transition between types as they progress toward recovery. Primarily, aphasia has three main types.
This is the most frequently encountered form of non-fluent aphasia, arising from damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia can comprehend but typically struggle to articulate words and tend to construct brief, truncated sentences, often leaving out small connecting words.
This is characterized by the individual’s production of speech that may be nonsensical, filled with extraneous or incorrect words, or may even include entirely unrecognizable words. Those with Wernicke’s aphasia may have the capacity to see words in print and hear spoken language, but their ability to understand these words is compromised.
Global aphasia arises in individuals who have experienced significant damage to the brain’s language-processing regions. It leads to profound communication difficulties, severely restricting the person’s ability to express, speak, or comprehend language. Those with global aphasia may be unable to articulate more than a handful of words, frequently repeating the same ones, and typically cannot grasp even basic words and phrases.
How Does Aphasia Online Therapy Work
The National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS), managed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), provides evidence that speech-language therapy can lead to considerable improvement for those with aphasia.
This therapy falls into two broad categories, and clinicians often employ a combination of both. The choice of therapy approach is tailored to each individual’s specific needs and the severity of their symptoms. As a person with aphasia progresses, the nature of their therapy evolves to match their improving condition.
1. Impairment-based Therapies
Impairment-based techniques for aphasia concentrate on engaging the individual in activities that enhance their ability to understand and communicate effectively. These therapies are coupled with homework assignments and computer programs.
Online therapy for aphasia often includes exercises aimed at improving word retrieval, comprehension, and practical skills like handling monetary transactions. Additionally, the therapy experience can be enriched and extended through the support of caregivers under professional guidance.
2. Communication-based Therapies
Communication-oriented treatments primarily help individuals with aphasia convey messages and emotions through alternative communication methods.
Speech-language therapists frequently employ group activities to aid a person’s reintegration into daily life. These activities typically involve more authentic, real-world communication scenarios, presenting actual challenges that one might encounter.
How Is Aphasia Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of aphasia involves a mixed approach, including a physical examination, a detailed review of the patient’s medical history, diagnostic imaging, various tests, and more. This process comprises several key steps:
During the initial consultation, the speech pathologist begins by evaluating the patient’s overall communication abilities. The pathologist often conducts an online assessment, which varies depending on the location and symptoms of the brain injury in the person with aphasia. This assessment might entail tasks like:
- Describing a picture
- Naming objects
- Demonstrating the use of gestures
- Listening tests
- Tests about understanding both verbal and written information.
Medical Review and Testing
The healthcare provider begins by examining the patient’s medical history, focusing on any past incidents of brain injury, stroke, or neurological disorders that could lead to aphasia. To confirm and pinpoint the exact location of any brain injury, patients typically undergo diagnostic imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans.
During the evaluation, the speech pathologist actively engages with the person with aphasia to understand their goals for speech therapy, assisting in identifying and setting these objectives.
These goals are often established collaboratively with the clinician and the patient’s family, focusing on enabling participation in meaningful activities and roles. The clinician uses these identified goals as a reference point, adapting them to align with the individual’s needs and preferences.
Deciding Mode of Therapy
After the goals have been laid out, the speech pathologist assists in identifying the most effective communication methods for the patient. These may include a combination of verbal and nonverbal techniques, along with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) options. This could range from high-tech to low-tech communication devices, ensuring a comprehensive approach to therapy.
How To Live With Aphasia
A study discovered a prevalent occurrence of depression in patients with aphasia. This highlights the importance of psychological self-care for those affected by this condition. Several strategies can be adopted to ease the situation:
- Join support groups: Apart from seeking online therapy for aphasia, participating in support communities, whether online or in-person, offers valuable opportunities to learn from others who also live with aphasia. Engaging with these groups provides a sense of connection and solidarity, as you interact with people who truly comprehend your challenges and experiences.
- Maintain follow-ups: It’s crucial to regularly visit your healthcare provider as advised. These follow-up appointments play a key role in monitoring your condition and working to minimize its impact.
- Keep something for your identification: Carrying an “aphasia ID” or informational card can simplify communication in scenarios where you encounter people who are unaware of your condition. This tool can be especially useful in interactions with those who don’t know you personally.
- Make use of technological tools: Smartphones and tablets can be invaluable tools for individuals with aphasia, providing alternative communication methods that don’t rely on verbal speech. There are numerous apps specifically tailored for aphasia support available on these devices. For guidance on these resources, the National Aphasia Association has different helpful guides about tools for aphasia.