Awareness is key to Aphasia Rehabilitation!

  •  Aphasia is acquired communication disorder which impairs the ability to process language, due to brain damage
  • Around two million suffer from Aphasia

My brother-in-law, who is in his early 60s, suddenly felt the weakness of his right side of the body along with slurring of speech. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital and medical treatment was given, as he had developed brain stroke. By God’s grace, he recovered, he is now able to walk with support but his hand is still not working.

We are also unable to understand what he is saying as he is not able to speak in sentences and most of the time, he is pointing using his left hand. The doctors referred us to a speech therapist. She conducted some tests and said he has aphasia and needs to attend speech therapy for recovery of his speech………. as told by the caretaker of the stroke survivor

Many of you must have come across such a situation in your lives. Brain stroke is the second most common cause of death in the world(WHO report,2016). In the Indian context, the estimated adjusted prevalence rate of stroke range is, 84-262/100,000 in rural and 334-424/100,000 in urban areas.

The incidence rate is 119-145/100,000 based on recent population-based studies. Aphasia persists as a disability in 21%–38% of stroke survivors. The number of persons with aphasia (PWA) in our country is likely to be around two million. So, let us know what is ‘Aphasia’. 

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder due to brain damage that impairs a person’s ability to process language but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others. Most of the PWA also experience difficulty reading and writing. There are many types of Aphasias. Some people have difficulty speaking while others may struggle to follow a conversation. In some people, aphasia is fairly mild and you might not notice it right away. In other cases, it can be very severe, affecting speaking, writing, reading, and listening. While specific symptoms can vary greatly, what all people with aphasia have in common are difficulties in communicating.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Aphasia?

If the symptoms of aphasia last longer than two or three months after a stroke, a complete recovery is unlikely. However, it is important to note that some people continue to improve over a period of years and even decades. Improvement is a slow process that usually involves both helping the individual and family understand the nature of aphasia.Contacting a Speech Therapist is crucial in the recovery of speech and communication.

Who is a Speech Therapist and what do they do to recover Speech in a PWA?

Speech Therapists are trained Allied Health Care Professionals. They deal with identification, diagnosis, prognosis and planning of speech therapy, using appropriate clinical tools, in management of aphasia.They use certain techniques in recovering the speech and language in a PWA, they also provide compensatory learning strategies for communicating. The Speech Therapists may choose to deliver their services either on person to person bases or through Tele-rehab.

What is Aphasia Tele-Rehab?

Just like we have Telemedicine to reach people in remote areas, where specialized doctors are not available, Tele-rehabilitation are facilities provided through e-services. PWA can be tested and given advice by the speech therapist from their own locations using e-resources. This will not only help in dealing with the communication problems of PWA but also improve the quality of life of that individual as a whole.  

How Do You Communicate with a Person with Aphasia?

Remember the diagnosis of aphasia does NOT imply a person has a mental illness or impairment in intelligence.Thestroke survivor can hear (Check understanding with yes/no questions), so, don’t speak loudly. Use sentences that are short and to the point.

Keep the noise level down and stand where the survivor can see you. Remember to treat the stroke survivor as an adult and let him or her share in decision-making.

Help the stroke survivor cope with feelings of frustration and depression. Above all, be patient with the person with aphasia. Give them the time they need to try to speak and get their point across to you. This not only respects their dignity but makes it less stressful for them when communicating.

The Telangana Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists Association (TASLPA) are working in creating awareness of Aphasia, which when identified and treated early can help in good recovery. Each year TASLPA conducts different awareness programs, and this year due to the existing COVID-19 conditions in India, our aim is to reach the unreached through ‘Aphasia Telerehab.’ TASLPA requests needy patients to make use of this opportunity by calling 9347696528 to know more about aphasia, as we are celebrating ‘June 2020’ as Aphasia Awareness Month. You can also contact us on our website: www.taslpa.com.

Dr. C. S. Swathi, President, TASLPA (Telangana Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists Association) 

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