How Does Aphasia Affect Language and Communication?

How Does Aphasia Affect Language and Communication?

You may have seen some headlines in the news lately about Aphasia. Beloved American actor Bruce Willis’ aphasia diagnosis was recently made public, leaving many people wondering, what exactly is Aphasia?

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder that is the result of damage to the brain, and the most common cause is a stroke. The left side of the brain is responsible for speech and language, and so most people affected by aphasia have experienced damage to that portion of the brain. 

Aphasia typically results in difficulties related to understanding what is being said by others, as well as difficulties with reading and writing. Struggling to speak or recalling the words you want to say may also be present. 

Difficulties with proper swallowing patterns due to muscle weakness in the tongue and mouth are also sometimes present alongside aphasia. Aphasia can significantly affect the confidence and quality of life of those affected. But help is nearby, get support for yourself or a loved one by scheduling your free introductory call today!

What Part of the Brain is Affected by Aphasia?

There are several different types of aphasia, but in all types, it is the left side of the brain that is typically affected. The left side of the brain houses the systems of speech and language skills. 

When an injury to the frontal regions of the left hemisphere of the brain occurs, this impacts how words are put together and how complete sentences are formed. This is known as Broca’s Aphasia or Expressive Aphasia.

Wernicke’s Aphasia or Receptive Aphasia causes those affected to sometimes say words that don’t make sense, use incorrect or nonsensical words, or string together a series of words that may sound like a proper sentence but actually don’t make sense together.

When damage is extensive to the left side of the brain, this is referred to as Global Aphasia. This can cause difficulties understanding words and sentences, as well as forming words and sentences. 

How Does Aphasia Affect Speech?

For some people, the symptoms of Aphasia are easily recognized, whereas in others, obtaining a proper diagnosis can take a significant amount of time. Understanding the symptoms of aphasia is very important, especially if you or someone you love has recently suffered from some sort of head or brain injury. 

Mixed Up Words – When it comes to speaking, someone with aphasia may frequently mix up their words, either in the order that they are spoken or by using the wrong word altogether. 

Nonsense Words – In some cases of more severe aphasia, the person affected may make up nonsense or gibberish words that have no known meaning.

Difficulties Following Conversations  – Aphasia can also affect one’s ability to effectively follow and engage in conversation. They may suddenly lose their ability to understand what is being said to them, to follow the flow of the conversation, or struggle to understand the humor in a joke or anecdote. 

Difficulties with Reading and Writing – Many people with Aphasia also struggle with comprehending written language or writing language themselves. Reading books can be difficult for someone with Aphasia as they may not remember what they had previously read or frequently lose their place on the page. 

How Does Aphasia Affect Language Learning?

Aphasia is classified as a language disorder as it affects the left side of the brain. Damage to this part of the brain can lead to problems with language and comprehension. Aphasia can make it hard to understand when others are speaking to you, as well as cause problems with speaking and reading, and writing. Damage to the brain can also result in other difficulties in addition to Aphasia. Muscle weakness in the tongue, mouth, and jaw is also common and is called dysarthria. Trouble making the muscles make the correct movements to produce speech sounds is also common and called apraxia of speech. Dysphagia refers to problems related to swallowing effectively and can also be seen alongside aphasia as a result of brain damage. You can learn more about how aphasia affects language learning and how speech therapy can help by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

Aphasia is not a reflection of intelligence or learning abilities, it is simply a result of traumatic injury to the brain. 

Can you Recover from Aphasia?

Some degree of spontaneous recovery can be expected as the brain heals from the damage it endured. As this occurs, some cognitive and communication deficits will improve as healing occurs. The support and care of medical and speech and language professionals will enhance and further these improvements. 

How Can Speech Therapy Help Someone with Aphasia?

A Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) can help improve communication skills beyond what will naturally occur after a brain injury. The speech therapist will teach about tools and strategies that will help to overcome cognitive and communication deficits. Some individuals who also have difficulty in social communication, such as difficulty taking turns in conversation and problems maintaining a topic of conversation will benefit from the support and guidance of an experienced speech and language pathologist. 

When working to improve the ability to understand or produce language in someone affected by aphasia, the therapist will likely employ the use of specific drills and strategies, such as word retrieval, sentence formation, and conversational skills. Role-playing can be a highly effective strategy when it comes to re-teaching social skills which require both word retrieval and conversation skills.

Because Aphasia can affect each person and their speech and language skills differently, each course of treatment must also be completely customized for each individual. Speech therapy is one of the most valuable resources for helping someone who is affected by aphasia. Get help for yourself or someone you love by scheduling your free introductory call today!