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Aphasia is in the News: But What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is in the News: But What is Aphasia?

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia has been in the news lately. As you may have heard, Bruce Willis was diagnosed with aphasia. But what is it?  Aphasia is a medical diagnosis referring to language difficulties associated with brain damage. This type of damage is often caused by a stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.)  Symptoms of aphasia usually happen suddenly, but changes in language can also occur slowly, over time. Slow changes in language are often due to a degenerative disease like Primary Progressive Aphasia.  Aphasia affects language use and comprehension. Symptoms include difficulty talking, reading, writing, or understanding spoken language.   The severity of aphasia symptoms range from very mild to profound. When the parts of the brain responsible for language are more damaged, symptoms are worse.

Does Aphasia Cause Cognitive Changes?

Cognitive impairments are changes in one’s ability to make decisions, solve problems, pay attention and remember things.  Aphasia is not a cognitive impairment.  People with aphasia have difficulty understanding and using language. This is an important distinction! When communicating with someone with aphasia, it is important to remember that their language disorder does not impact their intelligence.

Why is Aphasia Awareness Important?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 1 in 250 people are living with aphasia in the United States alone. You may know someone, or may interact with a person with aphasia.  With a little education, you can learn to be a supportive communication partner.

For example, simply giving the person with aphasia extra time to get their message across can help them a lot.   Some people with language disorders use alternatives to speech, like gestures or writing words, to communicate. Some may even use a speech generating device to to support communication. As a communication partner you can help by simply being patient. 

Also, remember that the person with aphasia may have difficulty understanding what you say to them. You can help by slowing down your speech rate. Say one piece of information at a time. Use visual cues when you can, like pointing or writing key words. This will help them understand your message. A little education goes a long way to being a supportive communication partner!

Can Speech Therapy Help?

Absolutely! The speech therapist will first conduct an evaluation to assess language skills. Based on the results of the evaluation, and the client’s own communication goals, the speech therapist will develop a plan for treatment. Treatment will include learning language exercises, compensatory strategies, and how to practice at home.  Family and caregiver education is also an important part of a good therapy plan.

How Do I Seek Therapy?

Adult Speech Therapy Services specializes in the treatment of aphasia. Call us at 301-323-8486 to schedule a free consultation. We would be happy to discuss our treatment approach and give you more information about how we can help improve communication.