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What You Need To Know About Aphasia

By Ann Benson, MS April 07, 2022 Posted in: Brain Health & Neurology

Many people have recently heard the term Aphasia since the news about Bruce Willis stepping away from acting. Aphasia does not stand alone and it is important to see a neurologist for a proper evaluation of the underlying condition causing aphasia.

What Is Aphasia?

The term is defined by the National Aphasia Association as an acquired communication disorder that impairs a persons' ability to process language but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others. Aphasia impacts over 2 million Americans, and can happen suddenly due to a stroke or brain injury in the left side of the brain where language occurs, or it can come on gradually due to a neurological disease.

Aphasia can affect a person's ability to talk, understand, read, and write. If aphasia is due to a progressive disease, there may also be a component of cognitive decline. A speech-language pathologist is specially trained in evaluating and treating communication and cognition, and can help to sort out the differences between aphasia and cognition.

What Is It Like To Have Aphasia?

Imagine being the only person in a group with noise cancelling earphones on. You can see lips moving and people interacting, but you don't understand anything being said. You try to tell someone you don't understand, but the words come out as nonsense, or misspoken words that you did not mean. People stare at you in bewilderment, because they don't understand your message. Would you feel frustrated? Embarrassed? Isolated? Hopeless? Scared? Maybe all of these! A speech-language pathologist can help to re-connect the pathways in the language center of the brain and access all the speaking and understanding skills that exist.

Tips On Communication With Someone With Aphasia:

  1. Gain the person's attention and maintain eye contact.
  2. Use clear, direct statements when communicating or giving directions.
  3. Allow plenty of wait time during speaking or listening (try not to rush the person).
  4. Ask yes/no questions to simplify communication.
  5. Decrease your rate of speech and add pauses in your sentences.
  6. Encourage all attempts at communication.
  7. Use writing, pictures, and/or gestures to support what you are saying and help the person with aphasia understand.

What Can Be Done About Aphasia?

After an evaluation with a licensed speech-language pathologist, areas of strength will be identified. Some people benefit from direct therapy intervention to regain the function to communicate; some people need an alternative means of communication (alternative and augmentative communication, or AAC); some people benefit from strategies to preserve the communication they have and slow down the progression of losing their communication over time due to a neurological disease. Working closely with a neurologist for appropriate diagnosis of the condition causing aphasia is important, and allows the speech-language pathologist to determine a proper course of treatment.

CHI Health has speech-language pathologists in all metro hospitals who are ready to help and provide hope for restoring communication!

Ann Benson, MS
Ann Benson, MS

Ann Benson, MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist at Immanuel Rehabilitation Institute, working with the Stroke Specialty Program. She works primarily with patients who have had a change in communication, cognition, voice, and swallowing following a stroke or other brain injury. Ann's passion is helping people stay engaged in their daily lives through independence with communication and cognition, as well as educating future speech-language pathologists to provide high quality, person-centered care.

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