Quick Facts

  • Communication is made up of two parts: speech and language
    • Speech refers to the sounds we make
    • Language refers to our understanding and use of words
  • Language difficulties can be frustrating for everyone and patience is needed
  • Aphasia is a language difficulty following a brain injury that can range from mild to severe and may include:
    • Difficulty with speaking (expressive language)
    • Difficulty understanding (receptive language)
    • Difficulty with reading and writing

What does it
look like?

  • Individual may have difficulty using and understanding non-verbal communication (facial expressions, tone of voice and body language). They may not be able to read other people’s emotions and as a result may not respond appropriately
  • Difficulties with receptive language (understanding):
    • Constantly asking for things to be repeated
    • Challenges with the speed, complexity or amount of spoken information
    • Not paying attention during conversations
    • Not understanding what is being said
    • Difficulty remembering instructions
  • Difficulties with the expressive language (use of words):
    • Rambling explanations and switching to unrelated topics
    • Difficulty remembering words or using words incorrectly
    • Interrupting others
    • Inappropriate comments and behaviour
    • Little response when a detailed response is needed
    • Poor spelling and difficulty learning new words
    • Saying the same thing over and over, also called perseveration

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Usually caused by damage to the left hemisphere of temporal lobe
    (Broca’s area or Wernicke’s area)

Possible complications:

  • Difficulty with language often results in further cognitive challenges such as:
    • Attention and concentration difficulties
    • Memory problems
    • Literal interpretation
    • Reduced reasoning and problem-solving skills
    • Cognitive fatigue
    • Slowed speed of information processing
    • Impaired social communication skills
    • Reduced insight

What can we do?

  • Use kind words and a gentle tone of voice, be careful not to “talk down’’ to the person
  • When communicating with the individual, ask every so often if they understand what is being said
  • Do not speak too fast or say too much all at once
  • Listen and allow time for finishing sentences or thinking of words
  • Develop a signal (e.g. raise a finger) to let the individual know when they are getting off topic. If signal does not work, prompt them by saying “we were talking about…”
  • Limit conversation to one speaker at a time
  • Avoid:
    • False reassurances
    • Finishing sentences for the person
    • Speaking too loudly or too slowly
    • Using jargon or lengthy explanation

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.