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June Is National Aphasia Awareness Month

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

Over 100,000 Americans acquire Aphasia each year, which is more common than Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy

Aphasia is an acquired neurological disorder caused by damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke, with about 25-40% of stroke survivors acquiring Aphasia. It can also be caused by head injury, brain tumor, and other neurological causes (as cited in National Aphasia Association, 2011).

Aphasia results in the impairment of the ability to process language or to use and comprehend words. Individuals with aphasia (as cited in National Aphasia Association, 2011) can have difficulty with word finding, grammatical complexity, understanding others, reading comprehension, and written expression. It is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, just the ability to use language to communicate what they know.

Different types of aphasia have been identified; these correspond to the location of the brain injury. Broadly, aphasia is characterized as either fluent (normal speech patterns) or non-fluent (slow and halting). The three most common types of aphasia are Broca’s, Wernicke’s, and Global.

  1. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia mainly have impairment in the production of language, while comprehension is better preserved.  The verbal output of a person with Broca’s aphasia is sometimes called “telegraphic”, containing mainly nouns and verbs with many grammatical errors. 
  2. Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by impairment of language comprehension, though production is also affected and nonsense words are not uncommon.  The speech pattern of an individual with Wernicke’s aphasia is often fast paced and has been described as a “press of speech”, since they continue to talk even when they should pause to allow others to speak.
  3. Global aphasia is characterized by impairment in both production of language and comprehension.  People with global aphasia typically communicate through facial expressions, intonation, and gestures

An individual who has aphasia is typically referred to a speech-language pathologist, where the diagnosis of aphasia is made after comprehensive examinations of the individual’s communication abilities. At times aphasia may resemble other communication disorders such as apraxia of speech, dysarthria, and dementia; yet, it is important to distinguish aphasia from these other conditions because prognosis and treatment differ significantly.

Source: National Aphasia Association. (2011). Aphasia frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 13, 2011