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About Aphasia | Communication Disorder After Stroke

Individuals who survive a stroke usually present with difficulties walking or using their dominant hand, paralysed on one side. This leaves them unable to perform their daily living activities. These difficulties are apparent and notable on observation. However, did you know that 3 million individuals in India have difficulty communicating after a stroke? Communication difficulties are often concealed or considered insignificant. Most often people leave it unaddressed, hoping that it would recover with time.

Causes and common symptoms of Neurogenic communication disorders :

This most often occurs when there is damage sustained to the left side of the brain in a right handed individual. For most of us, it is commonly believed that language is represented in the left half of the brain.

People with communication disorders may present with:

  • No verbal communication
  • Slurring or unintelligible speech
  • Typically make use of wrong words
  • Wrong sounds in few words
  • Difficulty putting words together

Also Read: Embrace A New Life After Brain Injury

What is Aphasia?

One such communication disorder is Aphasia. Aphasia is a disturbance caused in comprehension or expression of language. Individuals with aphasia have difficulty communicating and others often assume that they are mentally ill. However the patient’s intelligence is essentially intact.

For us to further understand individuals with aphasia, we can divide them into two basic types – Receptive and Expressive aphasias

Individuals with receptive aphasia have difficulties in understanding verbal information. They present with :

  • Incessant and irrelevant speech
  • Might not listen to the person addressing them
  • Might occasionally create new words which make no sense at all.

On the other hand, Individuals with expressive aphasia:

  • Have difficulties stringing the right words together to communicate
  • They know what to say, but are unable to do it.
  • They can understand well, have minimal / no difficulties in comprehension

Effects of a Communication Disorder :

Imagine being unable to speak, just because you have a sore throat or a fever? Failed attempts of people who try to understand you for maybe one or two days is extremely frustrating.

For people with aphasia, this is an everyday reality. Speech and language therapy for individuals with aphasia focuses on re-establishing communicative independence. Though multiple approaches are available, all of them try and target specific difficulties the individual has. Tailor made therapy plans and continual therapy using multiple modalities of communication is of prime importance. Though a full recovery from aphasia is possible, symptoms persist for a long time and it’s important for the patient to remain motivated throughout the recovery phase.

So next time you meet a person who is unable to communicate, try and figure their modality of communication to help them. Remember it can be verbal, gestural or even through writing/drawing. Don’t guess or interfere while they try to communicate and listen to them patiently- you might actually help them speak their heart out!

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