June is National Aphasia Awareness month

Over 100,000 Americans acquire Aphasia each year, which is more common than Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy

By Ms. Danielle Busby, WPO Intern

Aphasia is an acquired neurological disorder caused by damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. It results in the impairment of the ability to process language, or use and comprehend words. Individuals with aphasia (as cited in National Aphasia Association, 2011) have difficulties with speaking, understanding others, reading and writing. However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.  Different types of aphasia have been identified, that correspond to the location of the brain injury in the individual case. The three most common types of aphasia are Broca’s, Wernicke’s, and Global. Individuals with Broca’s aphasia have impairment in the production of language, while other aspects of language are mostly preserved (i.e. ability to understand others when they speak). Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by impairment of language comprehension and Global aphasia is characterized by impairment to both, production of language and comprehension. However, some individuals with Global aphasia may be able to communicate through written language.

The most common cause of aphasia is stroke, with about 25-40% of stroke survivors acquiring Aphasia. It can also be caused by head injury, brain tumor, and other neurological cause (as cited in National Aphasia Association, 2011). An individual who is suspected to suffer from aphasia is typically referred to a speech-language pathologist, where the diagnosis of aphasia is made after comprehensive examinations of the individual’s communication abilities. At times aphasia may resemble other communication disorders such as apraxia of speech, dysarthria, and dementia yet, it is important to distinguish aphasia from these other conditions because prognosis and treatment differ significantly.

Aphasia is most common among older people, however it can occur in people of all ages, races, nationalities, and gender. While no significant ethnic or gender differences have been found in the incidence of aphasia, significant gender differences have been found in type of aphasia and severity. Wernicke’s and Global aphasia have been found to be more common in women, whereas Broca’s aphasia is more common in men (Hier et al., 1994).

The National Aphasia Association (NAA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes public education, research, rehabilitation and support services to assist people with aphasia and their families. The NAA helps about resources to recover lost skills to the extent possible, to compensate for skills that will not be recovered, and to minimize the psychosocial impact of the language impairment.

For more information about the National Aphasia Association please visit the website.

Types of Aphasia (2003). Retrieved June 13, 2011

National Aphasia Association. (2011). Aphasia frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 13, 2011

Yavuzer G. (2011). Aphasia. In: JH Stone, M Blouin, editors. International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation. Available online