Living With Aphasia

By July 15, 2019 Blog, News, Newsletter, Resources

Submitted by: Livia

Aphasia is a condition that steals your communication skills which can include verbal, understanding, and written. This usually happens with a brain injury including stroke, TBI or it can be the result of a progressive disease.  The main treatment for aphasia is speech therapy. In speech therapy, patients learn how to execute language skills.

Symptoms can include: 

  • Incomplete sentences
  • Not being able to comprehend conversations
  • Confusion with words and not making sense

Personally, I have mild aphasia because I had a cerebral aneurysm and it makes life more difficult. I refrain from talking to unfamiliar listeners because I am afraid of what they will think of my voice and judge me. There are approximately 2 million people in the US affected by aphasia.  84% of people have never heard of the term Aphasia. I can understand everything when people talk to me and I do not have a problem with word finding; My speech is just slow and a tad slurry but still intelligible.

How is aphasia treated?

Well, I am glad you asked. Doctors prescribe neurological tests to patients who have survived strokes or traumatic brain injuries. The neurological tests include object identification (i.e. spoon or fork) which determines the severity of the patient’s aphasia. A speech language pathologist can provide therapy to a person with aphasia and help their communication skills. When people hear my voice, they assume I  can not understand what they are saying which is untrue. There  are six different types of aphasia:

Broca’s aphasia: With this aphasia, it is difficult for the person to produce words and lengthy sentences. It is also strenuous to find the appropriate words they want to say as well as the formation of the word is difficult. Typically, they understand speech relatively well and can comprehend reading but writing is challenging. Broca’s aphasia is often referred to as nonfluent aphasia due to choppy and strenuous quality of speech.

Nonfluent aphasia: The patient has sporadic and laborious speech, resembling severe Broca’s aphasia. This patient is, unfortunately, restricted in their speech. Reading and writing is not beyond elementary level.

Global aphasia:   Out of all forms of aphasia this is the most severe; The patient can make few recognizable words and have difficulty understanding speech or not at all. People affected with global aphasia can not read or write. This aphasia is usually observed directly after a head injury and has the potential to improve rapidly. However, with more extensive brain damage, it could  result in a lasting disability.

Fluent aphasia:   In this form of aphasia, the patient has difficulty interpreting conversations but their speech is clear and connected. Yet, do not be fooled if they make no sense. In severe cases, they sound like gang members speaking slang. Fortunately, reading and writing abilities are not impaired.

Anomic aphasia: This occurs when the person struggles with finding the word for the thing they want to talk about. It occurs specifically with nouns and verbs. Their speech is fluent and grammatically correct but it is full of vague words. Difficulty finding words is as evident in writing as it is in speech.

Primary Progressive aphasia:  This is a progressive neurological syndrome that gradually impairs language capabilities. Unlike other forms of aphasia, this is a neurodegenerative disease that is not a result from a brain injury. Primary Progressive gradually deteriorates the part of the brain responsible for language. First symptoms include speech irregularities then eventually memory loss.

I have global aphasia but mine has become significantly better. Researchers are currently investigating the use of medications, alone or in combination, with speech therapy to help people with aphasia.