Aphasia, or a language impairment that can occur after a stroke, head injury or with dementia can be devastating because of difficulties with thinking of the names of things, understanding conversation, reading and writing. The effect of communication difficulties can be far-reaching and can impact on every aspect of the person’s life. This is including the ability to communicate with friends and family in a social setting as well as the ability to use the telephone or to work.
Treatment for aphasia typically involves many outpatient appointments either one to one or in a group in a hospital or clinic environment with a Speech and Language Therapist. However, recent best practice clinical guidelines recommend the use of computer based treatments (under the guidance of a Speech and Language Therapist) as a means of improving the consequences of aphasia1,2,3.
Aphasia Treatment looks ahead
Good news though is that for people with aphasia even years after their stroke, with targeted and focused treatment, or impairment can make significant improvements in their language skills. 1,2,3
So, it’s never too late to start with treatment for those who are willing and able to tolerate it!
So… what are the treatments that can be available on the computer or smart tablet?
Computer therapy can vary from exercises to increase the amount of time spent using language skills. Many guidelines indicate that regular and frequent practice of language skills in targeted activities are useful in regaining function. Computer based exercises are useful to keep attention and motivation going because they are often interactive and can be used to complement traditional Speech and Language Therapy.
Tracking your progress outside therapy sessions
There are also a number of computer based treatment packages that can be tailored by your Speech and Language Therapist to specifically meet your needs. When you do these treatments then a report of your performance goes back to your speech and language therapist who can adjust the therapy goals to stretch you just to the right level to encourage use of these skills appropriately.
Computers, iPads, tablets or smart-phones can also be used to practice communication strategies such as email or using videoconferencing (such as Skype) with loved ones. These meaningful communication opportunities are particularly important because communication impairments can lead to reduced confidence, social isolation and depression. Speech and Language Therapy using a wide array of mobile communication technologies can also be far more motivating than traditional pen and paper exercises.
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City University and EVA Park Virtual World
For those of you who are interested in interactive gaming there is also a developing research base of using interactive computer programs to give people access to virtual worlds in which to practice their communication skills in a safe and unthreatening way. A current research study called EVA Park has had initial results which have demonstrated significant improvement for people with long-term aphasia after stroke in both the ability to communicate in everyday life as well as improvement of their reported quality of life. A link to the initial results page can be found here.
Online Speech and Language Therapy
Finally, there is an emerging market of Speech and Language Therapy services in the UK available on-line. This modality of providing Speech and Language Therapy services is well established in the USA and in Australia, and has been found to be as effective as traditional face to face therapy. The added-bonus of this form of treatment is that it can be conducted in the comfort of your own home with your computer and you do not need to go to a hospital or clinic. More and more health services are becoming available on-line and Speech and Language Therapy is no exception!
If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!
Written by Kim Clarke, Speech and Language Therapist
- Cochrane Library Speech and language therapy for aphasia following stroke (2016)
- Speech and Language Therapy concise guideline – Royal College of Physicians clinical guidelines for stroke (2016)
- Australian Aphasia Rehabilitation Guidelines (2014)