Aphasia

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What to expect

Aphasia

Aphasia is the loss of expressive (verbal or written) or receptive (understanding) language. This could be through speech, reading or writing. Someone can have either receptive and expressive difficulties, or both. This will depend upon the severity and location of the damage to the brain. Dysphasia and Aphasia are generally used to mean the same thing. However aphasia is sometimes meant as a total loss and dysphasia an impairment of language.

Speech and language therapy is very beneficial for an individual with aphasia. Speech and language therapy will provide advice, support and an individualised treatment programme to help improve and develop speech, language and communication skills. Speech and language therapy can also provide methods of alternative communication to help facilitate a patient's communication.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a language difficulty which is the result of damage to the brain. This can be caused by a brain tumour, infection or after a stroke. The damage usually affects the left side of the brain (which is commonly the side in control of language). Different aspects of communication are affected depending upon which part of the brain has been damaged and to what extent. People who have aphasia usually have difficulty finding the correct words and can become frustrated. Speech and language therapists work with patients and their families to try and work through some of these frustrations and to ultimately improve their communication.

Types of aphasia

Aphasia can be categorised into two sub categories:

Fluent aphasia

Fluent aphasia is when the area known as Wernicke's area, which controls word retrieval, comprehension and semantic content of language, is damaged. This then affects a person's ability to understand speech however they can produce it, often in a jumbled fashion.

Non-fluent aphasia

Non-fluent aphasia is the most common form and happens when there is damage to the lower part of the brain, known as the pre-motor cortex. This area is also known as Broca's area. People suffering from this form may not be able to produce any speech; however some may manage single words or sentences with a great effort. Patients may also suffer from global aphasia. Global aphasia is a severe form and occurs when the brain has had extensive damage. People will often have both expressive and receptive dysphasia and have difficulty in producing and comprehending speech.

What causes aphasia?

The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke. A stroke happens after a lack of oxygen to the brain and is caused by a blood clot or bleeding in the brain. Aphasia can also be caused by trauma to the brain; this can be through injury, tumour, haemorrhage or hematoma. Severity depends upon the extent of injury to the brain and the amount of time the brain has been subjected to lack of oxygen. Damage is usually sustained in the left side of the brain.

How is aphasia diagnosed?

Aphasia is diagnosed by a team of medical professionals, and will include a speech and language therapist. Diagnosing a patient will take many different aspects into consideration and will be done soon after initial assessments have been done in hospital. The speech and language therapist plays a key role in assessing, identifying and treating aphasia.

What problems caused by aphasia can speech and language therapy help with?

Speech and language therapy can be extremely beneficial for people with aphasia. A speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment to pinpoint the difficulties the patient is having. Treatment will focus on one or more of these areas, depending upon patient's ability and preference:

How does speech and language therapy help aphasia?

Benefits of speech therapy for people who have aphasia include:

Speech and language therapy is highly beneficial for patients who have aphasia. Ideally speech and language therapy would begin as soon as possible after the patient has been diagnosed. Speech and language therapy helps by providing different techniques to overcome and / or deal with the effects of aphasia.

Speech and language therapy includes exercises for reading, writing, repetitive speech patterns and direction following. A Speech and language therapist may use the aid of computer assessment as well as standard measures, depending upon the patient's level of disorder. Speech and Language Therapy is always tailored to each individual and will help to maximise their communication.

What would a speech and language therapy assessment and treatment for aphasia involve?

Speech and language therapy will involve an initial assessment to identify problems and highlight areas to implement treatment. After this, therapy may take all or some of the following forms:

Specific treatments which can help individuals with aphasia include:

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

To arrange a speech and language therapy assessment with one of our specialist speech and language therapists please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643. Our team of speech and language therapists will be happy to help.

Summary

A patient may suffer from aphasia for a number of reasons associated with trauma to the brain. This will affect either their understanding of spoken and written language, or their output of language and communication. People may have one or the other or experience both forms. It will depend upon the severity of the brain damage and to what extent a person's communication has been affected. To arrange a speech and language therapy appointment please emailoffice@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643. Our team of therapists will be happy to help.


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