One million Americans live with aphasia, and most of us have never heard of it. But, for people with aphasia and their family members, the effects can be devastating: inability to communicate, loss of a job, frustration and often depression. More people in the USA have aphasia than muscular dystrophy or Parkinson”s disease. For that reason, June has been declared by the US Department of Health as Aphasia Awareness Month.
What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to use language, without impairing intelligence. In some cases, it impairs person”s ability to speak and understand others. Most people with aphasia also have problem reading and writing.
Aphasia is in most cases the result of stroke, a brain tumor or brain injury. In some cases it is reversible, with slow, painful rehabilitation and therapy, but in some it is permanent. Aphasia is sometimes accompanied with other physical manifestation of stroke, such as paralysis, but sometimes it occurs alone.
Aphasia, just like stroke, is more common in older people, but it can come to anyone, at any time, regardless of age, gender or health status.
People with aphasia cannot express themselves nor understand what they are told. They are like new-born babies, having to find right words, right expressions and right muscles to form words. To re-learn to speak takes patience and hard work, which involves speech therapists and family. Some people recover all their capacities a few months after their stroke, but others continue to recover slowly, through months and years of therapy. Because patients” â„¢ intelligence is unaffected, the process is very difficult and frustrating.
Melodic Intonation Therapy is showing great promise for some aphasia sufferers. Interestingly, for many people who have aphasia, it is easier to express themselves singing than speaking, and scientists at the University of Montreal are trying to develop this ability into a full therapy system. They published their findings at the Oxford Journals. Music therapy works best with aphasia patients who know what they want to say, but they do not know how.
There is a lot of help for people afflicted wit aphasia, and if someone in your family is suffering from it, contact National Aphasia Association to find the support group near you. Like with so many health issues, it is always easier when you know that you are not alone.