A frustrating dilemma for many stroke and/or brain injury survivors is the inherent difficulty with word recognition (i.e. Aphasia). The following information is important to directly quote The National Aphasia Association’s website, http://www.aphasia.org…
“Aphasia is a communication impairment usually acquired as a result of a stroke or other brain injury. It affects both the ability to express oneself through speech, gesture, and writing, or to understand the speech, gesture, and writing of others. Aphasia thus changes the way in which we communicate with those people most important to us: family, friends, and co-workers., The impact of aphasia on relationships may be profound, or only slight. No two people with aphasia are alike with respect to severity, former speech and language skills, or personality. But in all cases it is essential for the person to communicate as successfully as possible from the very beginning of the recovery process…”
“Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others, and most people with aphasia experience difficulty reading and writing… Aphasia affects about one million Americans — or 1 in 250 people — and is more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. More than 100,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. However, most people have never heard of it.”Here are some suggestions to help communicate with a person with aphasia:
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before communicating.
During conversation, minimize or eliminate background noise (such as television, radio, other people) as much as possible.
- Keep communication simple but adult. Simplify your own sentence structure and reduce your own rate of speech. You don’t need to speak louder than normal but do emphasize key words. Don’t talk down to the person with aphasia.
- Encourage and use other modes of communication (writing, drawing, yes/no responses, choices, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions) in addition to speech.
- Give them time to talk and let them have a reasonable amount of time to respond. Avoid speaking for the person with aphasia except when necessary and ask permission before doing so.
- Praise all attempts to speak; make speaking a pleasant experience and provide stimulating conversation. Downplay errors and avoid frequent criticisms/corrections. Avoid insisting that each word be produced perfectly.
- Augment speech with gesture and visual aids whenever possible. Repeat a statement when necessary.
- Encourage them to be as independent as possible. Avoid being overprotective.
- Whenever possible continue normal activities (such as dinner with family, company, going out). Do not shield people with aphasia from family or friends or ignore them in a group conversation. Rather, try to involve them in family decision-making as much as possible. Keep them informed of events but avoid burdening them with day to day details.
These guidelines are intended to enhance communication with persons who have aphasia. However, they cannot guarantee that communication will be immediate or on a par with former skills.”
Does Aphasia Affect a Person’s Intelligence?
NO. A person with aphasia may have difficulty retrieving words and names, but the person’s intelligence is basically intact. Aphasia is not like Alzheimer’s disease; for people with aphasia it is the ability to access ideas and thoughts through language – not the ideas and thoughts themselves- that is disrupted. But because people with aphasia have difficulty communicating, others often mistakenly assume they are mentally ill or have mental retardation.
Are All Cases of Aphasia Alike?
No. There are many types of aphasia. Some people have difficulty speaking while others may struggle to follow a conversation. In some people, aphasia is fairly mild and you might not notice it right away. In other cases, it can be very severe, affecting speaking, writing, reading, and listening. While specific symptoms can vary greatly, what all people with aphasia have in common are difficulties in communicating
The study was supported by National Science Foundation grants, and a National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders grant.
Contact: Karen Mallet – Georgetown University Medical Center
Source: Georgetown University Medical Center press release
Image Source: Neuroscience image adpated from an unrelated image shared at Wikimedia Commons by By Bkroeger via CC-BY-SA-3.0