Many of us know someone who has had a stroke or have heard the word “stroke” being talked about. But, did you know that a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) plays a big role in helping people recover from a stroke? Let’s review what a SLP does to know how they can help persons who have suffered a stroke.
SLPs work with people of all ages and in almost all medical or therapy settings. They are involved in looking at and helping with the way people speak, understand, and think about spoken words. They examine how people use words in their heads to solve problems and put sounds, words and sentences together to express themselves. SLPs also help people who have problems swallowing. Swallowing involves a lot of the same muscles, nerves, organs and bones involved in speaking. SLPs have a lot of knowledge and training in all of these structures as they’re used for both speaking and swallowing. They also have a lot of training in what goes wrong with these structures, why things went wrong, and how to make things better.
A stroke happens for two reasons: a blockage of blood flow to or a bleed in a part of the brain. A stroke can – and often does – affect the parts of the brain involved with speaking or understanding speech. If this happens, it is called “aphasia,” and it can make it difficult for the person with the stroke to communicate with loved ones. It also makes it difficult for loved ones to communicate with the person with the stroke. A stroke also can – and often does – affect the parts of the brain involved in controlling swallowing. Problems with swallowing can lead to very serious consequences, including pneumonia and choking.
In stroke care, SLPs first attend to a person’s safety. So, figuring out what type of foods are safe to swallow comes first. If the person is in hospital, the SLP consults with a doctor to get the prescription to change the person’s food textures (sometimes, docs trust the SLP to go ahead and make the change right away). Then, the SLP examines a person’s ability to speak and understand speech. This is done to teach the person with the stroke how to communicate with others effectively, and vice versa. Over time, the SLP works with the patient to help them recover their skills.
The SLP is just one of many caring and knowledgable people dedicated to making life return to normal as much as possible after a stroke. If you feel that you or a loved one require the services of a SLP, you can make a referral to us yourself. Alternately, consult with your primary healthcare professional, who will advise you of how to get in touch with a SLP in your community.