Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If the brain damage is mild, a person may recover language skills without treatment. However, most people undergo speech and language therapy to rehabilitate their language skills and supplement their communication experiences. Researchers are currently investigating the use of medications, alone or in combination with speech therapy, to help people with aphasia.

Speech and language rehabilitation

Recovery of language skills is usually a relatively slow process. Although most people make significant progress, few people regain full pre-injury communication levels. In aphasia, speech and language therapy:

  • Starts early. Therapy is most effective when it begins soon after the brain injury.
  • Builds on success. The speech-language pathologist uses exercises to improve and practice communication skills. These may begin with simpler tasks such as naming objects and evolve into more complex exercises of explaining the purpose of an object.
  • Shifts focus. The speech-language pathologist might teach the person ways to compensate for the language impairment and to communicate more effectively with gestures or drawings. Some people with aphasia may use a book or board with pictures and words to help them recall commonly used words or help them when they're stuck.
  • Often works in groups. In a group setting, people with aphasia can try out their communication skills in a safe environment. Participants can practice initiating conversations, speaking in turn, clarifying misunderstandings and fixing conversations that have completely broken down.
  • May include outings. Participating in real-life situations — such as going to a restaurant or a grocery store — puts rehabilitation efforts into practice.
  • May include use of computers. Using computer-assisted therapy can be especially helpful for relearning verbs and word sounds (phonemes).

Medications

Certain drugs are currently being studied for the treatment of aphasia. These include drugs that may improve blood flow to the brain, enhance the brain's recovery ability or help replace depleted chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters). Several medications, such as memantine (Namenda) and piracetam, have shown promise in small studies. But more research is needed before these treatments can be recommended.

May. 08, 2012