Aphasia is an invisible communication disability. It is an acquired neurogenic language disorder. Aphasia occurs when the parts of the brain associated with our ability to understand and use language become damaged. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.
However, there is a range of other causes of aphasia, including traumatic brain injury, infection of the brain or brain tumours. A type of aphasia called primary progressive aphasia is a subtype of frontotemporal dementia.
Aphasia may affect one or more of the following language skills to varying degrees:
- Spoken language expression
- Spoken language comprehension
- Written language expression
- Reading comprehension
Each person with aphasia will have a unique profile of strengths and difficulties in communication. The severity of aphasia can vary widely, from a person occasionally experiencing word-finding difficulties, to a person having very limited understanding and use of spoken or written language.
The language skills of a person with aphasia may spontaneously improve over time. Continuing to communicate with others is important. Accessing speech and language therapy can help to develop functional, independent communication and improve skills. Although primary progressive aphasia causes language skills to deteriorate over time, speech and language therapy and support can help.
It is important to remember aphasia only impacts language. Aphasia may make it more difficult for a person to express their understanding, but it does not affect a person’s intellect or cognitive functioning. We use language to connect with other people and to complete daily tasks.
Therefore, aphasia can impact a person’s relationships, social inclusion, access to information and services, life roles, occupations, and well-being. Aphasia may impact the quality of life of the person living with aphasia, as well as their family and friends.