What is Aphasia?

by Jessica Bristol, Speech-Language Pathologist



Aphasia is a language problem that impacts a person’s ability to speak, understand, read and/or write and is generally caused by a brain injury or illness like stroke, dementia or brain tumor. There are several types of aphasia, which can affect language skills differently and to different degrees.

Aphasia does not impact intelligence, though a change in language skills can mask an individual’s competence.


Living with aphasia can have a profound impact on a person’s identity, relationships, and ability or desire to interact with the world, as conversation is central to the human experience.


You can support someone with aphasia in conversation by:

· Limiting conversation to 1 person at a time and making sure your surroundings are free of noise and distraction

· Stating the topic of discussion, and writing down key points or words as you speak -> “Let’s chat about that hockey game!”

· Speaking slowly and naturally while using shorter sentences

· Supporting your speaking with facial expression, pointing/gesture, body language or other visual cues

· Repeating yourself, as needed

· Pausing the conversation to summarize what’s been said and confirming that the person with aphasia has understood

· Asking yes or no questions, or giving choices, rather than asking open-ended questions -> “Would you like ice cream or pie?” rather than, “What would you like for dessert?”

· Allowing extra time for a response

· Admitting if you don’t understand what someone with aphasia is trying to say and owning the burden of a breakdown in communication -> “I’m sorry I missed that, Jim. Tell me again.”


S-LPs assess, treat and counsel people with aphasia to restore and/or compensate for changes in speaking, listening, reading and/or writing. At Aurora Speech Clinic, we offer evidence-based treatment approaches for people living with aphasia at any age or stage of recovery. Contact us today to book an assessment.


Source: The Aphasia Institute, www.aphasia.ca