Julia Zabihach, MCCC-SLP, CBIS
When a person suffers a stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI), the focus is often on affected motor skills. However, according to Julia Zabihach speech and language skills may be impaired, too.
Julia Zabihach, MCCC-SLP, CBIS, a speech language pathologist, primarily treats adults who have endured a stroke or TBI. “Every case is different when dealing with stroke and brain-injured patients because their deficits depend on the location of the injury. I see everything from patients who have swallowing disorders to patients with aphasia, slurred speech and more,” says Julia.
According to Julia, common deficits that stroke and TBI patients experience include:
• Swallowing – Having a swallowing disorder can seriously impact a patient’s nutrition, so the first goal is to determine their safest diet and modify foods to accommodate it. Then, therapists work with patients to strengthen the muscles they use to swallow through oral motor exercises and neuromuscular electrical stimulation for those patients who are candidates.
• Slurred Speech – When treating slurred speech, we first help patients be aware of when their speech is slurring. We then provide them with different strategies to help them focus on making their speech clear and identifying when people can’t understand them.
• Aphasia – About 25-40% of stroke survivors become aphasic. Aphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech. Therapists need to identify if the patient is having trouble understanding language or trouble vocalizing the words. Patients work on practicing single words, visualizing the words they want to say, thinking of the first letter of the word and more. If a patient’s aphasia is severe, therapists will also explore alternative ways to communicate.
“Losing your ability to communicate is very scary – it can feel like being in a foreign country and not speaking the language,” says Julia. “I like helping people improve their quality of life and watching my patients work to make incredible improvements.”