Even though Aphasia Awareness Month (June) is over, research, advocacy, and diagnosis and treatment for people with aphasia (PWA) is ongoing. In our previous blog, we defined what it means to have aphasia; what causes it; how it impacts daily functions; and strategies to support PWA.
But what about treatment? Depending on the type or level of severity of the diagnosis, PWA may receive skilled intervention from a speech-language pathologist to address reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills for weeks, to months, to years. They may see different clinicians; participate in individual treatment; join therapy or support groups; use online apps or speech-generating devices; practice skills with family or caregivers… The opportunities for language exposure and interaction are endless.
When working with a speech-language pathologist, there are two general approaches to treatment that they may use when seeing a PWA - Communication-Based Therapies or Impairment-Based Therapies.
Communication-Based Therapies (CBT) focus on using different means of interaction to convey thoughts, feelings, and emotions. A PWA may have some preserved ability to communicate verbally, but they may also rely on identification of pictures, use of gestures, simple writing/drawing, or use of an assistive device to get their message across. Additionally, CBT incorporates training of other communicative partners (i.e., family, friends, caregivers) to help address communicative challenges that may occur in everyday situations - like trying to determine what a PWA wants to eat; how they are feeling; or if they are experiencing pain or discomfort.
Impairment-Based Therapies (IBT) tend to focus on remediation or improvement of reading, writing, speaking, or listening skills that have been impacted by aphasia. Such treatment aims to help PWA utilize language in daily interactions to the best of their abilities. Intensive treatment for language would occur in a clinical setting with a speech-language pathologist, with the therapist providing further carryover activities in the form of homework or apps. Family or caregivers receive education on how to help the PWA to implement home-based assignments to support generalization of language skills across different contexts.
Likely, if a PWA is working with a speech-language pathologist, there are elements of both CBT and IBT that are being utilized in skilled treatment. Plus, use of CBT or IBT may change over a PWA’s course of care as their language and communicative needs change. Being knowledgeable about specific interventions that fall under each category of treatment can support patient engagement and overall understanding of activities targeted in sessions.
Want to see more detailed examples of Communication-Based and Impairment-Based Therapies? Check out this article on the National Aphasia Association Website.
If you or a loved one are considering evaluation or treatment for aphasia, contact Cognition, Speech & Language for a free consultation.
Devon Brunson, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS
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