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What is aphasia?

Causes of aphasia

Signs or symptoms

The role of the Speech-Language Pathologist

Useful materials & links  



What is aphasia?

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. It is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. However, the person’s intelligence remains intact.

Individuals with aphasia may also have other problems, such as dysarthria, apraxia, or swallowing problems.

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Causes of aphasia​

Aphasia is caused by damage to one or more of the language areas of the brain. Many times, the cause of the brain injury is a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood is unable to reach a part of the brain. Brain cells die when they do not receive their normal supply of blood, which carries oxygen and important nutrients.

Other causes of brain injury are severe blows to the head, brain tumors, brain infections, and other conditions that affect the brain.

Signs or symptoms of aphasia

People with aphasia may experience any of the following behaviours due to an acquired brain injury, although some of these symptoms may be due to related or concomitant problems such as dysarthria or apraxia and not primarily due to aphasia.

  • inability to comprehend language

  • inability to pronounce, not due to muscle paralysis or weakness

  • inability to speak spontaneously

  • inability to form words 

  • inability to name objects 

  • excessive creation and use of personal neologisms 

  • inability to repeat a phrase 

  • persistent repetition of phrases 

  • paraphasia 

  • agrammatism (inability to speak in a grammatically correct fashion) 

  • prosody difficulties (alterations in inflexion, stress, and rhythm) 

  • incompleted sentences 

  • inability to read 

  • inability to write 

  • limited verbal output 

  • difficulty in naming  

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The role of the Speech-Language Pathologist​​


Diagnosis of aphasia

Aphasia is effectively diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team of professionals, which may include Speech-Language Pathologists, Doctors, Nurses, Neurologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists & Social Workers.


The Speech-Language Pathologist carries out a comprehensive assessment of the person’s comprehension, expression (speech and language), social communication, reading and writing skills. Following assessment the SLP may be able to reach a differential diagnosis of aphasia (as opposed to other speech and language conditions) as well as determine the type and severity of the disorder.



Treatment of aphasia

Different types of intervention for aphasia exist. Selecting the appropriate type of treatment depends on the specific needs, abilities and goals of the person with aphasia. Some of the types of aphasia therapy are: Cognitive Linguistic Therapy, Programmed Stimulation, Stimulation-Facilitation Therapy, P.A.C.E. (Promoting Aphasic’s Communicative Effectiveness) and  Group Therapy.


Following assessment and diagnosis, the SLP works with the person with aphasia, using any residual language skills, to compensate for and augment the affected language skills. Specific exercises and drills targeting the affected areas of language are carried out through individual or group therapy sessions (or both). Multisensory stimuli may be used in therapy e.g. use of pictures, speech, music, writing and so on.

Relative or carer contribution and participation in aphasia therapy are essential in achieving therapy goals and generalising the skills learnt in the clinic to everyday life.


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