What Is The Goal of Rehabilitation?

Article by Moody Neuro

A few days ago I was looking through news articles on strokes and ran across a headline stating that the purpose of rehabilitation is to return lost abilities.  The first thought that went through my head was “kinda”, as in that is really only “kinda” the purpose of rehabilitation.  This reaction certainly has potential to strike those reading it as odd.  Because really, if regaining abilities lost due to injury isn’t the entire point of rehabilitation then just what might that point be? In a post-acute rehabilitation facility there are several other vitally important aspects of rehabilitation that prove equally essential in a patient’s journey to long-term success in his or her home environment.

To be sure, getting back lost abilities after a stroke or traumatic brain injury sees a majority of the focus directed by any therapy regimen.  After all, patients want to regain their skills and therapists are committed to helping those patients regain lost skills.  But there are other issues to keep in mind.  When patients come to a post-acute facility, as a general rule of thumb they have already concluded treatment at a hospital and an acute care facility yet continue to have multiple areas of need.  Many patients will have long-term (if not permanent) loss of certain skills due to the severity of injuries suffered.  These patients have usually spent several months, and sometimes even years, coming to terms with deficits acquired as the result of an injury or stroke event.  Post-acute rehabilitation is typically their last stay in an inpatient rehabilitation facility prior to returning home.  Therefore, therapists need to work with patients on how to live a successful life at home in spite of those acquired deficits.

The focus on successful life at home as an adaptation to deficits is sometimes hard for patients and their families to understand.  Many patients are perfectly content to do drills for hours and hours on end in an attempt to improve core skills.  However, planning realistic strategies with which to approach post-injury life is just as, if not arguably sometimes even more, important.  For instance, a patient may want to spend as much time as possible each day doing hand exercises to get back his or her fine motor skills.  But if the hand is clearly not coming back to full functionality quickly enough and the patient will likely be discharging with hand deficits, how will that patient put on his or her clothing at home with one good hand?  How will he or she cut foods without having a second hand to stabilize the food?  How will he or she open up jar lids with one hand or tie his or her shoes?  If a facility sends the patient home without having put focus on addressing necessary adjustments that need be made in the application of these practical life skills, then the facility has done a disservice to the patient.

This issue sees a comparable expression in the realms of cognitive and speech skills.  A patient may want to practice solely on exercises designed to improve memory or those similarly aimed at regaining speech and oral motor capacity.  But if a patient is likely to contend with long-term memory deficits, how will that patient ensure that bills are always paid and that doctors’ appointments are not forgotten?  What steps need to be taken in order to ensure that stoves or ovens are not left on?  If the patient is likely to have long-term speech deficits, how will he or she contact 911 in the event of an emergency?  Clearly, planning for the future while affording full consideration to post-injury deficits’ impact is necessary even for day to day safety and health.

There are also emotional and behavioral areas that need to be explored and sufficiently appreciated.  For example, what kind of state is the patient’s self-image in following his or her injury?  How does he or she feel about interacting with old friends, family or the general public given the inevitable shift in perspective that accompanies a dramatic change in health status?  If the patient has anger or impulsivity issues, how can these best be managed in his or her discharge environment?  Again, efforts to adequately understand these emotional and behavioral areas are extremely important in setting the stage for long-term patient well-being and successful, healthy relationships with others.

Preparing for a life operating under the constraints of long-term effects of an injury is comprised of multiple facets which are often worked on simultaneously.  The following is not an exhaustive list but does highlight many of the prime targets for a sufficiently comprehensive therapy regimen:

  1. Learning new methods to engage activities perhaps previously taken for granted, such as learning how to tie a shoe with one hand or learning a new method to transfer into a car.
  2. Identifying and practicing with equipment to make up for deficits, such as using a daily planner to help remember a schedule or a sock-aid to help put on socks.
  3. Discussing thoughts and feelings about the real and concrete effects of having injury deficits, such as mourning the loss felt due to an inability to return to a previous job.
  4. Identifying potential problem areas in a discharge environment and problem-solving through those areas, such as pre-recording a message for a survivor suffering from aphasia to play on the phone for a 911 operator in case of a fire.
  5. Learning and practicing mood and behavioral management techniques such as relaxed breathing.
  6. Creating a daily schedule that honestly reflects real-life changes experienced in post-injury life.
  7. Identifying and planning activities that can still realistically support participation by a survivor in spite of injury deficits and recognizing those activities that should no longer be engaged in, such as identifying a trip to a ball game as an activity that can still be enjoyed just as capably.
  8. Articulating all aspects of a long-term health regimen necessary to satisfactorily maintain health, such as taking medication for seizures or chopping food into smaller-sized bites so as to avoid choking.
  9. Identifying and locating specific people/resources needed to promote success, such as deciding which family member is most able to help with managing finances or submitting an application for accessible busing.

