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Speech Therapy for Aphasia

Aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to the portions of the brain that are responsible for language. Primary signs of the disorder include difficulty expressing oneself when speaking, trouble understanding speech, and difficulty with reading and writing. Aphasia is not a disease but a symptom of brain damage. There are over 100,000 Canadians living with aphasia today—a condition that is not well-known or understood.

Aphasia gets in the way of a person's ability to use and understand words. It does not impair the person's intelligence. Aphasia may be classified as an invisible disability, but there is nothing hidden about its isolating and frustrating impact on those affected by it. People with aphasia, who are as intelligent and competent as before, know what they want and are capable of making their own decisions, but they are not able to find the right words to convey what they think.

Through direct service and community outreach programs, people with aphasia and their families are finding new ways to re-join life’s conversations. They may also have problems understanding conversation, reading and comprehending written words, writing words, and using numbers.

Most commonly seen in adults who have suffered a stroke, aphasia can also result from a brain tumour, infection, head injury or dementia, all of which damage the brain. The type and severity of language dysfunction depend on the precise location and extent of the damaged brain tissue.

Is there any treatment?

Occasionally, people with aphasia make a complete recovery, sometimes even without therapy. In most cases, however, recovery is not complete. Language therapy should begin as soon as possible to maximize recovery, and it should be tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Rehabilitation with a speech-language pathologist involves activities such as reading, writing, following directions, conversation and repeating what they hear. Computer-aided therapy may supplement standard language therapy

What is the prognosis?

It is difficult to predict the progress people with aphasia will make, given the wide variability of the condition. People who are younger or have less extensive brain damage often fare better. The location of the injury is also important and is another clue to prognosis. In general, patients tend to recover skills in language comprehension more completely than those involving expression

Aphasia may be classified based on the location of the lesion or the patterns of language difficulties. It is important to keep in mind that a person’s initial presenting symptoms can change with recovery, and, therefore, the classification of the aphasia may also change. Caregivers and loved ones facing an aphasia diagnosis should check with their speech-language pathologist or neurologist to confirm that the correct type of aphasia has been identified.

Our speech-language pathologists at SVS-Rehab are well trained to work with people with aphasia and create individualized plans that focus on improving people’s expressive and receptive language skills to optimize their communication abilities.

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