Health Tips Tuesday: Aphasia Awareness Month
(WGGB/WSHM) – June is Aphasia Awareness Month and Kirsten Prouty-Slater, a speech and swallowing therapist at Baystate Bronson Acute Rehabilitation, spoke to Western Mass News on Tuesday about the disorder.
First and foremost, why do you tell us what aphasia is?
Prouty-Slater: “Aphasia is an acquired language and communication disorder, usually resulting from damage to the language parts of the brain. Commonly, aphasia is caused by a stroke to the left hemisphere of the brain, but can also occur after things like a traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, or with neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and dementia. Aphasia is the loss of language in any form, but not a loss of memory and intellect and sometimes that gets confused.”
Why don’t you shed some light on the severities and different types of aphasia?
Prouty-Slater: “As a speech-language pathologist, we categorize aphasia into eight different types, but there’s really a wide range of severity in each type and aphasia changes over time in each person, so the types of aphasia are going to depend on what is impaired and how long it’s been going on. It could be any combination of language troubles, such as not understanding what is heard, troubling with reading and writing, as simple as not being able to name an object, and things like that.”
Can aphasia be treated? Can the symptoms be reversed at all?
Prouty-Slater: “Yeah, aphasia can be treated mainly through speech and language therapies. It can almost always improve and if it doesn’t fully resolve, speech and language therapists should be the one helping the individual develop a way to communication through picture boards, typing with text to speech technology, gestures, miming, and even teaching the communication partners or friends and family to communicate the best way they can with that person with aphasia. Depending on the person’s language difficulties, the therapies do differ, but they’ll always focus on a way to communicate as good as possible and with as little frustration for the speaker.”
What should someone do if they think they might have symptoms of aphasia?
Prouty-Slater: “Talk to your doctor. If your loved one starts having trouble with speaking, reading, writing, or understanding words, your doctors the one you should consult. They can refer you to a neurologist or speech therapist as needed for specialized testing and treatments. If it comes on suddenly and includes slurring of words and a drooping of your face, it might be a sign of a stroke and you should definitely call 911 as soon as possible.”
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