Adult Language Disorders

It is through language that humans are able to express their ideas, thoughts, needs, and beliefs and is imperative in social communication. When ones ability to use language is diminished it can also affect a persons academic performance and employment, social development, relationships and independence.

Aphasia

Aphasia is a disorder of language caused by damage to the part of the brain that is responsible for comprehension and language expression. Most commonly caused by stroke or head injury, it is estimated that approximately 80, 000 people are diagnosed with this disorder annually, which leaves a person unable to communicate effectively. Most people are affected after the age of 60, and it affects men and women equally.

Types

There are a few types of Aphasia, depending on which part of the brain has been affected. In Broca’s Aphasia the frontal language-dominant side of the brain is affected. Sentences may be short, laboured and non-fluent, but meaningful and the person remains able to understand communication. In Wernicke’s Aphasia on the other hand, damage has occurred at the back part of the language part of the brain. In this patient group sentences tend to be fluent and grammatically normal, but unnecessary or additional or new words are added, which leaves the sentence seemingly meaningless. They typically find it difficult to understand communication with others. Global Aphasia occurs when both areas are affected, and a patient will present with symptoms of both types and severe difficulties expressing and comprehending language.

Treatment

Treatment of aphasia involves optimizing the patient’s communication and expression skills. Methods may include:

  • Speech-language therapy sessions with a skilled practitioner
  • Computer-based learning software programs that encourage interaction, and linguistic skills.
  • Non-verbal communication therapy aids, such as photos and symbol communication boards (AAC therapy)
  • Group therapy for patients to attend with their family

Source: Information edited from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Diagnosis

A language-speech pathologist will assess the individual thoroughly and take a detailed medical history to confirm the presence of aphasia and its severity.

Diagnosis is usually also by aided by referral for imaging procedures such at computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan.