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Are you a caregiver? Do you know someone who has had a stroke and can’t communicate?

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Tue Aug 19, 2014

by Lynden Punnett Dip SpLD (Dyslexia)

Aphasia

Aphasia is the loss of being able to communicate to others by talking, listening and understanding, reading, writing and using numbers.

A lot of people have never heard of aphasia. Sometimes aphasia is called dysphasia. Aphasia means “total inability to communicate;” dysphasia means “impaired ability to communicate.”{{more}}

But both aphasia and dysphasia are generally used to mean the same thing:

“Difficulty with spoken and written communication following injury to the brain.”

What causes Aphasia?

Stroke

Injury to the brain

Infections and inflammations of the brain

Tumours in the brain.

The left side of your brain controls many things, including your right arm and right leg, language and communication. If the left side of your brain is affected, you may have problems moving your right side and you may also have language and communication problems. A stroke is one of the most common causes of aphasia. A stroke interrupts the blood supply to the brain and the brain tissue becomes damaged.

Aphasia can be very confusing for you and your family. It’s invisible, and difficult to understand. Persons with aphasia can be affected in different ways. Some people have very severe aphasia and for others it’s not so bad. Different people have different types of aphasia. Some of the following you may recognize in someone you know:

“I find it difficult to talk at all”

“I struggle to get every word out”

“I miss out small words, like to and of”

“I can’t find the exact words I want”

“I talk a lot. But what I say is difficult to follow”

“I use strange words which sound foreign and nonsensical”

“I get stuck on certain words and phrases”

“I think I am talking perfectly well, but I am not”

“Sometimes I am very blunt and direct. This can upset people”

Aphasia can affect talking, listening and understanding, reading, writing and using numbers.

Remember a person with aphasia is NOT necessarily deaf. Shouting at a person with aphasia can be very upsetting.

Aphasia can vary from day to day. It can seem worse if the person is tired, frightened, anxious and upset. He/she may want to avoid things that make talking more difficult for them.

Some people have unclear and slurred speech (dysarthia). A stroke has affected the muscles of the throat, tongue and mouth. The muscles become weak and don’t work as smoothly and as efficiently as before. Sometimes a person can have aphasia and dysarthia.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?

Keep checking whether or not a person has understood you.

Extra time and a quiet environment may help; talking slowly and repeating things may help.

Drawing, writing, gesture and facial expression may help.

Talk and act respectfully and in an adult way.

Involve and include the person in conversations and decisions.

Support, don’t try and teach. Never talk about the person as if they were not there.

Communication Aids

Word lists; Yes/No cards; pictures and symbols; alphabet charts.

Communication aids may not be much help, especially if finding words, reading or writing is difficult. So, try the following:-

Communication Book. This can help you get your message across. The book can include:

PICTURES – (of people, places and things important to you)

IMPORTANT WORDS – (people, places and things, likes and dislikes)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION – (medications)

Personal Portfolio:- Is a way of telling people who you are, about your life and what you have done. You can use a scrapbook or notebook and add things whenever you want (photos, documents, cards, letters, poetry, art, newspaper or magazine cuttings).

Friends and family play extremely important roles in enabling a person with aphasia to function within the family group.

The speech and language therapist (SLT) is someone who can help persons with aphasia. The speech and language therapist can’t cure aphasia, but can help persons with aphasia to get on with their lives and communicate more easily.

The following sites can be useful for caregivers to find more information about aphasia:-

www.propeller.net www.strokesoftware.com www.parrotsoftware.com www.stroke.org.uk www.ukconnect.org

It is extremely unfortunate there is no speech and language therapist in St Vincent and the Grenadines available to help persons who have communication disabilities as a result of stroke, as well as being able to help children and adults who have language disabilities. A speech and language therapist should be attached to either the Ministry of Education or the Social Services in St Vincent and the Grenadines. A speech and language therapist in conjunction with a clinical or educational psychologist are very vital components of the current “Education Revolution” in the State.

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