The Role of Occupational/Recreational Therapists and Speech Pathologists
Occupational and Recreational Therapists
Like physical therapists, occupational therapists are concerned with improving motor and sensory abilities during rehabilitation. Occupational therapists help survivors relearn skills that are needed for performing self-directed activities, such as personal grooming, preparing meals, and housecleaning.
Occupational therapists can teach some survivors how to:
- Adapt to driving and provide on-road training. They can teach people to divide a complex activity into its component parts, practice each part, and then perform the whole sequence of actions. This strategy can improve coordination and may help people with apraxia relearn how to carry out planned actions.
- Develop compensatory strategies and how to change elements of their environment that limit activities of daily living. For example, people with the use of only one hand can substitute Velcro closures for buttons on clothing.
- Make changes in their homes to increase safety, remove barriers, and facilitate physical functioning, such as installing grab bars in bathrooms.
Recreational therapists help people with a variety of disabilities to develop and use their leisure time to enhance their health, independence, and quality of life.
Speech-language pathologists can help stroke survivors with aphasia relearn how to use language or develop alternative means of communication. Speech-language pathologists can also help people improve their ability to swallow and work with patients to develop problem-solving and social skills to cope with the aftereffects of a stroke.
Many specialized therapeutic techniques have been developed to assist people with aphasia, and some forms of short-term therapy can improve comprehension rapidly.
Intensive exercises form the cornerstone of language rehabilitation. These intensive exercises can include:
- Repeating the therapist's words
- Practicing following directions
- Doing reading or writing exercises.
Conversational coaching and rehearsal, as well the development of prompts or cues to help people remember specific words, are sometimes beneficial. Speech-language pathologists also help stroke survivors develop strategies for overcoming language disabilities. These strategies can include the use of symbol boards or sign language. Recent advances in computer technology have spurred the development of new types of equipment to enhance communication.
Speech-language pathologists use noninvasive imaging techniques to study swallowing patterns of stroke survivors and identify the exact source of their impairment. Difficulties with swallowing (also known as dysphagia) may be caused by several different things, including:
- A delayed swallowing reflex
- An inability to manipulate food with the tongue
- An inability to detect food remaining lodged in the cheeks after swallowing.
Once they have identified the cause of the swallowing problems, speech-language pathologists will work with the individual to devise strategies to overcome or minimize the deficit. Sometimes, simply changing body position and improving posture during eating can bring about improvement. The texture of foods can be modified to make swallowing easier; for example, thin liquids, which often cause choking, can be thickened. Changing eating habits by taking small bites and chewing slowly can also help alleviate dysphagia.