June is National Aphasia Awareness Month
Aphasia is a condition many of us had not heard prior to Bruce Willis announcing his retirement at the end of March due to primary progressive aphasia.
For Emily Landry, a student at Lamar University and a LCM graduate, she discovered the condition while studying speech pathology and working in Lamar University’s Speech and Hearing Clinic.
“I had not heard of it before and discovered my grandfather had aphasia after a stroke,” Landry said. “Most people are never told or heard of it.”
She describes aphasia as a language disorder that does not affect ones cognitive abilities.
“It can be frustrating and confusing for the person,” Landry said. “It can also cause negative emotions. But if you give a person time and a chance to talk, they will find a way to communicate. It just might not be conventional speech.”
Landry’s grandfather did recover his speech and language skills with the support of speech therapy services.
“It is something I am considering specializing in,” Landry said.
Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.
Aphasia can be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. It may affect mainly a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, or the ability to put words together into sentences, or the ability to read. More commonly, however, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information, according to National Aphasia Association.
According to the National Aphasia Association, there are an estimated 2,000,000 people in America who have aphasia. It is more common than well known diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease and muscular dystrophy.
“Based on those numbers, there could be 500 people in Orange County with aphasia,” Landry said. “The math is based off the national statistics.”
June is also National Aphasia Awareness Month. Despite the number of people affected by it, most have never heard of it.
There are several types of aphasia.
Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia, and is applied to patients who can produce few recognizable words and understand little or no spoken language. Persons with Global Aphasia can neither read nor write. Global aphasia may often be seen immediately after the patient has suffered a stroke and it may rapidly improve if the damage has not been too extensive. However, with greater brain damage, severe and lasting disability may result.
With Broca’s aphasia, speech output is severely reduced and is limited mainly to short utterances of less than four words. Vocabulary access is limited and the formation of sounds by persons with Broca’s aphasia is often laborious and clumsy. The person may understand speech relatively well and be able to read, but be limited in writing. Broca’s aphasia is often referred to as a ‘non fluent aphasia’ because of the halting and effortful quality of speech.
Mixed non-fluent aphasia is the term applied to patients who have sparse and effortful speech, resembling severe Broca’s aphasia. However, unlike persons with Broca’s aphasia, they remain limited in their comprehension of speech and do not read or write beyond an elementary level.
With Wernicke’s aphasia, the ability to grasp the meaning of spoken words is chiefly impaired, while the ease of producing connected speech is not much affected. Therefore Wernicke’s aphasia is referred to as a ‘fluent aphasia.’ However, speech is far from normal. Sentences do not hang together and irrelevant words intrude-sometimes to the point of jargon, in severe cases. Reading and writing are often severely impaired.
Anomic aphasia is the term applied to persons who are left with a persistent inability to supply the words for the very things they want to talk about-particularly the significant nouns and verbs. As a result their speech, while fluent in grammatical form and output is full of vague circumlocutions and expressions of frustration. They understand speech well, and in most cases, read adequately. Difficulty finding words is as evident in writing as in speech.
Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is a neurological syndrome in which language capabilities become slowly and progressively impaired. Unlike other forms of aphasia that result from stroke or brain injury, PPA is caused by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration. PPA results from deterioration of brain tissue important for speech and language. Although the first symptoms are problems with speech and language, other problems associated with the underlying disease, such as memory loss, often occur later, according to National Aphasia Association.
American Speech Language Hearing Association suggests see a doctor if you have trouble speaking or understanding what people say. A doctor will determine if there is a medical cause for your problem. A speech-language pathologist, or SLP, will test your speech and language skills. The SLP will ask you about the problems you have and what you want to work on.
“There is no perfect cure,” Landry said. “It is something they will always have a barrier with.”
Lamar University holds a Speech and Hearing Clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays where people with aphasia can work on skills to aid in recovery.
To learn more about the clinic, call (409) 880-8338.
-Dawn Burleigh, KOGT.com-