Aphasia is a neurogenic language disorder that results from any injury to the brain.
Aphasia may involve impairments in spoken language expression, language comprehension, written expression or reading comprehension. Some people who suffer from aphasia may have significant breakdowns in their ability to verbalize, read and write.
It is estimated that there are 180,000 new cases of aphasia per year in the United States. Aphasia following a stroke is more common in older adults with 43% of individuals 85 and older experiencing some form of aphasia post stroke. According to the National Aphasia Association, approximately 25-40% of stroke survivors experience aphasia. Additionally, about 35-40% of adults admitted to an acute care hospital with a stroke are diagnosed with aphasia. No significant differences have been identified in the prevalence of aphasia in men and women.
Common causes of aphasia include stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, brain infections, and progressive neurological diseases. Common signs and symptoms of aphasia may include the following:
· Impaired Spoken Language Expression
Difficulty with word finding
Speaking with increased effort
Speaking in single words rather than sentences
Speaking in short, incomplete phrases
Omitting smaller words such as the, a, of, and was
Making grammar errors
Combining nonsense words with real words
Substitution of incorrect words or sounds (i.e. labeling an “apple” an “orange”; calling a“dishwasher” a “wishwasher”)
Making up words
· Impaired Language Comprehension
Difficulty understanding spoken utterances
Needing extra time to understand what is said
Unreliably answering yes/no and simple why-type questions
Not understanding figurative language (e.g. taking a literal meaning of figurative expressions like “It’s raining cats and dogs.”)
· Impairments in Written Expression
Difficulty writing a sentence, copying words, letters, numbers
Substituting incorrect letters or words
Spelling nonsenses syllables or words
· Impairments in Reading Comprehension
Difficulty comprehending written material
Difficulty recognizing words in print
Inability to sound out words
Substitution of associated words for a war (e.g. “table” for “chair”)
Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with aphasia. Aphasia treatment is specific to the unique needs of each individual in order to address their identified areas of impairment. Intervention is designed to focus on improving the individual’s weaknesses through targeted therapeutic exercises, training of the individual in use of compensatory strategies and providing education to the individual and any caregivers in strategies to assist in improving communication. There are a variety of research evidence based interventions used to treat aphasia. Melodic Intonation Therapy is an intervention that uses music to improve expressive language. This particular approach capitalizes on the intact function of singing while engaging undamaged areas of the right hemisphere that remain capable of language. This approach is frequently used to treat individuals with more severe aphasia.
If you or someone you know is suffering from aphasia, please contact your physician for
a referral to our speech-language pathologist here at PTSC, who is trained in neurogenic communication disorders, and can to assist with improving communication function.
Written by Mariana York - Speech Therapist