CLINICAL TOPICS

Aphasia

Overview

Incidence and Prevalence

Signs and Symptoms

Aphasia symptoms vary across individuals, with some of the variation being related to the neural regions that are damaged and to the extent of that damage. Signs and symptoms may or may not be present in individuals with aphasia and may vary in severity and level of disruption to communication. Signs and symptoms may also vary depending on the speaking situation. For example, a person may need to pause frequently to find words during a conversation that requires a higher level of complexity and precision, but then may have no apparent difficulties when exchanging small talk. Examples of common signs and symptoms of aphasia are listed below.

Verbal Expression Impairments

Common verbal expression impairments include

  • difficulty finding words (anomia)
  • speaking with effort or haltingly
  • speaking in single words (e.g., names of objects)
  • speaking in short, fragmented phrases
  • omitting smaller words like "the," "of," and "was" (telegraphic speech)
  • putting words in the wrong order
  • substituting sounds and/or words (e.g., bed is called "table" or dishwasher a "wishdasher")
  • 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.

Auditory Comprehension Impairments

Common auditory comprehension impairments include

  • difficulty understanding spoken utterances
  • providing unreliable answer to "yes/no" questions
  • failing to understanding complex grammar (e.g., The dog was chased by the cat.)
  • requiring extra time to understand spoken messages (e.g., like translating a foreign language)
  • finding it very hard to follow fast speech (e.g., radio or television news)
  • misinterpreting subtleties of language (e.g., takes the literal meaning of figurative speech such as "It's raining cats and dogs.")
  • lacking awareness of errors.

Very often, a person with aphasia experiences both expressive and receptive difficulties, but each to varying degrees. In addition, the person with aphasia may have similar (parallel) difficulties in written expression and reading comprehension.

Reading Comprehension Impairments (Alexia)

Common reading comprehension impairments include

  • difficulty comprehending written material
  • difficulty recognizing some words by sight
  • inability to sound out words
  • substituting associated words for a word
  • difficulty reading noncontent words (e.g., function words such as to, from, the).

Written Language Impairments (Agraphia)

Common written language impairments include

  • 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.

Causes

Roles and Responsibilities

Assessment

Treatment

Resources

References

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