By Susan Becker, Speech Therapist
Aphasia is the inability to speak and/or understand spoken language. It is usually caused by having a stroke but can result from a brain tumor, traumatic brain injury and a variety of other neurological disorders.
Imagine having words staged in your mind and poised upon your lips but no ability to speak. The level of frustration can be maddening when the desire to speak is so strong and the ability is so weak. Break the silence by learning how to overcome this challenge and regain a different version of your voice. This can be extremely frustrating for a patient. Often, they believe they are making sense, but in fact it is not articulated that way.
Various types of Aphasia exist:
- Expressive Aphasia is the inability to speak or coordinate language when trying to form intelligible messages. The person knows what they want to say but is unable.
- Receptive Aphasia is the inability to audibly understand and decode the message of spoken language.
- Global Aphasia is when both expressive and receptive aphasia exist simultaneously. The person is unable to speak and comprehend the spoken word. Additionally a person may not able to read or write with global aphasia.
The road to recovery from aphasia varies in length for each person. The degree of recovery varies as well. Working with a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) in the Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) setting provides a foundation for recovery but more time will likely be required to reach their full potential. The American Speech Language and Hearing Association website provides information and resources related to Aphasia.
What can I do to communicate better with the person with aphasia?
- Get the person\’s attention before you start speaking.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Minimize or eliminate background noise.
- Do not raise your voice unless asked to do so.
- Keep it simple but do not take on a condescending tone of voice.
- Emphasize key words.
- Speak slowly.
- Do not rush the conversation allow, the person to formulate a response.
- Use non-verbal communications to reiterate the point.
- Encourage the person to use drawings, gestures, and writing.
- Ask \”yes\” and \”no\” questions rather than open-ended questions.
- Do not point out mistakes when speaking and reinforce all efforts to speak.
- Engage in normal activities whenever possible.
- Encourage independence and avoid being overprotective.
Some form of Aphasia occurs in approximately 25% to 40% or people that survive a stroke according to the National Aphasia Association. It is too easy to give up and accept being non-verbal. Many resources and support mechanisms exist so giving up does not have to be an option. It is very important to begin therapy as soon as the patient is medically stable to do so. Recovery is individual and cannot be predicted.
LTACH’s provide comparable levels of care to traditional short term hospitals. At Specialty Hospital of Central Jersey, care is delivered with a team approach achieving the patient’s goals over a longer course of time. A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) will be consulted to conduct a speech and language evaluation and develop a plan of care. The SLP will work closely with the Occupational and Physical Therapist to coordinate care for achieving optimal outcomes. The SLP typically works with a patient three times per week, depending on the patient’s medical and respiratory status.
To learn more about Speech Language Pathologists’ work at Specialty Hospital of Central Jersey, read our last blog about Dysphagia.