Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, affecting 1 in every 250 people in the United States, and yet very few people even know the word, let alone understand it.

What it feels and sounds like

When we learn a foreign language, we focus on being able to listen and understand the language, speak it, as well as to read and write it. These are the language areas that are affected by aphasia.

“The biggest desire of people living with aphasia is that others understand that their intelligence has not been affected and that they are treated with respect.”

An individual with aphasia can have trouble understanding what is being said to them, difficulty reading and writing, and difficulty finding the right word to say what they wish to communicate. This is frequently called “tip of the tongue” syndrome—the word is right there but you just can’t seem to get it out correctly. Communicating basic thoughts is a very complicated process: coming up with the correct vocabulary, putting the words together in the correct sequence and actually speaking the words so your listener understands.

How we come back

Although there are many different types of aphasia and the level of severity varies, all aphasia involves these four basic language modes. Think how much of your day involves language and you can begin to imagine the impact that aphasia has on someone’s life. It is misunderstood, misinterpreted and very isolating. Aphasia lasts a lifetime.

However, with time and effort language can continue to improve for an indefinite period of time and individuals with aphasia live long and successful lives despite their communication difficulties. The biggest desire of people living with aphasia is that others understand that their intelligence has not been affected and that they are treated with respect. In order to best communicate with people with aphasia, follow these suggestions:

  • Ask questions

  • Provide choices

  • Help with communication, if asked

  • Acknowledge frustration

  • Speak clearly

  • If you don’t understand, say so

  • Allow extra time