Online Therapy for Aphasia

Chloe Brown, Speech Pathologist

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a language impairment or difficulty that is caused by damage to the brain. It impairs the ability to communicate effectively with others. Aphasia may impact one’s ability to:

  • Talk and communicate with others
  • Find the right words to say
  • Understand information and questions
  • Listening 
  • Difficulty with reading and writing
  • Using gestures or nonverbal communication

Aphasia is caused by injury or trauma to the language areas of the brain. It may be secondary to stroke, brain tumour,  brain injury or infection or inflammation to the brain .There are different types of aphasia depending on the location of brain injury and symptoms can vary in type and severity. 

People with aphasia can often feel frustrated as their communication ability does not allow them to communicate their message effectively. The person with aphasia may want to communicate complex information and conversation as they did prior to their brain injury which a speech pathologist can help by finding a means to convey their message and limit frustration. 

How can a speech pathologist help with aphasia?

A speech pathologist can help a person with aphasia communicate more effectively by providing specific and person-centred therapy. A speech pathologist will consult the person with aphasia and identify their main concerns regarding communication and identify functional goals for therapy. 

A speech pathologist may complete an assessment to identify the areas of difficulty caused by aphasia. This might include talking, naming and listening tasks to help identify the area of communication breakdown. A speech pathologist can help by tailoring therapy and strategies to target the person with aphasia’s individual needs and goals. This may include:

  • Assisting with communication to return to work
  • Talking on the phone
  • Providing strategies for word finding difficulties
  • Assisting with reading and writing
  • Finding alternative means of communication

Can therapy for aphasia be done online?

Aphasia therapy can be completed online. A speech pathologist can easily complete a language assessment over telehealth to identify the areas of communication breakdown or symptoms of aphasia. Once identified the speech pathologist and person with aphasia can discuss goal setting and what they would like to achieve from speech therapy. There are a variety of approaches for therapy that can be commenced once these goals are established.  

The speech pathologist will be able to provide many resources and strategies over telehealth including supported communication strategies and resources to aid conversation with others. 

Is online therapy as effective as face-to-face?

Yes, a growing body of evidence shows that online delivery of therapy can be as effective as face-to-face. 

Are there any things that can’t be done online?

Often people with aphasia may like to practise their strategies in the community with help from their speech pathologist (for example practising ordering coffee from a cafe). Unfortunately this can not be completed online however the person with aphasia’s speech pathologist can aid in relearning these skills in online sessions to transfer into the community. 

As aphasia can impact the ability to understand speech and information it may be difficult for some people with aphasia to connect to telehealth services and navigate their way around a computer or laptop. It is advised that these people attend sessions with a support person who can help them to connect to and navigate the telehealth service. 

What is involved in online therapy for aphasia?

A speech pathologist will complete an initial consultation to find out how the person with aphasia is going with communication overall and what aspects of communication are easy and more difficult for them.  They will often complete an online assessment which can vary depending on the location of the person with aphasia’s brain injury and symptoms. This may involve describing a picture, naming objects, demonstrating gesture use and listening and understanding verbal and written information. 

Once the assessment is completed the person with aphasia’s speech pathologist should have a good understanding regarding the area of communication breakdown and what to target in therapy. Throughout this process the speech pathologist will ask about any goals the person with aphasia would like to achieve in speech therapy and will help identify these. 

Therapy will then be adapted to meet the person with aphasia’s needs and work towards these goals which can be reviewed and changed regularly. Therapy may include practising certain communication tasks, providing strategies for word finding, practising reading and writing or aiding with understanding and recalling information. The speech pathologist will help identify the most effective means of communication which may include verbal and nonverbal modalities as well as alternative and augmentative means of communication (AAC)  (for example high and low tech communication devices).