In summary, since post-acute rehabilitation will generally be a patient’s last opportunity to experience inpatient rehabilitation and many patients face long-term deficits, it is crucial during post-acute rehabilitation to focus not only on rehabilitating lost skills but also to focus on how to manage life at home while affording sufficient consideration to those inevitable deficits wrought by a traumatic brain injury or stroke.


Learn about all of the Moody Neuro’s brain injury treatment services.

Strokes are medical conditions that affect millions globally. In the United States, more than 795,000 people have a stroke each year, with about 610,000 cases being first or new strokes. 

These can lead to a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments. Speech and language disorders are among the most common and most challenging consequences of strokes, occurring in about a third of stroke survivors. 

Understanding Stroke-Induced Speech & Language Disorders

Stroke-induced speech and language disorders significantly impact communication abilities. Among these, aphasia, dysarthria, and apraxia of speech are prevalent. Understanding how they are diagnosed and their specific symptoms can aid in prompt and effective management.


Aphasia is a common outcome of stroke, manifesting as difficulty in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. There are many different types of aphasia, depending on the affected brain area, and are categorized based on the symptoms present:

  • Expressive Aphasia (Broca’s Aphasia): Characterized by broken speech, limited vocabulary, and difficulty forming complete sentences. Patients often understand what is being said to them but struggle to verbalize responses.
  • Receptive Aphasia (Wernicke’s Aphasia): Patients can produce fluent speech but may lack meaning or include nonsensical words. They often have significant difficulty understanding spoken language.
  • Global Aphasia: A severe form of aphasia where individuals have extensive difficulties with both speech production and comprehension.
  • Anomic Aphasia: Individuals have difficulty finding words, particularly nouns and verbs, making their speech sound vague.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder that affects 20-30% of stroke survivors. It occurs when stroke impacts the muscles responsible for speech, leading to slurred or slow speech that can be hard to understand. It is typically diagnosed through a physical examination and a series of speech evaluations conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). 

It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand
  • Monotone or robotic-sounding speech
  • Difficulty controlling the volume of speech, which may be too loud or too soft
  • Challenges with the rhythm and flow of speech, including rapid speech that’s hard to interrupt or slow, drawn-out speech
  • Respiratory issues affecting the ability to speak loudly or for extended periods

Apraxia of Speech (AOS)

Apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sequencing the movements needed for speech. This is caused by the impact of the stroke on the brain’s pathways involved in producing speech. 

Patients with AOS know what they want to say but struggle to coordinate the muscle movements to articulate words correctly. This results in distorted speech, difficulty initiating speech, or the inability to accurately produce speech sounds or sequences of sounds. 

How Long Is the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time?

According to one study on post-stroke speech and language therapy, approximately one-third of stroke patients experience speech problems after a stroke. Many of these individuals begin to recover within a few months, with significant progress typically observed within three to six months.

In another study, 62% of subjects had speech challenges after suffering from a stroke. By six months post-stroke, 74% were able to completely recover their communication abilities. 

However, the figures above provide a general timeline for post-stroke speech and language recovery. Stroke speech recovery time is highly individualized and can vary depending on several factors. These can include the following:

  • Severity of the Stroke: More severe strokes often lead to extensive brain damage, resulting in longer and more challenging recovery periods for speech.
  • Location of the Brain Injury: The brain’s specific regions control different speech and language functions; damage to these areas directly impacts recovery complexity and duration.
  • Age and Overall Health of the Patient: Generally, younger patients with better overall health before the stroke tend to experience faster and more complete recoveries.
  • Pre-existing Conditions and Comorbidities: Conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can slow down recovery by complicating the overall health scenario and rehabilitation process.
  • Individual Variability and Resilience: Personal resilience, the support system’s strength, and the individual’s motivation significantly influence the pace and success of speech recovery efforts.

The first three months after a stroke is a crucial period for recovery, as a majority of stroke patients see the most significant improvement during this period. However, it’s also important to note that, although at a slower pace, recovery can continue well past the 6-month mark with continued therapy and practice. 

