Aphasia – What it is and How Speech Therapy Can Help
Recently, actor Bruce Willis announced he was stepping away from the cameras after a diagnosis of aphasia, a brain disorder that impacts a person’s cognitive abilities. While many had not heard of aphasia until Willis’ announcement, the brain disorder is more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy and affects roughly 2 million Americans, according to the National Aphasia Association.
What is Aphasia Exactly?
Aphasia develops when portions of the brain that are responsible for language are damaged. Aphasia usually happens suddenly as a result of a head injury or stroke, though it can develop over time as the result of a brain tumor or progressive neurological disease.
People with aphasia have a hard time understanding and using language to express themselves. They may also have trouble reading and writing.
Speech Therapy for Aphasia
To date, one of the most effective treatments for aphasia is speech therapy. During each session, a speech-language pathologist assists individuals with aphasia in developing new strategies that will help them manage their symptoms.
Speech therapists tailor treatment plans based entirely on each individual’s strengths, challenges, and overall goals. Typically, a speech pathologist will coordinate with your neurologist and other care team members to ensure their treatment plan will be optimized and effective.
If aphasia is a result of a progressive neurological condition, speech therapists will often work with loved ones of the patient to offer them strategies to use at home. They may ask the loved one or caregiver to change the way they ask the patient questions. For instance, forgoing open ended questions – “What would you like for lunch?” – with options – “Would you like soup or a salad with your sandwich?”
If you or someone you know is showing signs of aphasia, it’s important to get an official diagnosis as soon as possible. Early treatment can improve a patient’s ability to communicate significantly.
If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with aphasia and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me.