Aphasia is an acquired language disorder resulting from damage to the language areas of the brain.   Aphasia affects all areas of language including speaking, writing, reading and understanding what others say.  Aphasia affects everyone differently, depending on the size and location of the brain injury.  Some may experience more difficulty expressing language (speaking/writing), while others have more difficulty comprehending language (reading/listening).  A Speech-Language Pathologist provides a full evaluation including naming, comprehension, repetition, and fluency tasks to determine the type and severity of aphasia a person is experiencing.  The evaluation provides a basis for treatment planning to meet the patient’s daily needs.

Learn more about aphasia from this radio interview with Stony Brook neurologist, Dr. Cara Harth.

Tips for Communication with an Aphasic individual

When expressive language deficits exist:

  • Encourage the person to describe what s/he cannot name
  • Encourage the person to use gesture  when they speak
  • Encourage communication board, writing or drawing to aid in expression
  • Ask simple yes/no questions to clarify the patient’s message
  • Encourage strategy use (e.g., describe object function)

When receptive language deficits exist:

  • Gain the person’s attention to prepare him/her to listen
  • Speak in a natural voice, talking loudly will not aid in understanding
  • Use slow and direct statements
  • Talk about familiar topics and family  members
  • Use natural gestures
  • Ask simple yes/no questions to aid in comprehension
  • Use environmental cues (e.g., discuss food during mealtime)
  • Eliminate distraction (radio, television, background conversation)
  • Provide choices when asking questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: When is the best time to get therapy for aphasia?
Therapy is most beneficial during the first 9 months following the onset of aphasia.  Due to the brains natural ability to reconnect neural pathways  (neuroplasticity), the most gain is seen during this time.  Therapy after this time period is still proven effective.  Therapy consists of strengthening neural pathways and teaching a variety of compensatory communication strategies.

Q: What does a Speech-Language Pathologist do in therapy to help a person with aphasia?
  A Speech- Language Pathologist sets realistic goals with the individual and his/her family to attain the highest level of communication.  The Speech- Language  Pathologist will train the individual providing both auditory and visual stimuli to strengthen skills and compensate for weaknesses through various structured tasks.  These may include teaching yes/no responses and simple requests or high level descriptive language and word finding tasks dependent on the individual’s level of impairment. Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) systems may provide a “back-up” communication mode (e.g., communication board, etc.) to help an individual express his/her thoughts.  Home carry-over is an essential part of therapy for a person with aphasia.  It is necessary for a person to practice language skills at home to yield the best results.  

Q:  Is a person’s intelligence affected by aphasia?
No, intelligence has not been affected; however, a person with aphasia often can not understand or express language as they once did.  Aphasia is a deficit in receptive language (understanding what others say or what he/she reads) and/or expressive language (choosing/using words effectively in verbal or written forms).  It is similar to being in a foreign country with limited knowledge of the language.  Many people with aphasia are often frustrated that they no longer can communicate the way they did.