What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is an acquired disorder caused by an injury to the brain and affects a person’s ability to communicate. It is most often the result of stroke or head injury. An individual with aphasia may experience difficulty expressing themselves when speaking, difficulty understanding the speech of others, and difficulty reading and writing. Sadly, aphasia can mask a person’s intelligence and ability to communicate feelings, thoughts and emotions.

There are over 100,000 Canadians living with aphasia today – a condition that is not well-known or understood.  Aphasia is usually the lasting result of a stroke or brain injury but can also be caused by other neurological conditions such as brain tumours or dementia.  One in three stroke survivors are diagnosed with aphasia.  The number of people with this devastating disorder is expected to increase significantly as the population ages.

Aphasia can be an isolating condition that can affect a person’s ability to communicate and deprive them of the ability to speak, read, write and understand the speech of others.  Imagine living in a foreign country where you do not speak the language.  Even though you would have the same thoughts, knowledge and the ability to make your own decisions, you would not be able to communicate them to those around you because of the language barrier.  This is what it is like to live with aphasia.

Aphasia may be classified as an invisible disability, but there is nothing hidden about its isolating and frustrating impact on those affected by it.  All too often these intelligent and competent adults who know what they want and are capable of making their own decisions, are simply not heard.  Through direct service and community outreach programs, people with aphasia and their families are finding new ways to re-join life’s conversations.