Put two or three marshmallows in your mouth and try to have a conversation with a friend, and at once you would realize that difficulty speaking impacts even the simplest aspects of your daily life. This is exactly what happened to Leo. He woke up one morning “not feeling quite right” and when he went to tell his wife, the sounds coming out of his mouth were not words. Could this be a stroke? The answer was yes!
Leo came to Martin Memorial, where he was evaluated by a team of rehabilitation specialists. Although the physical therapist found no difficulty with walking and the occupational therapist found no problems with Leo using his hands to perform daily tasks, the speech pathologist discovered Leo had severe apraxia of speech.
Apraxia is a general term that refers to difficulty sequencing movement with any part of the body, including the arms and legs. Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain related to speaking. People with apraxia of speech have trouble sequencing the sounds in syllables and words. They know the words they want to say, but their brains have difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words. This can become quite frustrating because it is very difficult or even impossible to understand a person with apraxia of speech.
Leo’s speech had been severely affected. He was unable to even state his first name, or make his basic needs known. Leo felt very frustrated because he had always been a “talker.” Leo was the kind of guy that would strike up a conversation at the market, while waiting in a waiting room, or just enjoyed socializing with friends and family. Now he could not even introduce himself because he could not say his first name. Leo needed the help of a speech pathologist.
Leo started outpatient speech therapy as soon as he was discharged from the hospital. Leo needed to be retrained to produce each sound with correct lip and tongue placements, and the sounds then needed to be sequenced into words. Leo was an excellent “student.” He practiced his homework daily, repeating the sounds over and over until the sounds became words. With additional training Leo was able to sequence these words into sentences. Leo also learned to slow his speech so he could coordinate all the necessary sounds to keep his speech clear.
These days you will find Leo continuing to work hard in outpatient speech therapy or participating in a stroke support group. He’s the one introducing himself, saying his name clearly, and striking up that friendly casual conversation.
Speech-language pathologists are trained professionals who diagnose and treat speech, language, voice and swallowing problems. If you are experiencing any of these difficulties, talk to your physician about whether you may benefit from treatment and should be referred to a speech pathologist for an evaluation.
Speech Language Pathologist