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Stuttering is when you repeat a particular syllable, sound, or word involuntarily, or when you have involuntary pauses that you cannot produce a sound. Stuttering in adulthood is not uncommon, and usually has been present since childhood.  Even after an individual has not experienced any stuttering for some time, it is possible that a life event could impact one’s ability to remain fluent and stuttering returns.  It also may occur as a result of a head injury or neurological event.    Stuttering can have a significant negative impact on a person’s life as they may withdraw from social situations and reduce sharing information verbally at work. 

Language: Difficulty Speaking, Listening,
Reading & Writing Following a Stroke or Brain Injury

Is it harder than it used to be to produce the words you want to say?  Is it harder to come up with the words you want to use?  Do you have difficulty understanding unfamiliar people?  Do you notice a recent change in your ability to read or how to use something like a phone?

These are skills we use in everyday living.  The Speech Language Pathologists at HMC can help assess how production is being impacted, identify weakness as well as strengths, and work with the patient and family on developing a plan for treatment and improving communication.

Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language.  It is often seen after a person has suffered a stroke.  Aphasia may causes difficulties in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, but does not affect intelligence. Individuals with aphasia may also have other problems, such as dysarthria (slurred speech), apraxia (can’t make muscles work to form speech), swallowing problems, or cognitive impairments which can also be worked on with a Speech Language Pathologist.

Aphasia Support Group: Life changes suddenly after a stroke, illness, or neurological injury.  Suddenly, individuals often have difficulty speaking, listening, reading or writing. As a result, individuals and their caregivers are faced with a new reality of not being able to communicate effectively during a critical time of care and need for adaptation. As part of the Holyoke Medical Center’s commitment to excellence in Stroke Care, the Speech & Hearing Center invites you to attend our weekly Stroke Support Group. Our group is designed to provide individuals with acquired communication difficulties such as aphasia, and their loved ones, a safe space to meet others experiencing similar challenges.  A self-lead social half-hour starts the group.  A Speech-Language Pathologist joins the group for the next hour of the meeting to facilitate discussion and education about recovering and adapting to the new normal. Group exercises are facilitated, helping to practice the strategies recently discussed. Recovering from Stoke and other neurological insults is a life long journey that requires patience, resilience and lots of practice. You don’t have to go through it alone.

Holyoke Medical Center (HMC) has received four prestigious national and state awards for excellence in and quality of stroke care in Massachusetts, including the American Stroke Association Get with the Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus award for the eighth consecutive year.
Recognition for HMC’s stroke program included: 

  • American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Award with Target: StrokeSM Honor Roll Elite Plus
  • Defect-free Care Award from the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH
  • Modified Rankin Scale greater than or equal to 85% Award from the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program at the Massachusetts DPH
  • Dysphagia Screening greater than or equal to 90% Award from the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program at the Massachusetts DPH

Voice Disorders

We have all experienced problems with our voices – times when the voice is hoarse or when sound will not come out at all! Colds, allergies, bronchitis, exposure to irritants such as ammonia, or cheering for your favorite sports team can result in a loss of voice.  If you or someone you know has a more chronic condition, they may benefit from a voice evaluation and therapy.

Head & Neck/Oral cancer

Meeting with a Speech Language Pathologist before treatment begins helps patients and their significant others understand some of the potential side effects of the cancer treatment and what rehabilitation is available to them. This is a critical step in preparing someone for anticipated changes in speech and or diet, and promote continued progress. After the treatment has begun, working with a Speech Language Pathologists at Holyoke Medical Center is helpful in maintaining or regaining speech as well as understanding the importance of mouth care.

Choking When Eating or Drinking

If you or someone you know reports they are having difficulty swallowing, maybe choking when eating or drinking, or difficulty taking their pills, they could benefit from a swallowing evaluation to make sure you are not at risk for developing pneumonia from inhaling food or drink accidently.

There are two types of swallowing evaluations that can be performed to find out if there is need for therapy or a change in types of foods you are eating.  The first is a Clinical Swallow Evaluation.  This is done in the Speech & Hearing department.  It includes a thorough history –taking and evaluation of the strength, movement, and coordination of muscles of the mouth and throat used in chewing and swallowing.  The Speech Language Pathologist will evaluate this while you are eating or drinking something. 

The second type of evaluation is Videofluroscopic Swallow Study or “Modified Barium Swallow Study.” This evaluation is done by a Speech Language Pathologist in the Radiology department along with a Radiologist, using a special movie-type x-ray to observe the act of the swallow. 

Regardless of which evaluation is appropriate, our Speech Language Pathologists can help you determine the best course of treatment for an individual, preventing pneumonia and promoting health and wellness.

Treatment for swallowing problems involves therapy to improve your muscle strength and coordination of your swallow pattern and education and training in strategies to avoid chocking and coughing.

Dementia/Cognitive Skills and Memory     

Do you or a family member have a recent decline in thinking or memory skills?  A Speech Language Pathologist can help identify what part of language is being impacted, what abilities are still intact, and what areas are the strongest.  This information is critical in developing a care plan that the individual, significant others, and caregivers can follow to help minimize confusion and frustration.  Working with an SLP in this manner can help maximize functional independence and safety for as long as possible.  

Most caregivers lack understanding of how the disease will impact the ability of an individual with Alzheimer’s to communicate.  An SLP  can help lead that caregiver through the stages and help them adapt how they communicate to the individual for increased success and reduced frustration.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and therefore periodic reevaluation and readjustment of a care plan is critical for meeting the changing needs of the individual and caregiver.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s can impact communication.  The loudness of one’s speech decreases making individuals difficult to hear.  Facial muscles weaken resulting in expressions that can be misinterpreted as disinterested or angry.  All can lead to social isolation and withdrawal from favorite activities, diminishing quality of life and independence.

LSVT LOUD is a globally standardized treatment delivered by LSVT certified Speech Language Pathologists who are certified in this program.

LSVT LOUD is proven to be an effective speech treatment for individuals with Parkinson Disease (PD) and other neurological conditions. Published research supports improvements in vocal loudness, intonation, and voice quality for individuals with PD who received LSVT LOUD, with improvements maintained up to two years after treatment.

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