Frank Sullivan is one of almost 5 million stroke survivors in the U.S.
“I’ve had a stroke, this June here locally.”
He lives with a common after effect, called aphasia.
“I have a very hard time with my speech and how fast I can talk.”
“Aphasia is neurological disorder and it damages the part of the brain that controls speech and language,” says Mary Jo Haughey, a speech pathologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
It takes several forms, from understanding language to finding the right words.
“Expressive is what we’re doing right now. I’m talking to you so I’m using my words, I’m putting them together. The receptive is, if I was talking to you and you didn’t understand,” says Haughey.
Speech therapy helps fill in the voids by recreating the building blocks of communication, step by step.
“We’ll start out with maybe simple tasks like having them identify pictures, name the pictures. I’ll say the word have them repeat it and then go to more complex tasks of having them identify the function or form of the object,” says Haughey.
It requires practice and patience.
“We want to build that language, expand that language. Imitate sentences of increasing length and complexity,” says Haughey.
Frank has been working with a therapist for months.
“I’m hoping at some point I’ll be back to speaking the way I normally do.”
It’s best to start immediately following a stroke but patients can improve their word power years later.