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Health & Fitness

June 1, 2013

National Aphasia Awareness: Putting the disorder into words


n Broca’s (nonfluent) aphasia. People with this form of aphasia speak in short sentences with missing words and have difficulty getting words out. Broca’s aphasia is often very frustrating for sufferers as most of them are aware of their communication difficulties.

n Wernicke (fluent) aphasia. Fluent aphasia refers to individuals who communicate in long sentences that are hard to understand or contain incomprehensible, unneeded or incorrect words. Most people with fluent aphasia don’t realize they have a communication disorder.

n Global aphasia. This is the most severe form of aphasia. It causes major comprehension and expression disabilities.

4. Testing for aphasia

A common initial test from health care providers to determine the cause of aphasia is a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Aside from that, testing for aphasia usually involves exercises and observations to gauge your ability to:

n Have a conversation

n Follow directions

n Repeat words and sentences

n Explain a situation as depicted on paper

n Read and write

5. Treatment and coping

Speech-language therapy is the most common form of treatment for aphasia, and this comes after the underlying cause of aphasia has been addressed. Early intervention and timely treatment is imperative for achieving maximum results.

A speech-language pathologist works with aphasic patients to regain as many previous language skills as possible or, with certain diseases and conditions, to maintain their current level of communication ability. Patients commonly work in a hierarchical fashion, meaning that they start with simple exercises and work their way up. (i.e. Speaking, reading or writing single words, then progressing to full sentences, then a paragraph and so on.)

In terms of coping, family and friends can make adjustments to simplify conversations and ensure comprehension. In turn, this keeps people with aphasia included and eases some apprehension they may have about communication. Those with aphasia may also choose to use images and gestures to help them communicate.

Additionally, there are stroke and aphasia support groups to aid in the healing and coping process.

Aphasia is a challenging communication disorder that creates many obstacles for patients and their families. Fortunately, raising awareness about the condition, its underlying causes and treatment options can help to reduce the effects aphasia has on many lives.

Sarah Krenik-Hoffmann is a Mayo Clinic Health System speech-language pathologist.

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