Aphasia is a speech and communication disorder that is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that store language. Although this disorder is relatively uncommon, it can be caused by stroke, neurological disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and brain tumors. People affected with aphasia do not have lower levels of intelligence, but have only lost the ability to communicate with words. There are several different forms of aphasia that range from the complete inability to understand and produce words to more minor impairments when trying to communicate thoughts clearly.
Treatments for aphasia vary based on the age of the patient, the type of aphasia the patient has, and how the disorder developed. For example, if a doctor determines that the cause of a patient’s aphasia is a brain tumor, the tumor may be removed in order to treat the disorder. In other cases the aphasia patient may be treated with speech therapy.
Family and friends of aphasia patients may also be able to help by facilitating simple conversations that only require a “yes” or “no” answer, using gestures to emphasize words, paraphrasing sentences, and showing patience. It is important to note, however, that some severe forms of aphasia cannot be treated through speech therapy and patients may need to be learn other forms of communication that do not require speech.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works