Speech and Language Intervention for Language Impairment in Patients in the FTD-ALS Spectrum

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common neurodegenerative disease that belongs to the group of motor neuron diseases. Motor deficits like reduce in tongue strength, may coexist with cognitive deficits compatible with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), also known as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). FTD is a neurodegenerative syndrome with two main clinical variants: behavioral (bvFTD) and language or Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). ALS and FTD have significant clinical and neuropathological overlapping so that for some researchers they are “the ends of the same disease spectrum”. A key intervention in this patient population is the speech language therapy (SLT), a specific form of cognitive intervention, which evaluates communication skills and designs a personalized intervention plan to improve communication abilities. It has been used in patients with aphasia of different etiologies and has been shown to be effective.

There is limited research in SLT interventions in patients in FTD-ALS spectrum, and the initial findings indicate success to some extent. Due to progressive neurodegeneration in FTD-ALS spectrum, the main goal of the intervention is not the complete rehabilitation of linguistic deficits but the reduction and, if possible, the delay of language decline in order to improve patient’s communication and the quality of his/her life. In this paper, we critically review the reported approaches of speech language therapy (SLT) for monitoring language impairments and the impact of interventions in patients with FTD-ALSspectrum. Initial findings are supporting more systematic treatment of speech and language impairment in patients in the FTD-ALS spectrum.