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Important information for all patients

Please read prior to admission

Aphasia – a disorder of language

What is Aphasia? 

Aphasia is a language disorder that can happen when damage to your brain occurs. Aphasia can occur even if you have no trouble with thinking, memory and judgement. Your brain has two halves. Language skills are in the left half of the brain in most people. Damage to the left side of your brain may lead to language problems, including difficulty with: 

  • Talking 
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Understanding

Aphasia may be caused by:

  • Stroke (most common cause)
  • Brain tumours
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain disease that gets worse over time 

Characteristics of Aphasia

Talking – You may find that you:

  • Have difficulty thinking of words that you want to say, use the wrong word or use made-up words.
  • Sentences may be harder to say than single words. 

Understanding – You may:

  • Have difficulty understanding what others say particularly if someone speaks fast and uses longer sentences.
  • Have greater difficulty understanding when there is increased background noise or when you are in a group setting.
  • Have trouble understanding jokes. 

Reading and Writing – You may have trouble with the following:

  • Reading paperwork, books, mobile phones, iPADs and computer screens.
  • Putting words together with correct spelling from your name to full sentences.
  • Using names or completing everyday maths equations such as budgeting or banking. 

General tips for communicating with someone with aphasia

  • Remember that the person’s intelligence is not affected; they just have a problem with speaking.
  • Modify the environment: reduce background noise (e.g., turn off the TV/radio), find a quiet place to talk.
  • Allow the person plenty of time to respond and talk.
  • Use and accept alternate modes such as gesture, body language and tone of voice as communication. Do not pressure a person to use speech, as this may increase their frustration and reduce their likelihood of using their limited speech.
  • Be prepared for fluctuations in communication ability from day to day.
  • Take a break from communication-based activities; instead, listen to music, walk in the garden, or try craft and hobbies as outlets.

Communicating with someone who has difficulty expressing

  • Ask yes/no or forced choice (x or y) questions.
  • Repeat information given to the person. 
  • Announce topic/activity changes.
  • Pause for 15-30 seconds between activity changes.
  • Use of short, direct sentences and questions presented at one time.
  • Acknowledge any words said.  

Communicating with someone who has difficulty understanding

  • Get the person’s attention before you start speaking.
  • Face the person directly so they can see your mouth, facial expression and gestures while you are speaking.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. By slowing down you rate of speech you give the person more time to understand what you have said.
  • Use short sentences. Break longer sentences into separate ideas using pauses.
  • Keep what you say clear and simple. Use familiar words. Talk about specific people, objects or events.
  • Always check the person has understood what you have said. Repeat or rephrase if necessary.
  • Do not change the topic of conversation too quickly.

For more information

  • Contact a speech pathologist
  • Talk to your doctor

Contact the St Vincent's Private Hospital Toowoomba Speech Pathology Service

Telephone: (07) 4690 4052

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