What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is having trouble speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. People who suffer from it may also have other problems from their brain injury. This could include muscle weakness, numbness or loss of feeling, and trouble with attention and recall.
It can be mild or severe. Someone with a mild case may only have trouble understanding or talking in a conversation. Someone with a severe case may not be able to speak at all or understand any questions. A speech pathologist will work to find the problem area. They will decide how severe it is and how to best treat it.
There are many ways to define aphasia. Right after the problem begins, this is done by looking at how well the person can understand or express language.
Expressive Aphasia: This is when a person has trouble expressing herself, either by speaking or writing. She may:
- Speak in single words (ex. “boy”…“bed”).
- Speak in short phrases (ex. “I like”… “leg hurts”).
- Not say smaller words like “the” and “of”. Speech patterns may sound like a telegram (ex. “go bed”).
- Put words in the wrong order (ex. “The cake ate the girl.”).
- Switch sounds and words (ex. calling a dishwasher a wishdasher, or a bed a table).
- Make up words. This is also called jargon.
Receptive Aphasia: This is when a person has trouble understanding what someone is saying or what he is reading. He may:
- Take extra time to answer questions or follow directions.
- Not know what words mean.
- Only understand short and simple statements.
- Not know what common sayings mean (ex. “once in a blue moon”).
- Not be able to answer questions the right way.
- Not follow commands.
If someone suffers from both types, it can also be called global aphasia. This means that they may not be able to answer simple questions (ex. “Do you live in Milwaukee?”). They will also have trouble sharing their basic needs (ex. “I’m hungry.”).
What Causes Aphasia?
This is caused by damage to parts of the brain that contain language. This damage is most often due to:
- Brain trauma
- Brain tumors
- Aneurysm bleeds
How to Help
A speech pathologist will work to find the best way to help the person. It may help to
- Speak slowly.
- Give the first letter or sound of a word.
- Use simple, direct language (ex. “Are you hungry?” instead of “Do you want something to eat now?”).
- Give patients extra time to figure out what was said and to answer.
- Give choices to help someone answer a question (ex. “Do you want water or coffee?”).
- Have only one person talk at a time.
- Keep the room quiet (ex. shut the door, turn off TV or radio).
- Keep conversations short.
- Let the patient rest. This is vital if they become upset when trying to converse.
A picture board may be helpful if speaking is hard. A speech pathologist will make one and show you how to use it.
If you have any questions, contact your family member’s speech pathologist at 608-262-5661.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/23/2011
Copyright © 08/23/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6678
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