Did you know that of the estimated 750,000 strokes that occur each year in the United States, about one third result in aphasia? Aphasia is a communication disorder that occurs after a stroke or other neurological injury that makes it difficult to communicate using language. June is Aphasia Awareness Month, a campaign headed by the National Aphasia Association intended to raise public awareness of aphasia. Read on to learn more about aphasia: what it is, how speech-therapy can help, and what you can do to help a person with aphasia communicate.
What exactly is aphasia?
Aphasia occurs when there is damage to the part of the brain that governs language. Stroke is the most common cause, but anything that injures the brain (e.g., traumatic brain injury, infection, etc.) can cause aphasia. Aphasia can impact any aspect of language—speech, reading, writing, or listening—and can range widely in severity, from occasional word finding issues to being completely unable to produce language.
How does speech therapy help?
A speech-language pathologist can help a person with aphasia in a number of ways depending on their particular strengths and challenges. Often a speech therapist will help a person with aphasia produce speech sounds more clearly, or develop strategies for word-finding during speech. If the aphasia is very severe, they might recommend using an AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) device to supplement or replace spoken language. ACC can range from high-tech speech-generating computers to very simple picture and alphabet boards.
How can I help?
If you know someone with aphasia, there are a number of things you can do to make communication easier. Give the person with aphasia time to speak. Even if the person is having difficulty, do not attempt to finish their sentences for them or guess what they are trying to say. Keep your own speech simple without talking down to the person with aphasia—aphasia doesn’t impact intelligence, only language ability. Simplify your sentence structure, slow down your rate of speech, and stress key words. Ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” or even a gesture. This allows the person to communicate as effectively as possible, even if they are having difficulty expressing themselves with language.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give us a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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