What is aphasia and how is it treated

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a language impairment caused by an acquired brain lesion, usually in the left hemisphere. This alteration generates different complications in people who suffer from it:

  • Difficulties in expression and comprehension.
  • Complication in writing and reading.

Despite these difficulties, a person with aphasia is able to recognize people close to him or remember experiences, as well as understand what he is visualizing, although it is difficult to understand what is being said with precision. In any case, people with aphasia suffer a great impact on the quality of their lives, which can lead to a total lack of motivation to communicate.

What are the causes of aphasia?

We can identify the following causes:

  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • Cranioencephalic trauma

What is global aphasia?

It is the most severe type of aphasia, generally related to hemiplegia. People with this type of aphasia are unable to express themselves, except with some automatisms or by means of stereotypies (a word or syllable as the only verbal production).

Patients with global aphasia are generally also unable to communicate by gestures or writing. Also, they do not have much language comprehension, although they do understand visual information. On the other hand, they maintain some communication skills:

  • Facial expression and prosody.
  • Comprehension of everyday texts.
  • Rules of social interaction.

What other types of aphasia are there?

  • Broca’s aphasia: characterized by effortful and slow speech, using grammatically simple sentences. They usually have difficulty in complex comprehension.
  • Wernicke’s aphasia: there is no articulatory difficulty, so speech is fluent, but with numerous errors. Attention and auditory comprehension are severely affected, so there is difficulty in understanding.
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Rehabilitation of aphasia

Initially, there may be sporadic improvement of aphasia, but the reality is that rehabilitation by a speech therapist is needed on a prolonged and intensive basis. It also includes a global medical, neuropsychological and social rehabilitation.

First of all, a complete diagnosis must be made to determine which faculties have been affected, and then rehabilitation must begin, with the aim of providing means of communication and recovering language skills.

Tips for helping a person with severe aphasia to express him/herself

  • Discover their abilities, either through gestures or drawings, for example.
  • Ask clear questions.
  • Allow time to answer.
  • In case of not understanding, ask for clues.
  • Use a communication notebook with pictures and words.
  • Help maintain social contact, as well as activities or interests.
  • Create opportunities for communication through activities.
  • Teach these skills to others.

For more information about aphasia and treatment options, contact a specialist at the Institut Guttmann.