Aphasia makes it tough to communicate, but help is available!

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), aphasia is a “disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language.” It often occurs suddenly after a stroke or head injury. However, it may also develop slowly due to a progressive neurological disease or brain tumor. Aphasia impacts the expression and understanding of language, which includes reading and writing, and may co-occur with speech disorders, such as apraxia of speech. There are two categories of aphasia: fluent and non-fluent. Within these two groups there are several types, including:

  • Wernicke’s aphasia is the most common type of fluent aphasia and may result from damage to the temporal lobe. People with this type of aphasia may speak in long, complete sentences that have no meaning.
  • Broca’s aphasia is the most common type of non-fluent aphasia and is a result of damage that primarily affects the frontal lobe. People with Broca’s aphasia know what they want to say, yet speak in short phrases that take great effort to produce. They also may understand speech.
  • Global aphasia is a result of damage to a large portion of the language areas of the brain. People with this form of aphasia have severe communication difficulties. They may even be extremely limited in their ability to speak and comprehend language.
  • There are other types of aphasia. Some people may have a hard time repeating words or sentences even though they understand what is said. Other people may have a hard time naming objects even though they know what the object is.

If a physician suspects that a patient has aphasia, they will usually refer that patient to a speech-language pathologist (SLP). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, an SLP will evaluate the person’s speech and language skills. An SLP will work with the patient one-on-one, in a small group, and/or family. The SLP will also help them learn how to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and other skills to help them communicate with others.

Did you know that the NIDILRR community continues to work towards finding ways to help people with aphasia to communicate, including through the use of AAC? NARIC’s information specialists searched REHABDATA and found various articles on aphasia, AAC, and communication from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere.

If you are experiencing difficulties with your speech, please contact your primary care provider. If you have experienced a head injury or are experiencing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, please call 911 right away.