This underpins the importance of early intervention and ongoing rehabilitation efforts, including speech therapy, to maximize each patient’s recovery potential. 

What Does the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Process Look Like?

The journey to regain speech and language after a stroke is multifaceted and varies significantly from one individual to another. Understanding the structured phases of recovery can provide insight into what patients and their families can expect during this challenging time. 

Here’s a closer examination of each phase in the stroke speech recovery process.

Initial Assessment and Diagnosis

Before recovery can begin, a thorough evaluation is conducted by a team of healthcare professionals led by an SLP. This assessment aims to identify the type and severity of the speech and language disorder, be it aphasia, dysarthria, or AOS. The evaluation may include cognitive-linguistic assessments, comprehension tests, speech production analysis, and functional communication measures. 

Based on this assessment, a personalized therapy plan is crafted to address the patient’s specific needs.

Acute Phase

The acute phase typically occurs within the first days to weeks following a stroke. During this period, medical stabilization is the primary focus, with healthcare teams working to manage the immediate effects of the stroke. 

Speech therapy may begin with simple exercises or assessments to gauge the patient’s abilities. However, intensive therapy usually does not start until the patient is medically stable. During the acute phase, the goal is to support overall recovery and prevent complications immediately after the stroke.

Subacute Phase

The subacute phase generally spans from two weeks to three months post-stroke and is characterized by more intensive speech therapy interventions. As the patient’s medical condition stabilizes, the focus shifts to active rehabilitation. Therapy during this phase is tailored to the individual’s specific speech and language deficits and may include:

  • Exercises to improve articulation, fluency, and voice control for those with dysarthria.
  • Language therapy to enhance understanding, speaking, reading, and writing skills in patients with aphasia.
  • Motor speech exercises and strategies to improve speech planning and production in apraxia of speech.

The subacute phase is crucial for taking advantage of the brain’s natural recovery processes and neuroplasticity, where the brain begins reorganizing and adapting to the loss of function.

Chronic Phase

The chronic phase of recovery extends from several months to years after the stroke. It focuses on long-term rehabilitation and adjustment to any residual speech deficits. During this time, patients may continue to see gradual improvements in their speech and language abilities, although the rate of recovery may slow. Therapy in the chronic phase often includes:

  • Advanced communication strategies to cope with ongoing challenges in daily life.
  • Maintenance exercises to preserve and enhance speech gains achieved in earlier phases.
  • Supportive technologies and aids, such as communication devices, to assist in effective communication.
  • Community reintegration activities to help patients return to as normal a life as possible, engaging in social, vocational, or recreational activities.

What Is the Role of Neuroplasticity in Speech & Language Recovery?

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s fundamental property to change and adapt its responses to new experiences, learning, and environmental changes. This adaptive capacity enables the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.

When the brain, or a part of the brain, is damaged after a stroke, neuroplasticity is what allows the other parts of the brain to take over the functions of the damaged area. Through targeted rehabilitation and therapy, such as speech therapy for stroke survivors, patients can retrain other brain areas to perform the lost functions and facilitate recovery.

Enhancing Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time

Adopting a comprehensive approach involving several key strategies is vital to enhance the stroke speech and language recovery time. This multifaceted approach can maximize the chances of regaining speech and communication abilities.

This comprehensive approach must incorporate the following strategies:

  • Early intervention to leverage the brain’s highest potential for neuroplasticity in the initial period following a stroke, significantly improving the chances for recovery.
  • Alternative communication strategies, such as gestures, writing, and visual aids, to help maintain communication during the recovery process. 
  • Adopting technology, including speech-generating devices and software applications designed for speech rehabilitation, for personalized exercises and continuous practice, which is vital for progress.
  • Providing continuous support from psychologists, support groups, and therapy to help manage feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety, fostering a positive mindset essential for rehabilitation.
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle to supply essential nutrients that support brain function, along with regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and management of medical conditions.

Begin Your Post-Stroke Recovery Journey With Moody Neurorehabilitation

Moody Neurorehabilitation understands the complexities and challenges that come with post-stroke rehabilitation. We are dedicated to supporting patients and their families through this critical time with specialized care and personalized treatment plans.

Since our inception in 1982, Moody Neurorehabilitation has been a leader in brain injury rehabilitation. Our approach centers on providing comprehensive care tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, to improve overall quality of life.

We invite you to start your recovery journey with us. Contact Moody Neurorehabilitation today to schedule a consultation with our experts. Let us help you navigate the path to recovery with care, compassion, and expertise.