Speech, swallowing and stroke
After a stroke, it is quite common to experience more than one type of communication difficulty, which affect everyone differently. Some communication difficulties include:
Aphasia: Difficulty talking, reading, writing or understanding other people when they speak. It can happen even if your thinking, memory and judgement are unaffected by your stroke. This is also called dysphasia.
Apraxia: Difficulty coordinating the muscles for speech. Your brain has trouble planning the movements, making it difficult to say words. This is also called dyspraxia.
Dysarthria: Weakness or paralysis in the muscles used for speaking. Your speech may become slurred and difficult for others to understand.
Dysphonia: Weakness or paralysis in the muscles in and around the vocal chords. Your voice might sound like a whisper, or it might sound hoarse or rough. If you cannot make any sound at all, it is called aphonia.
Cognitive difficulties: Your memory, thinking and judgement is affected. It may be difficult to pay attention when people talk to you. It may be hard to understand or speak complex sentences. Your conversation may seem inappropriate to other people.
Speech pathologists are university-trained allied health professionals who study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speech, language, fluency and voice.
They work with people who have difficulty communicating or swallowing food and drink safely because of different diagnoses such as stroke, brain injuries, and neurological disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s.
Generally, you do not need a referral to see a speech pathologist. You might need a referral from a GP if you would like to access funding sources such as NDIS or My Aged Care.
Speech pathologists explore your communication and/or swallowing difficulties through an initial assessment. Then they will suggest evidence-based interventions for your difficulties.
According to your individual needs, speech pathologists may prescribe a therapy program to support your communication/swallowing difficulties.
Therapy programs often aim to help you regain or maintain your communication/swallowing function.
Interventions may involve:
- Problem-solving, memory, organisation, and other activities geared at improving cognitive communication
- Communication strategies to support social communication
- Breathing and voicing techniques to improve efficiency in the use of voice
- Exercises to strengthen oral muscles
- Modified diet to improve safety and efficiency of swallow
Below is a general list of difficulties that warrant speech pathology evaluation:
- Do people often ask you to repeat because of the clarity of your speech?
- Do you find it hard to understand others, or express your thoughts?
- Does your voice sound soft, hoarse, scratchy, or breathy?
- Do you cough when you eat or drink or on saliva, or try to avoid certain foods because of swallowing difficulties?
View our list of speech pathologists here.