What is Aphasia?

Aphasia occurs when the language center of the brain is affected by stroke. The individual with aphasia may have difficulties expressing thoughts and ideas and understanding what is said by others. Aphasia can also affect the person's ability to read and write but does not affect their intelligence.

Global Aphasia

Someone with this type of aphasia may be completely unable to speak, name objects, repeat phrases or follow commands.

Broca's Aphasia

The person knows what they want to say, but can't find the right words.

Wernicke's Aphasia

A person with this aphasia can seldom comprehend what is being said or control what they are saying.

What are some of the common language problems? How can family members help?

No two people with aphasia have the same degree of impairment or impairments in the same area of language. Problems that may occur include difficulties with:

  • Following conversations
  • Following directions
  • Difficulty "finding" words
  • Expressing thoughts, needs, ideas
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Using numbers (counting, performing math tasks)
  • Answering questions
  • Interpreting other people's facial expressions
  • Understanding humor
  • Crying or laughing excessively
  • Using gestures

Sometimes speech is produced with effort and misarticulations (speech sounds are produced incorrectly). Naming errors are very common. A "fork" may be called a "knife" or a "tork." The person usually will know the correct name of the object, but is unable to correctly say it. The message route from the brain to the mouth has been damaged by the stroke. In some cases, it may sound like the individual is speaking in a "made-up" language. Other people may not be able to get words out at all.

  • Keep distractions in the room to a minimum (limit phone, radio, TV)
  • Try to limit the number of people talking at once
  • Give the person plenty of time to respond to questions or commands
  • Phrase questions to allow "yes/no" response
  • Do not try to answer questions for the person or talk for them
  • Do not pretend that you have understood them when you have not
  • Encourage them to use other means of communication to help communicate their ideas (pointing to pictures, gestures, drawing)
  • Provide emotional support and encouragement
  • Practice language exercises provided by the Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Don't shout when trying to communicate. The person with aphasia will have no new hearing impairment.