Here are some common questions people ask about communication and swallowing difficulties and what people can do to help. If you have any further questions then give our team a call – we are happy to provide some simple advice over the phone.
Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language (typically in the left half of the brain). Aphasia may cause difficulties talking, understanding spoken information, reading and writing, but it does not affect intelligence. A person may have impairments in all four of these areas and this is known as being globally aphasic.
Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder. It results from impaired movement of the muscles used for speech production, including the lips, tongue, vocal folds, and/or diaphragm. The type and severity of dysarthria depend on which area of the nervous system is affected.
Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder. The messages from the brain to the mouth are disrupted, and the person cannot move his or her lips or tongue to the right place to say sounds correctly, even though the muscles are not weak. The severity of apraxia depends on the nature of the brain damage. Apraxia of speech is also known as acquired apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, and dyspraxia.
Dysphagia is the term used to describe when someone has difficulties swallowing. Some people have difficulties swallowing certain foods or fluids while others can’t swallow at all. Signs of dysphagia can include coughing and/or choking when eating and drinking, a sensation that food is stuck in the throat, persistent difficulties keeping saliva in the mouth, being unable to chew food effectively and a gurgly/wet voice when eating and drinking. If not managed safely dysphagia can result in recurrent chest infections or the more severe aspiration pneumonia, serious choking episodes, weight loss and dehydration.
What can I do to communicate more easily with someone with dysarthria?Matthew Nakonesky2022-10-26T19:55:20+00:00
Never hurry the person. Give them plenty of time to get their message across. Listen patiently and try not to finish off their sentences for them
Don’t interrupt the person, or jump in too quickly with a guess about what they are trying to say (unless you know they are happy for this to happen)
Do not pretend to understand the person if you don’t. Say that you are having difficulty and suggest they express their message another way. If you do understand the person, give them plenty of reassurance.
Check that you are understanding the person by re-stating what they have already told you, e.g. ‘so, you are talking about…’ This is also helpful if the person is getting stuck on a certain part of the message they are trying to communicate. Let them know the bits you have understood so they only need to focus on the part that is difficult and not have to repeat the whole message again
Encourage the person to use all available methods of communication, e.g. speech, gesture, drawing, writing, pointing and facial expression.
Ask questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer – ask ‘do you want a cup of tea/juice/water?’ rather than ‘what do you want to drink?’
Be aware that the person will tire easily. It can be hard work to communicate when you have difficulties. Also be aware that tiredness will affect the person’s ability to communicate.
What can be done to help manage a person with swallowing difficulties?Matthew Nakonesky2022-10-26T19:59:24+00:00
There are several ways of managing a person who has difficulties swallowing. In hospital settings a person may be stopped from eating and drinking initially if there are significant concerns about their swallowing. They can be provided with fluids and meet their nutritional needs via alternative methods such as a nasogastric or PEG tube.
Once a formal swallow assessment has been completed, a Speech and Language Therapist may determine that a person may be able to swallow safely by having their food modified e.g. pureed, mashed down etc or by thickening their fluids using a thickening powder. A range of strategies can also be trialled to ascertain if they have a positive impact on a person’s swallow function.
If clinically indicated a Speech and Language Therapist can provide a range of swallow rehabilitation exercises in an attempt to achieve an improvement in the person’s swallowing.