What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is the impairment of language which affects the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read and write. It is always due to injury to the left frontal lobe (Broca’s area) which is the dominant hemisphere for speech control. It is most commonly caused by Stroke, particularly in older people but stroke can also affect young people. Brain injuries resulting in aphasia can also be caused by trauma, tumours or infections too.
What is the level of impairment?
Aphasia can be significant, making communication almost impossible or it can be very mild. It might affect one aspect of language such as naming objects or can affect the ability to form sentences or the ability to read. Often it will affect many different aspects of speech.
Can Aphasia get better?
It will usually affect someone more significantly when they are tired. When aphasia has been caused by a brain trauma, it can improve. This is because the brain can rewire itself with practice. Connections are made in the brain and with use, the messages can get around faster.
How can I help someone with aphasia?
If you know someone who is affected by aphasia it is important to know how to support them fully.
- Ensure you have the person’s attention before you start to speak
- Minimise background noise and interruptions if possible – for example turn off the TV
- Don’t shout unless the person has asked you to speak up
- Don’t talk down to the person – keep your sentences simple but at an adult level and emphasise key words.
- Avoid finishing sentences for the person – if you need to make a suggestion for a word, ask if it’s ok to guess what it is they are saying -“Should I say what I think you mean? – Did you mean XXX?”
- Use drawings, gestures, writing and facial expressions. Often a person with aphasia will be given a communication pack including pictures of common every day items, and an alphabet. Pointing at the first letter of the word can help as well as spelling out names etc.
- Don’t point out errors – encourage all attempts at speach
- Engage in normal activities as much as possible
- Include the person in the conversation – especially in making decisions
- Keep the person informed of what is happening, but avoid burdening them with too much detail
- Encourage independence and try not to be overprotective.
If you’re living with aphasia or have a loved one with it, we can help. Get in touch.