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What is Aphasia?

Here is an example of Aphasia

What is aphasia(a-fay-zee-a)?

Aphasia (also referred to as dysphasia) is a communication disorder that affects the ability to understand and use language. People with aphasia can think clearly, but they have difficulty getting their message in and out. Aphasia does not affect intelligence. People with aphasia know what they want and are able to make their own decisions. People with aphasia may still be very competent at communicating via other means e.g. writing, drawing, and gesture. All these means of communicating should be encouraged. Aphasia takes many different forms. It may result in total or partial loss of understanding words, speaking, reading, and/or writing. There are a wide variety of symptoms of aphasia which vary from person to person. Some common features include:

Getting Messages In

  • Difficulty making sense of words despite normal hearing
  • Feels like everyone is speaking in a foreign language that the person cannot understand
  • Difficulties following instructions, simple or complex
  • Following only parts of conversations or getting only ‘bits’ of what is said
  • Being easily distracted by noise, and other people’s conversation
  • Slow responses, taking time to process or ‘figure out’ what is said
  • Difficulty reading words or sentences despite normal vision
  • Understanding only headlines in the newspaper
  • Trouble understanding numbers and doing calculations

Getting Message Out

  • Mixing up yes and no
  • Saying one word while meaning another for example, ‘brother’ for ‘sister’
  • Getting numbers mixed up
  • Getting stuck on one word or phrase over and over again
  • Automatic swearing / cursing with no control over it
  • Being able to recite the days of the week altogether but not able to say what day today is
  • Talking fluently but not making much sense (jargon) or using words that sound foreign or nonsensical
  • Finding it hard to put thoughts into words
  • Getting stuck for a word that might be ‘on the tip of the tongue’
  • Spelling mistakes sometimes even on common words such as name, address
  • Difficulties expressing your ideas in writing e.g. a letter, email or text message
  • Difficulties talking on the phone

A sudden change in the ability to communicate can be devastating for the person, especially at a time when communication seems so important, e.g. asking questions, taking in information, conveying fears and anxieties. This can increase feelings of anxiety and worry the person with aphasia may experience after a stroke  Aphasia can also lead to feelings of frustration, sadness, anger, embarrassment and social isolation.

Aphasia: Getting days mixed up

Aphasia: Apraxia

Aphasia: Getting names mixed up

Aphasia: Telegrammatic speech


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