Aphasia

Aphasia symptoms vary in severity of impairment and impact on communication, depending on factors such as the location and extent of damage and the demands of the speaking situation.  

A person with aphasia often experiences both receptive and expressive spoken language difficulties—each to varying degrees. He or she may have similar difficulties in written language (i.e., reading comprehension and written expression). As with spoken language, written language difficulties can vary in degree. For example, a person can have reading comprehension difficulties (alexia) with or without written expression difficulties (agraphia).  

For individuals who speak more than one language, languages may be affected by aphasia in different ways depending on when the language was learned, how often each language is used, and the overall degree of proficiency in each language.

Common signs and symptoms of aphasia include the following:

  • Impairments in Spoken Language Expression
    • Having difficulty finding words (anomia)
    • Speaking haltingly or with effort
    • Speaking in single words (e.g., names of objects)
    • Speaking in short, fragmented phrases
    • Omitting smaller words like the, of, and was (i.e., telegraphic speech)
    • Making grammatical errors
    • Putting words in the wrong order
    • Substituting sounds or words (e.g., “table” for bed; “wishdasher” for dishwasher)
    • Making up words (e.g., jargon)
    • Fluently stringing together nonsense words and real words, but leaving out or including an insufficient amount of relevant content
  • Impairments in Spoken Language Comprehension
    • Having difficulty understanding spoken utterances
    • Requiring extra time to understand spoken messages
    • Providing unreliable answers to “yes/no” questions
    • Failing to understand complex grammar (e.g., “The dog was chased by the cat.”)
    • Finding it very hard to follow fast speech (e.g., radio or television news)
    • Misinterpreting subtleties of language (e.g., taking the literal meaning of figurative speech such as “It's raining cats and dogs.”)
    • Lacking awareness of errors  
  • Impairments in Written Expression (Agraphia)
    • Having difficulty writing or copying letters, words, and sentences
    • Writing single words only
    • Substituting incorrect letters or words
    • Spelling or writing nonsense syllables or words
    • Writing run-on sentences that don’t make sense
    • Writing sentences with incorrect grammar
  • Impairments in Reading Comprehension (Alexia)
    • Having difficulty comprehending written material
    • Having difficulty recognizing some words by sight
    • Having the inability to sound out words
    • Substituting associated words for a word (e.g., “chair” for couch)
    • Having difficulty reading noncontent words (e.g., function words such as to, from, the)

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