The Lingraphica Blog

Leveraging the 10 Principles of Neuroplasticity in Managing Chronic Aphasia

Oct 07, 2015 | by Lisa Haynes, MS, CCC-SLP

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The 10 Principles of Neuroplasticity are evidence-based treatment techniques that are proven to help patients with physical, cognitive, behavioral, and communicative impairments during therapy.

When these principles are leveraged in connection with a speech-generating device (SGD) for individuals with aphasia, they can lead to the most effective long-term use of the device.

When a speech-language pathologist (SLP) teaches an individual with aphasia to use an SGD for communication, it’s important that he or she incorporate training techniques that allow the individual to be successful in their rehabilitation journey. Many times, SLPs turn on an SGD and think, “how can I make this relevant for the client for the long term?” By reviewing each principle of neuroplasticity and an associated strategy that leads to greater device integration.

Here are the 10 principles and associated treatment exercises that can be conducted using a device during therapy sessions with an individual.

Principles & The Device Integration Strategies

  1. Use It or Lose It: Device users will benefit most from an SGD if they use it daily. Failure to use it can lead to functional decline. SLPs can address this potential decline by programming phrases present in an individual’s daily conversations, like “I would like a cup of coffee” into the device.
  2. Use it and Improve It: Using the device and all of its features can be very beneficial to a user. Whether completing a phrase or building a novel message, these actions improve a user’s communication.
  3. Specificity: The vocabulary present on a device impacts the user’s ability to communication effectively. For example, if a user has chronic back pain, SLPs should make sure the device has phrases supporting the pain scale or specific medication to address this need.
  4. Repetition Matters: When using a principle of neuroplasticity, it requires sufficient repetition. An SLP can achieve this building a routine around device usage.
  5. Intensity Matters: Plasticity requires sufficient training intensity. By using intense practice with a device user, SLPs can make sure the features designed to help the individual, like projecting icons, truly do help the user.
  6. Time Matters: Different forms of plasticity occur at different times during recovery. By continuously re-visiting the device training techniques at the same time of day (mornings are especially productive), an SLP can make sure an individual is incorporating the device into his or her daily life.
  7. Salience Matters: Whatever actions a user takes on the device, it must all tie back to an action or phrase that matters to him or her. This could mean device messages around NASCAR or a favorite meal.
  8. Age Matters: Plasticity occurs more readily in younger brains; adult brains are capable of plastic adaptation. An SLP may need to use more than one principle of neuroplasticity to encourage device usage with an older device user.
  9. Transference: Plasticity in response to one training experience can enhance acquisition of similar behaviors. An SLP can use the typing features to enhance an individual’s spelling skills.
  10. Interference: Plasticity in response to one experience can interfere with the acquisition of other behaviors. All of the principles of neuroplasticity are tied together. As such, an SLP can strengthen an individual’s speech and language skills by using more than one principle.

SLPs might recognize many of these activities from daily therapy sessions. Armed with this knowledge and a deeper understanding of why clinicians use the techniques we do, SLPs will be able to advance their patients to the next level and introduce the next challenge.

If you'd like to learn more about using an SGD in your practice, please call 888-274-2742 or click the button below to read about our simple device trials.

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References: Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Vol. 51, S225 – S239, February 2008