About Aphasia

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language difficulty caused by injury to the brain. It affects communication. People with aphasia may have difficulty with:

  • Speaking
  • Understanding what others are saying
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Using numbers
  • Using gestures

Aphasia may affect:

  • Everyday communication
  • Relationships
  • Everyday living

What Causes Aphasia?

Aphasia can occur with events that affect the areas of the brain that are important for language. 

These may include a stroke, brain tumour, head injury or brain infection. 

In rare cases, a person may have a primary progressive aphasia caused by a neurodegenerative disease. This is a slowly worsening aphasia. 

Aphasia Facts & Tips:

  • Aphasia affects people differently.
  • Aphasia can differ in severity: 
    • Aphasia can be severe and make communication very difficult.
    • Aphasia can be mild. Someone with a mild aphasia may only have difficulty communicating the names of things.
  • Aphasia disrupts language and communication. Aphasia does not mean loss of intelligence, thoughts or memory.
  • Aphasia does not change a person’s character; their fundamental preferences and personality remain the same.
  • People with aphasia can still make decisions and solve problems.
  • People with aphasia can still hear and see.
  • People with aphasia often know what they want to say but have difficulty getting their messages in and out.
  • People with aphasia may also experience other communication impairments as a result of injury to the brain. This may include:
    • Apraxia of speech: a speech disorder that makes it difficult to move the mouth in the way needed to produce sounds and words.
    • Dysarthria: weakness in the muscles used for speech, which often causes slowed or slurred speech.
    • Cognitive-Communication Disorder:  an impairment in organisation/thought organisation, sequencing, attention, memory, planning, problem-solving, and safety awareness.
  • Talking and communication may be difficult or different. Practise the strategies that the Speech Pathologist has taught you. For some people this comes naturally, but for most they really need time and practice to work out what works best.
  • Communication is not just about talking. Communication involves body language, facial expression, gesture, intonation in the voice, pointing, sharing, reading, writing and doing things together. A person with aphasia may not speak a message clearly or accurately but can still convey a message effectively in other ways. Sometimes a look can "say a thousand words”, or pointing and gesturing can convey a message.
  • People with aphasia may find they cannot concentrate for long, and need more rest or sleep. They may fatigue more easily. Noisy environments can also make it hard to talk and concentrate. Communicating can be tiring.
  • Allow extra time for everyday activities.
  • Remember aphasia recovery can be slow. Improvements in language, and changes and adjustments with effective communication can continue for years. Evidence suggests that neural pathways in the brain can continue to make new connections even after a stroke or brain injury.

Useful External Resources

The following resources and organisations can provide you with additional information and support. Further external links are available within the "Research & Useful Links" web page or if you have specific questions you require support with please get in touch with Aphasia SA via the contact page.