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Provider Focus

JohannesHD2016SmallTonya Johannes, ARNP-BC

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MHP Explains Aphasia

Mahaska Health Partnership Speech Therapist Explains Aphasia

Speech Therapist Kim Swarts said one of the most common diagnoses she sees is aphasia; a condition that occurs after stroke or brain injury and affects a person’s ability to communicate.

“Aphasia is a language impairment resulting from damage to the brain and which can affect speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills,” says Swarts. “The type and severity of communication difficulty a person may exhibit varies with the location and extent of the brain damage.”

Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others, and most people with aphasia also have difficulty reading and writing. Affecting over one million Americans, aphasia is more common than Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.  

“People who have expressive aphasia demonstrate difficulty using words effectively to communicate,” Swarts explained. “Those with receptive aphasia have difficulty understanding language. A combination of both expressive and receptive aphasia is called global aphasia.”

According to the National Aphasia Association, a person is unlikely to recover from aphasia if the symptoms last over two or three months following a stroke. However, some people continue to make progress and it’s important to recognize that each case of aphasia is unique.

“A person with aphasia may have difficulty retrieving words and names,” Swarts added. “It is their ability to access the ideas and thoughts, not the ideas and thoughts themselves that is disrupted.”

Swarts recommends the following tips for communicating with a person with aphasia:

  • Give the person time to speak and do not finish the person’s sentences unless asked.
  • Turn off competing sounds such as radios or TVs and try to reduce visual distractions.
  • Keep communication simple but adult.
  • Be open to means of communicating other than speech like drawing, writing and gesturing.
  • Confirm you are communicating successfully.

For more information on aphasia or other speech problems, contact Speech Therapist Kim Swarts at 641-672-3360.