On Your Health

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Helping Stroke Victims Regain the Power of Speech

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of stroke occurrence in the U.S., and the ninth worst death rate from stroke, so it's likely you have already been touched by stroke’s life-altering consequences. You might already know that a stroke can strike in an instant, with no warning, and can have a devastating impact on a victim's life. In fact, strokes are the leading cause of serious disabilities, and cause a greater range of disabilities, than any other condition.

One of the most debilitating and frustrating effects of stroke is something called “aphasia.” Aphasia is a communication disability that affects speaking, understanding speech and numbers, reading, and/or writing. It’s important to note — it does not affect intelligence. While stroke isn’t the only cause of aphasia, it’s by far the largest. Other sufferers develop aphasia after a traumatic brain injury. According to the National Aphasia Association, there are at least 2,000,000 people in the U.S. with aphasia.

Talking and understanding language are such integral parts of most people’s lives, it’s easy to take them for granted. It might be hard to understand how it feels when simple, everyday tasks like reading a text message or counting change for groceries becomes a challenge.

Unfortunately, these communication problems can last a long time. People with aphasia often experience a decline in emotional health and well-being that is associated with their inability to communicate effectively. With reduced confidence in their communication abilities, people with aphasia often stop participating in everyday life activities.

Typically, one-on-one treatment with a speech language pathologist starts immediately after the stroke or brain injury occurs for a limited number of therapy sessions; many times, this is what insurance will cover. Often, a person with aphasia needs continued treatment and support for a longer period because sufferers continue to improve over time with therapy. 

Aphasia group therapy can help bridge the gap following the end of one-on-one therapy with a speech pathologist. "With stroke rates on the rise, especially among young adults, this type of specialized, continuing care is becoming more necessary," says Susan Dowell, M.S., CCC-SLP, who is the lead speech-language pathologist at the INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Outpatient Rehabilitation aphasia clinic. "Aphasia can be frustrating for patients and family members alike and is often misunderstood. At the clinic, we educate families and caregivers about the condition and how they can best support their loved one."

Aphasia group meetings have a number of therapeutic benefits.

  • The person with aphasia gets support by being around other people with the condition.
  • The person with aphasia can practice communication skills with a variety of conversation partners in different types of social interactions.
  • Patients get a chance to participate in types of group activities devoted to their own special interests.
  • The group meetings help aphasia patients develop skills to actively participate in the rest of their lives.

Though typically not covered by insurance, the group meetings are reasonably priced. INTEGRIS offers the aphasia group clinic every Tuesday evening. Cost is $75 for each four-week session and includes an initial evaluation. 

To learn more about aphasia group therapy at INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation, contact Susan Dowell at 405-644-5445.

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