What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is an acquired language impairment, typically caused by some sort of damage to the brain that has affected a person’s ability to comprehend or produce language (in some cases, both receptive and expressive language are impaired). Aphasia can affect various language skills, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Aphasia can make it difficult for a person to understand the language of what they are being told (i.e., verbal language) or it can make it difficult to understand something they are reading (i.e., written language). In cases where expressive language is impaired, the individual may have trouble producing language (i.e., formulating sensical utterances) as well as writing out comprehensible language. Unlike motor speech disorders, such as dysarthria and apraxia, aphasia is the impairment of the language system and the symbolism that comes along with said language system. It can affect any person who speaks any language, whether it be English, Spanish, French, etc.
Aphasia can be caused by several different events that may cause some sort of damage to the brain and its functions, including strokes, traumatic brain injury (TBI), illnesses that may attack the brain (i.e., brain tumor), or other neurological conditions. Aphasia can look very different in each individual, though the core of the language disorder remains the same. Some typical symptoms might include as follows:
Difficulty recalling and retrieving particular words on demand, such as difficulty naming objects or pictures or difficulty thinking of words during a typical conversation.
Producing an undesired or unrelated word when trying to recall a different word, such as saying the word ‘fork’ when trying to name a ‘dog’.
The production of the wrong sound and switching around certain sounds in words, such as ‘Biver Rend’ for ‘River Bend’.
Being unable to comprehend what an object is, simply by hearing someone say the name of an object. For example, picturing a dog mentally when someone says the word ‘dog’.
Difficulty following one-step or multi-step instructions. For example, following a recipe.
Difficulty understanding sarcasm or things such as metaphors.
How is aphasia diagnosed?
After an individual is referred for an evaluation, the speech-language pathologist might follow this evaluation process:
Medical history & background: an SLP will review the patient’s medical history, including any past or current medical conditions, medications, and surgeries. They can also interview the patient or the patient’s close friends and relatives.
Physical exam: The SLP may conduct a physical exam to assess the individual's speech and language abilities, as well as any other neurological symptoms.
Language assessment: The SLP will administer a series of tests to evaluate the individual's language abilities, such as their ability to name objects, follow directions, and understand spoken language.
Cognitive assessment: The SLP may also assess the individual's cognitive abilities, such as attention, memory, and problem-solving skills.
Following the assessment, the speech-language pathologist will interpret the results and develop an individualized treatment plan to help improve the individual's language abilities and communication skills.
How to treat aphasia?
Treatment for aphasia will depend on the sort of language deficits that are present in the individual. Some deficits and treatment approaches include:
Verbal Receptive Language Deficits: If an individual is exhibiting deficits concerning verbal receptive language, treatment might include verbal tasks. For example, the speech-language pathologist might give verbal instructions (i.e., touch your nose then your ear). The individual will then be expected to follow said directions. Treatment might begin with just one verbal command and then extend to several at a time.
Written Receptive Language Deficits: Treatment for written receptive language might include reading instructions and then carrying out what has been written, such as following directions on a map.
Verbal Expressive Language Deficits: An individual with verbal expressive language deficits might be asked to verbally describe an object or an event during treatment in order to strengthen their language recall and spontaneous production.
Written Expressive Language Deficits: In order to strengthen written expressive language abilities, an individual might be asked to read directly from a passage, or in some cases to simply identify a singular written word spontaneously.
APHASIA SPEECH THERAPY
What are the benefits of aphasia speech therapy?
There are many benefits to receiving speech therapy in order to treat aphasia. Depending on the deficits the person is exhibiting, some benefits might include:
Improved communication and the ability to better produce and comprehend language, both verbal and written;
Improved relationships and the ability to engage with others, especially outside of one’s inner circle (i.e., strangers);
The ability to enjoy language-related activities, such as reading books, writing, watching television, and overall learning new things about the world;
Learning alternative ways of communication;
Increased confidence and better quality of life, as speech therapy can help individuals with the condition regain confidence in their ability to communicate and participate in social situations.
While speech therapy may not always be needed for a person with aphasia to obtain and relearn these abilities, it can certainly be helpful. Speech therapy can also assist a person in feeling supported and understood during a time when the individual may feel isolated.
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