After my mother’s brain aneurysm back in 2014, she didn’t speak for weeks. When she finally did, she had a hard time finding words for things she’d known how to say her whole life. Throughout weeks of cognitive therapy in an in-patient rehabilitation facility, and eventually with a speech therapist at home, she regained those words and thankfully learned how to form complete sentences. My mom was fortunate that her Medicare supplement paid for extended speech therapy, but many survivors in stroke recovery aren’t so lucky.
A study published by Frontiers found that for most patients, insurance only covers acute in-hospital and initial rehabilitation services, making it hard for many stroke victims to afford the continued communication rehab required for full stroke recovery. While researching online counseling services that would have been beneficial for my mother’s poststroke depression, I came across some computerized rehabilitation options that facilitate cognitive improvements for those who can’t afford rehab, or who live in rural areas where they can’t get to a rehab facility. At first I was a little skeptical that speech therapy could work through a screen, but a recent study by Canadian researchers at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care found that elderly stroke patients who received speech therapy via teletherapy saw improvements in their communication skills comparable to obtaining face to face treatment.
If your loved one has recently suffered from a stroke and can’t get extended cognitive therapy, consider using one of these apps. Some are free while some charge a fee, but the prices are minimal compared to potential costs for an in-person therapist.
These speech therapy apps offer speaking, listening, reading, and writing tools to help stroke victims who have aphasia, or the inability to comprehend or produce language. They also offer tools to help with memory, perception, reasoning, and other cognitive functions impaired by a stroke.
Cost: Apps range from a $5 to $25 one-time fee
Built by neuroscientists and clinicians at Boston University, this mobile app digitizes therapy by creating a customized and detailed map of each user’s strengths and deficits, from problem solving to speaking and remembering. It adjusts the program as clients progress to always keep them challenged.
Cost: $25 per month or $250 per year
This app challenges patients to identify small differences between pictures, which can help stroke recovery by improving attention and visual scanning.
Speech-language pathologists designed this app to help retrain the brain after stroke or other brain trauma. It offers 100,000 exercises to improve speech, language, and critical thinking skills.
Cost: $25 per month
Not being able to talk at all is very frustrating, as I saw when it happened to my mom. This app provides users with quick access to symbols for “core words,” allowing stroke survivors to communicate their needs.
When my mom was at the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, her speech therapist had her sort UNO cards by color and explained to us that it was teaching her brain to “file” the colors as vocabulary words. As she heard “yellow,” “blue,” and “red” over and over again and put them in the right piles, she was rebuilding her vocabulary. This app, Sort It 3D, does the same thing by having patients drag colored balls into separate tubes.