What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a condition that limits your ability to communicate with others and can affect speech/writing, comprehension of speech/writing, or both. Aphasia usually results from damage to the portions of the brain that are responsible for language. For most people, this is usually located on the left side of the brain (nidcd.nih.gov).
Depending on the structures damaged in the brain, different types of aphasia can occur. These include:
- Expressive Aphasia: The person knows what they want to say, but has difficulty communicating it to others in both writing and speech
- Receptive Aphasia: The person may not understand the written or spoken message delivered to them. These individuals may take speech literally and may have difficulty with language nuances such as sarcasm, idioms (examples: raining cats and dogs, lend me your ears, in a pickle)
- Anomic Aphasia: The person has word-finding difficulties in both speaking and writing
- Global Aphasia: The most severe type of aphasia in which the patient has difficulty speaking and understanding words. Also the patient is unable to read or write.
- Primary Progressive Aphasia: A rare disorder in which people slowly lose their ability to talk, write, read, and comprehend conversation over a period of time.
What causes aphasia?
The most common cause for aphasia is a stroke, but other common causes include traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors, infections of the brain and progressive neurological diseases such as dementia (ASHA.org)
How do you diagnose aphasia?
Your physician will generally order imaging if aphasia is suspected. Typically this is an MRI or CT scan to identify if a lesion has occurred in the brain. Physicians also test the ability to understand and produce language. Testing can include following commands, answering questions, naming objects, and carrying on a conversation (NIDCD.gov).
Treatment for aphasia
Generally, the physician will refer you to a speech therapist (SLP) for therapy. The goal of therapy will be to improve communication by helping the person use remaining language abilities, restore language abilities as much as possible, and learn other ways to communicate effectively using gestures, pictures, or electronic devices. Therapy is very individualized because each patient will present a little differently, depending on the severity of the damage and location of the damage on the brain.
Family participation during therapy services is encouraged to maintain consistency with the program your SLP has developed for you. Some basic tips to help assist with communication include:
- Use simple sentences and slowed pace when speaking
- Give the person time to speak, many people are tempted to assist by finishing sentences or correcting errors, but this is preventing learning opportunities for your loved one
- Reduce distractions in the environment
- Use pictures or photos to facilitate conversations
- Check comprehension or summarize what you discussed
Your physician may recommend medications that improve blood flow to the brain, which may enhance recovery (mayoclinic.org).
For more information about aphasia, please contact your primary care provider or your speech-language pathologist at Virginia Gay Hospital. For additional information on primary care providers please visit our Find a Provider page. To learn more about therapy services at Virginia Gay Hospital, please visit our Therapy Services page.