June 9, 2005 -- Short but intensive rounds of speech therapy may be better
for restoring language skills lost to a stroke
than traditional methods.
Researchers found stroke survivors who had difficulty speaking or
understanding speech showed significant improvement in language and
communication skills after a short term of intensive speech therapy.
Language impairment -- or aphasia -- occurs in more than
a third of people who survive a stroke on the left side of their brain. Many
recover within a few months after the stroke, but up to 60% still have language
impairments more than six months after a stroke, a condition known as chronic
"Usually patients in the chronic stage of aphasia receive about two hours of
therapy a week over the course of a year, but we found that it is better to
give the therapy within a shorter period of time," says researcher Marcus
Meinzer, PhD, of the Unversität Konstanz in Konstanz, Germany, in a news
In the study, researchers examined the effects of a short-term, intensive
round of speech therapy in 27 stroke survivors who had suffered from language
impairment for about four years.
Each of the stroke survivors received 30 hours of language training three
hours a day for 10 days; their language skills were assessed before and
immediately after the training as well as six months later.
The results appear in the June edition of Stroke.
The speech therapy used a technique called constraint-induced aphasia
therapy or CIAT, which combines intense verbal communication training with
language games that build simple as well as complex language skills.
The technique encourages stroke patients to speak rather than using gestures
as their primary means of communication.
The results showed that language skills improved significantly in 85% of the
stroke patients after the intensive speech therapy, and those improvements were
sustained for six months.
Researchers also found that the improvement occurred regardless of the
stroke survivor's age or the severity of his or her language impairment.
In addition, the study showed that 15 stroke patients who received
additional language training, which was reinforced by family members and
friends, showed further improvements.