What is APHASIA?

Aphasia is a language disorder. It can cause problems with how well a person speaks, understands, reads or writes.  Any injury to the part of the brain that controls language can lead to aphasia. Aphasia is most often caused by stroke. However, any disease or damage to the parts of the brain that control language can cause aphasia. These include brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, and progressive neurological disorders.

Once the underlying cause is treated, the main treatment for aphasia is speech therapy.

Additionally, Individuals with aphasia may also have one or more of the following problems:

  • Expressive Aphasia -Difficulty Producing Language
    • Experience difficulty coming up with the words they want to say
    • Substitute the intended word with another word that may be related in meaning to the target (e.g., “chicken” for “fish”) or unrelated (e.g., “radio” for “ball”)
    • Switch sounds within words (e.g., “wish dasher” for “dishwasher”)
    • Use made-up words (e.g., “frigilin” for “hamburger”)
    • Have difficulty putting words together to form sentences
    • String together made-up words and real words fluently but without making sense
  • Receptive Aphasia- Difficulty understanding language:
    • Misunderstand what others say, especially when they speak fast (e.g., radio or television news) or in long sentences
    • Find it hard to understand speech in background noise or in group situations
    • Misinterpret jokes and take the literal meaning of figurative speech (e.g., “it’s raining cats and dogs”)
  • Difficulty reading and writing:
    • Difficulty reading forms, pamphlets, books, and other written material
    • Problems spelling and putting words together to write sentences
    • Difficulty understanding number concepts (e.g., telling time, counting money, adding/subtracting)

There are some general things others can do to make it easier to communicate with a person who has aphasia.  They can allow the person with aphasia time to speak without interrupting. They may also ask simple questions to help understand what someone with aphasia is trying to say, use yes/no questions, repeat what was said,  or try to say it differently. Another option is to draw a picture or write the word.

What can I do to communicate better with the person with aphasia?

  1. Get the person’s attention before you start speaking.
  2. Maintain eye contact and watch the person’s body language and use of gesture.
  3. Minimize or eliminate background noise (TV, radio, other people).
  4. Keep your voice at a normal level. Do not speak loudly unless the person asks you to do so.
  5. Keep communication simple. With adults, don’t “talk down” to the person with aphasia.
  6. Simplify your sentence structure and emphasize key words.
  7. Reduce your rate of speech.
  8. Give the individual time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.
  9. Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing, and facial expressions in addition to speech.
  10. Encourage the person to use drawings, gestures, and writing.
  11. Use “yes” and “no” questions rather than open-ended questions.
  12. Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. Avoid insisting that each word be produced perfectly.
  13. Engage in normal activities whenever possible.
  14. Encourage independence and avoid being overprotective.


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