Speaking up for aphasia awareness
The ability to communicate with others through language is so fundamental to most of us that we don’t even think about life without it. But for a person with aphasia, the ability to speak and understand others is impaired. Communication becomes difficult and every word can be a struggle.
In my years as a speech-language pathologist, I have worked with scores of people affected by either their own aphasia or that of a loved one. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, aphasia affects at least one million people in the United States alone. During National Aphasia Awareness Month this June, I want to share a little bit about this communication disorder and how to most effectively cope if you are a family member or friend of someone fighting to recover.
While aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language, it does not affect intelligence. It is an acquired communication disorder most often brought on by stroke. In fact, about 25-40 percent of stroke survivors have aphasia. It can also result from head injury, brain tumor or other neurological causes. It is most common among older adults, but can occur at any age.
Sometimes aphasia is temporary, lasting only a few hours or days after a stroke, for example. But for most people, language recovery does not come as quickly or as completely as that. They usually see partial recovery within a month or so, but some aphasia remains. For these folks, speech-language therapy can help with continued improvement over the next two-year period.