What is Aphasia?
Communication is the successful sending and receiving of information or messages. In order to communicate with you, I have to communicate what I’m trying to say clearly enough that you can understand my message. And you have to be able to process and comprehend the information.
It takes two to communicate.
Communication can happen without language (speaking, reading, writing, understanding). It is challenging, but people who don’t have a shared language can still communicate without words.
Picture being in a country where you barely speak the language. You could get by – find the bathroom, order some food by pointing to the menu – but it would be difficult, and it would be pretty hard to provide details. Nonverbal communication happens through pointing, gestures, body language, facial expressions and more.
Click here to learn more about alternate methods of communication!
So what is aphasia?
Aphasia is a language disorder. It disrupts the ability to speak, read, write, and understand.
Because of this, communication is disrupted.
It is caused by injury to the areas of the brain that control language expression and comprehension.
You know the feeling when you have a word at the tip of your tongue, just out of reach? It’s frustrating. You know what you want to say. But the words won’t come.
Now imagine that every word you need is at the tip of your tongue – every word is just out of reach. The words aren’t there even though you know what you want to say. This is a tiny taste of what it’s like to have aphasia.
How might people respond if you couldn’t find most of your words? They might think you don’t have anything to say. They might think that because you can’t communicate, you are not smart. It might make them uncomfortable if they don’t know how to help you – so they might speak for you or maybe they will avoid asking you questions. Because you can’t find your words.
Now imagine you want to tell your partner “I love you.” No words. You want to tell the doctor that you are having chest pain. No words. You want to tell your friends something funny that happened. No words. You just want to order a sandwich. No words.
People with aphasia have something to say, they just need support and alternate methods of communication to say it. This is supportive conversation. Think of it like presenting a vocabulary since they don’t have one readily available – they can work with this borrowed one instead. When they are given these tools, words are no longer at the tip of the tongue.