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Speech therapists help stroke patients find their voice

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CCH building

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability. A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or ruptured blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Without an adequate blood supply, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.

At Columbus Community Hospital (CCH), we are committed to helping people who suffer a stroke achieve the best possible long-term outcomes. From emergency medical treatment to rehabilitation, we are here for you.

Often times, a person's speech is affected after a stroke. Many stroke victims have trouble stringing words together into sentences, listening attentively, reading and writing because of brain damage caused by the stroke. With the help of speech therapists at CCH’s Rehabilitative Services at the Wellness Center, stroke patients can improve their ability to communicate.

Speech therapists take advantage of the brain's ability to adapt and learn new ways to do things. They work with stroke patients shortly after a stroke on an ongoing basis to help them redevelop their language skills.


Stroke survivors who have dysarthria often have trouble with the mechanics of speaking; their words sound slurred and slow. Therapists help these patients relearn the proper use of their tongues and lips to improve their quality of speech.

Most patients with dysarthria can improve their ability to be understood if they speak with people face-to-face and in areas where there's little background noise. Some patients carry a card printed with the alphabet and point to the first letter of each word they say to make it easier for listeners to understand them. Others announce the topic they'll be discussing, so listeners will know what types of words they'll hear.


Stroke survivors with a condition called aphasia often have trouble with cognitive functions related to communication. Therapists teach these patients how to communicate most effectively, whether through speech, gestures, drawings or handwritten notes. Some patients carry notepads, in case they find themselves at a loss for words. Others carry a card printed with words, pictures of common objects or frequently used phrases, which they can point to when words escape them. Participating in a Stroke Support Group can also be helpful; patients can practice listening and speaking with peers.


Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder. A person’s ability to eat and drink is critical to maintaining good health and promoting recovery from illness. Food is also a central part of many social experiences—contributing to an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Treatment can be truly transformative to a person’s quality of life and overall health.

Speech-language pathologists treat dysphagia in various ways, including these:

• Helping people use their muscles to chew and swallow

• Finding better positions for people to sit or hold their head while eating

• Identifying strategies to make swallowing better and safer

• Advising people on their dietary choices, including softer foods or thicker drinks

Other Services

Therapists at Rehabilitative Services at the Wellness Center also help treat the following medical conditions:

• Parkinson’s disease

• Spinal cord injury

• Cognitive impairments

• Swallowing disorders

• Stuttering

• Voice disturbances

• Communication deficits

For more information on speech therapy through Rehabilitative Services at the Wellness Center or to set up an appointment, call 402-562-3333.

Michell Ruskamp, MS, CCC-SLP, is assistant director of Rehabilitative Services at Columbus Community Hospital.


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