Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by an injury to the brain, typically the left side of the brain. Impairments occur in four primary areas. These areas include; spoken language expression, spoken language comprehension, written expression and reading comprehension. There are different subcategories of aphasia. These include fluent and non-fluent. A person with fluent aphasia is able to produce connected speech, however their speech may not have much meaning. This is also known as Wernicke’s Aphasia due to the area of the brain that has damage. People with non-fluent aphasia have effortful speech; grammar is impaired however their speech frequently has meaning. This is also known as Broca’s Aphasia.
Some causes of Aphasia include, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, brain surgery, progressive neurological diseases such as dementia and stroke. There are two types of strokes. These include ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage that interrupts the blood flow to an area of the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that ruptures and causes damage to the brain tissue surrounding that blood vessel. The most common cause of Aphasia is stroke.
Symptoms vary based on severity and location of the damage. A person with aphasia often has difficulty with both expressive and receptive language. Anomia is another symptom often associated with aphasia. Anomia is difficulty with naming and word finding.
Treatment will vary based on the extent of damage and the individual needs of the patient. Treatment can either be restorative or compensatory. Restorative treatment aims at restoring functions that the person previously had, but are now impaired. The goal of compensatory treatment is to compensate for functions that were lost and cannot be regained. Two useful treatment strategies for patients with non-fluent aphasia include; Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) and Script Training. MIT is a technique that utilizes the musical elements of speech to improve language production. This technique is based of off the idea that music is processed in the right side of the brain, which is undamaged. Patient’s begin by singing short phrases and then slowly increase sentences lengths and eventually decrease their reliance on music to speak. Script Training is a technique that relies on the repeated practice of a script that has been created by the therapist and patient. The script should be something that is highly relevant to the patient’s everyday life. The goal is for the scripted speech to become automatic and less effortful.
Michelle Weiman MA CF-SLP