Trouble communicating with others can be a symptom of various disorders. Difficulty conveying words or emotions can be a condition of autism spectrum disorder, but quite frequently it occurs when a neurological injury affects the portion of the brain responsible for language.
The National Aphasia Association states that aphasia is an impairment of language that affects the comprehension or the production of speech as well as the ability to read and write. Aphasia results from an injury to the brain, including head trauma, brain tumors, infections, and stroke.
The Cleveland Clinic notes a person with aphasia may experience difficulty speaking, writing, reading, and understanding language. Impairments can range from mild to very severe (nearly impossible to communicate). While aphasia may only affect one area of communication, usually limitations occur across many areas.
One of the more common symptoms of aphasia is word-finding issues. This can be characterized by challenges remembering the names of people, events or things. Sometimes an individual may not be able to think of the word he or she wants to say. In other instances, that person may say the wrong word entirely, such as using “rope” for the word “ball.” The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association also states that it is common for someone with aphasia to switch sounds in words, like “wishdasher” for “dishwasher.” Often sentences are difficult to come by, and single words may be easier.
Trouble communicating also extends to a person with aphasia having challenges understanding what others are saying, particularly when they speak fast or in long sentences. The situation may be exacerbated when it is noisy or a person is in a group setting.
Aphasia can affect anyone. However, it is more common in those who are middle-aged and older. The NAA says roughly 180,000 people are diagnosed with aphasia each year. Even though brain injury is a primary cause of aphasia, it also can create other language-related issues, such as weakness in the muscles that control the face or mouth or an inability to move the lips or tongue in the right way to make sounds.
People with aphasia can benefit from working with a speech-language pathologist as early as possible. This professional can present many strategies to help manage deficits or potentially return some measure of communication. Augmentative and alternative communication, such as using images or a computer to tell what a person wants, may be options in more severe cases of aphasia.
Aphasia affects many people and can rob them of the ability to communicate effectively without intervention.