Did you know that June is National Aphasia Awareness month? Aphasia is a disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language. Aphasia causes problems with any or all of the following: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Most of the time aphasia results from damage to the left (language dominant) hemisphere of the brain. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. I found some really great definitions of the different types of aphasia from the National Aphasia Association website (http://www.aphasia.org/?q=home):
This is the most severe form of aphasia, and is applied to patients who can produce few recognizable words and understand little or no spoken language. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write. Global aphasia may often be seen immediately after the patient has suffered a stroke and it may rapidly improve if the damage has not been too extensive. However, with greater brain damage, severe and lasting disability may result.
Broca’s aphasia (‘non-fluent aphasia’)
In this form of aphasia, speech output is severely reduced and is limited mainly to short utterances of less than four words. Vocabulary access is limited and the formation of sounds by persons with Broca’s aphasia is often laborious and clumsy. The person may understand speech relatively well and be able to read, but be limited in writing. Broca’s aphasia is often referred to as a ‘non fluent aphasia’ because of the halting and effortful quality of speech.
Mixed non-fluent aphasia
This term is applied to patients who have sparse and effortful speech, resembling severe Broca’s aphasia. However,unlike persons with Broca’s aphasia, they remain limited in their comprehension of speech and do not read or write beyond an elementary level.
Wernicke’s aphasia (‘fluent aphasia’)
In this form of aphasia the ability to grasp the meaning of spoken words is chiefly impaired, while the ease of producing connected speech is not much affected. Therefore Wernicke’s aphasia is referred to as a ‘fluent aphasia.’However, speech is far from normal. Sentences do not hang together and irrelevant words intrude-sometimes to the point of jargon, in severe cases. Reading and writing are often severely impaired.
This term is applied to persons who are left with a persistent inability to supply the words for the very things they want to talk about-particularly the significant nouns and verbs. As a result their speech, while fluent in grammatical form and output is full of vague circumlocutions and expressions of frustration. They understand speech well, and in most cases, read adequately. Difficulty finding words is as evident in writing as in speech.
When talking to a patient/family member with aphasia, it is important to remember that this is a language based disorder. Aphasia does not effect someone’s intelligence, although it may seem that way when they are trying to communicate. When communicating with a person with aphasia some helpful tips are :
1) Make sure they can see your face, this will give them access to gestural cues and facial expressions.
2) Limit the language you are using. Try to use clear, and direct speech.
3) Don’t ask open ended questions, yes/no questions will limit the amount of language they have to produce.
4) Make sure they have access to different modes of communication. For example, a piece of paper for them to write/draw on, a computer to type, etc.
I hope that this post taught you guys something on aphasia! If you’re concerned or know someone who is presenting with aphasia-like symptoms call the Long Island Speech Center at 631-689-6858.