SEP 19, 2016 02:44 PM PDT

Aphasia: Clinically at a Loss for Words


Imagine finding yourself suddenly unable to speak a coherent sentence, or understand what is being said to you. This is the reality for about a million Americans who suffer from aphasia - a speech communication disorder caused by damage to one or both language centers in the brain. In many instances, a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) or traumatic brain injury can lead to aphasia. In fact, about a third of stroke survivors suffer from aphasia.

Aphasia is divided into two classes: receptive aphasia and expressive aphasia. In receptive aphasia, people may use words that don't appear to have meaning. On the other hand, people with expressive aphasia can't seem to find the appropriate word to communicate what they're trying to say.

Watch the video to learn more about the possible treatments for aphasia. In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends the following tips for better communication with a person with aphasia:

1. Get the person's attention before you start speaking.
2. Maintain eye contact and watch the person's body language and use of gesture.
3. Minimize or eliminate background noise (TV, radio, other people).
4. Keep your voice at a normal level. Do not speak loudly unless the person asks you to do so.
5. Keep communication simple, but adult. Don't "talk down" to the person with aphasia.
6. Simplify your sentence structure and emphasize key words.
7. Reduce your rate of speech.
8. Give the individual time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.
9. Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing, and facial expressions in addition to speech.
10. Encourage the person to use drawings, gestures, and writing.
11. Use "yes" and "no" questions rather than open-ended questions.
12. Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. Avoid insisting that that each word be produced perfectly.
13. Engage in normal activities whenever possible.
14. Encourage independence and avoid being overprotective.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at
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