Sometimes you have to wait to see a speech-language therapist or you can’t see them as often as you would like to. If this happens, there are lots of things you can do yourself at home.
The main thing to remember is to make sure the stroke survivor is ok with the activities. Some people don’t like using children’s books or flash cards because they think they are babyish. Other people are happy to use anything, even if it was made for children.
For some people just getting through the day is hard enough without worrying about doing extra mahi.
Speech-language therapy ideas
Here are some ideas for things to do at home. Everyone’s stroke is different so some of these ideas might not be helpful for you. Choose the ideas that you think might work for you. Remember that it is important to see a speech-language therapist for personalised advice. Click on the words to read more.
Some stroke survivors can’t speak but they can use automatic speech, that is kōrero they know very well. Whānau can encourage the stroke survivor to say things like:
- Anything they know very well and can say without thinking
- Song lyrics
- Bible verses
Kia tūpato! Because of the stroke the person might get some of the words wrong so make sure the kōrero is safe.
Poetry is like a song and if you, if you sing it properly with the right rhythm, with the right words, with the sound of the words and telling the story of the poetry, it actually gives it, it makes it, it’s like singing a song with the right rhythm
Problems finding the right word to say
Lots of stroke survivors have problems finding the right word to say. This is often called “wordfinding difficulties”.
I talk with Edna a lot, but she gets too frustrated, can’t get those words out. She’s saying turn the TV off instead of saying turn the sound down, it’s turn the tap or something like that.
In this example, if Toto knows what Edna meant he could just say “Turn the TV down? Sure, I’ll do that”. If he doesn’t understand he could say “You said turn the TV off. Did you mean that or something else?” It is not helpful to make Edna keep trying until she says it right.
Here are some ways to help with wordfinding difficulties:
- What colour is it?
- What do you use it for?
- Where is it?
- If you are thinking about a person you might be able to say that he is your moko or the person next door.
Use a different word
For example, if you can’t find the word for “towel” you might say “dry”, or “shower”.
Make a book of things that are important to you. A clear file folder is good for this. You can use this book to help in conversation, to point to things when you can’t say the word, and to introduce yourself to new people.
Ideas for your book:
- Pictures from magazines or junk mail
- Newspaper articles
- Tickets from places you’ve been
- Pictures or cards from whānau
- Anything that it important to you
- Some people like to write their pepeha in the book, or show their pepeha using photos
If you have a computer and a camera or phone you could print your own photos or and find pictures and maps on the internet.
Practise reading things that you used to read, such as the newspaper. Start with just the headlines or the captions on photos then slowly build up.
If you need to practise speaking you could read aloud. Try recording yourself on your phone and playing it back to see how good you sounded and notice anything you need to work on.
I make her read aloud all the time.
So now when I’m actually struggling to get the words clearly I actually find it helps me a lot with language to be able to actually say it out loud. And reading out loud, even a book. I’ll open a book, I’ll read it out loud.
Practise writing. Start with simple activities and slowly make them harder. Ideas for writing:
- Your name
- Your address
- Names of whānau members
- Other important words
- Keep a diary, even if you don’t write much. Try writing or drawing a picture to show what the weather is like each day
- Write something that made you happy today
- Write shopping lists or to-do lists
If you need help, ask someone to print the words for you to copy.
If you have problems with moving your hand you might find it difficult to hold a pen. It can be easier to use a felt pen, a pencil with a soft lead, or write on a whiteboard.
Some stroke survivors can sing better than they can talk. Singing is a good way to practise speech and it can be a good way for the stroke survivor to join in with people.
Ways that whānau can encourage singing:
- Sing favourite waiata with a guitar, or by yourself
- Sing along with the radio or a CD
Don’t worry if the stroke survivor is not able to sing with you, as Rita explains below.
I knew the music, yeah, but I couldn’t the words, no. But my father every day to play some tunes on the guitar… I couldn’t speak or anything but I knew the words on the guitar but I couldn’t sing. That was helpful, really helpful, and everybody came. At the [rehab] centre he was playing the guitar for everybody.