Aphasia: “A Loss of Language, Not Intellect”

Editor’s Note: In recognition of National Aphasia Month, we’ll be sharing posts throughout the month of June related to aphasia. 

As human beings, the ability to use language to communicate makes us unique and sets us apart from other species. We talk to express our emotions and to let others know how we are feeling and what we need. We ask questions and make requests. We tell people we care about that we love them. For most people, communicating thoughts, ideas, and desires is something that comes as second nature. But what happens when the brain is injured and these communication systems are damaged?

For a growing number of people who have suffered a brain injury, words and their meaning can be lost and communicating even simple needs can be a struggle. Aphasia is a term used to describe communication difficulty that results from damage to parts of the brain that contain language centers. For the approximately 1 million Americans who are living with aphasia, each day can present new challenges and adjustments.

What is Aphasia?

As mentioned previously, aphasia is a disorder of language that results when specific language centers in the brain are damaged as a result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury or other neurological diseases.  For most people, this is the left side of the brain. Aphasia can cause impairments in speaking, understanding, reading and writing. No two people with aphasia are alike with respect to severity, former speech and language skills or personality. But in all cases, it is essential for the person to communicate as successfully as possible.

Types of Aphasia

Aphasia can range in severity and can be mild, moderate or severe. The two most common primary types of aphasia are expressive and receptive.

  • Expressive Aphasia is when an individual has difficulty saying or writing down what they want or need. Individuals usually know what they want to say, but have trouble saying what they mean. Expressive aphasia usually results when an area in the front part of the brain (Broca’s area) is damaged.
  • Receptive Aphasia is when an individual can hear someone’s voice, but has difficulty fully comprehending and making sense of what they hear. Following directions and understanding questions can be difficult. Receptive aphasia typically results when an area more towards the mid-back part of the brain (Wernicke’s areas)  is damaged.

language areas

Purpose of Speech Therapy

The purpose of speech therapy for the treatment of aphasia is to help people relearn and regain lost language skills while using strategies as needed. There is a focus on rehearsal, repetition and capitalizing on what language skills remain. Patient and caregiver education and training is provided throughout the course of therapy where communication tips and strategies are discussed.

Want more information? Here are a few of our favorite resources.

Stay tuned throughout the month of June to learn more about aphasia and the programs available in the Philadelphia community.

 

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  • Amy Hsiao

    Another important resource is the National Aphasia Association – much more information than the National Stroke Association about aphasia. http://www.aphasia.org