What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a term used to describe certain language difficulties that may result after a stroke or brain injury. It may result in a limited ability to use language effectively. Aphasia can refer to problems with spoken language (talking and understanding) and written language (reading and writing). Aphasia occurs when there is an impairment affecting the understanding of language, the expression (production) of language, including ability to read/write/ and to understand/use gestures. Aphasia is an acquired language impairment – this means that it is not present from birth, i.e. it always occurs as a result of brain injury (most commonly stroke) but can also occur as a result of brain tumours or infections, or brain haemorrhage.

Aphasia can range from severe to mild. The degree of the communication difficulty is dependent on the amount and location of brain damage. Some people with aphasia may have difficulty with using words and sentences (expressive aphasia). Some have problems understanding others (receptive aphasia). Others may have difficulty in both expressive and receptive language skills.

 Symptoms

 Expressive Aphasia (Brocha’s aphasia)

This affects a person’s ability to speak and use words. Common characteristics include:

  • Inability to speak
  • Have slow or halting speech
  • Putting words in the wrong order
  • Difficulty in finding words they want to say
  • Making sounds as a form of verbal communication
  • Say yes when they mean no, or mixing up meaning of words (saying ‘chair’ when they mean ‘bed’)
  • Leave out important words when speaking
  • Having grammatical errors
  • Writing ability is often affected

Receptive Aphasia (Wernick’s Aphasia)

  • The person with aphasia may be able to speak using long sentences but their speech lacks meaning.
  • They may use nonsense words.
  • This difficulty may occur when writing also.
  • They tend not to realize they have this difficulty
  • Finding it very difficult to follow fast speech (e.g., radio or television news)

Global Aphasia

This occurs when both understanding and production of language are affected. These individuals have severe communication difficulties and may be extremely limited in their ability to speak or understand language.

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA)

If aphasia is acquired as a result of a stroke of brain injury, some improvements can be made over time. However, PPA does not occur as a result of a stroke or brain injury and people with PPA will continue to experience loss in speech , understanding of what others say, and their reading and writing skills over time.

 How CAINT can help:

Treatment for aphasia depends upon the individual needs of the client and CAINT speech and language therapists will provide a holistic treatment plan tailored to include modes of communication most suited to the abilities of the person with aphasia.

We will support and strengthen the areas of communication that are within the person with aphasia’s ability and build upon these strengths. CAINT will work on the specific language or speech skills affected in the person with aphasia through drills and exercises. Current research demonstrates that regular intensive therapy is recommended for best practice for people with Aphasia. CAINT provide an intensive therapy service when appropriate. To ensure that communication between the person with aphasia and their family is as easy as possible, CAINT use the Total Communication Approach, i.e. demonstrating how to use any and all modes of communication, not only speech, but also gesture, drawing, writing). We also train caregivers and family members on how to implement strategies to ensure that the skills worked on in sessions are carried over to the client’s everyday communication contexts.

Social communication groups may also be provided for people with aphasia whereby people with aphasia have the chance to practice the conversational skills with others who also have aphasia. More information about Total Communication can be found at Connect http://www.ukconnect.org/about-aphasia.aspx