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Let’s Talk About: Aphasia

June 3, 2011

June is Aphasia Awareness Month!

Aphasia is a language impairment often resulting from stroke or traumatic brain injury. Depending on the location of the injury, it can affect any aspect of language to varying degrees, including speaking, understanding speech, reading, and writing.

One can imagine it being like traveling to a foreign country – where you don’t speak the language or perhaps can only recall a few number of words. It would become increasingly difficult to attempt to convey exactly what you mean, understand those talking to you, read the language or even write it down.

Having lost the ability to do something that once came so naturally can be understandably very frustrating, so it’s important to acknowledge the competence of the person. They can understand what is going on around them, but using language to communicate is where it begins to break down. As one man describes his aphasia, “Words are more like cats than dogs. Dogs come to you when you call them. Cats come to you when they want to come to you. That is a perfect description of words to someone who is suffering with aphasia. Words come to you when they want to come. They don’t come to you necessarily when you call them.” (Bayard Baylis, 2010;

Visit for an online simulation to get a better understanding of what aphasia is like.


Here are a few tips for an aphasia-friendly conversation:

1)    Slow down your speech rate. But don’t talk like you’re talking to a child, a person with aphasia is a very competent person! Speak naturally and pause between phrases.

2)    Write down key words as you’re saying them.

3)    Use gestures if possible.

4)    Rephrase and repeat if necessary.

5)    Be patient. Give them enough time to respond. They know what they want to say, but it can take longer to get it out. Let them signal to you when they require more help.

6)    Validate what they are saying by checking with them that what you understood is correct. Ask questions to help narrow down the topic if you are unsure.


And check these out!!

We’re on the RADIO! Jealous? Just a little?

Our very own clients, student clinicians and clinical educators here at Corbett Clinic were interviewed on CBC Radio 1 to help give an inside view into living with aphasia. Click on each picture to listen to the segments posted on the University of Alberta-Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine Facebook page!


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