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What is Aphasia?


What is Aphasia?  

Masked competence – knowing more than you can say

Aphasia is a language problem that masks a person’s inherent competence, and most dramatically affects conversational interaction (talking and understanding), as well as the ability to read and write.1

Aphasia is usually the lasting result of a stroke or brain injury, but may also be caused by other neurological conditions such as dementia or brain tumours. Aphasia may be classified as an invisible disability, though it is not well known or understood in the community.

Many adults with aphasia know exactly what is going on, have opinions on issues, have the desire to socialize, and are capable of participating in decisions that pertain to them. But aphasia affects a person’s ability to communicate feelings, thoughts and emotions, or the ability to understand what others say.

Impacts every part of life – for increasing numbers

Conversation is core to the ability to participate in virtually every realm of adult life.

Without the ability to participate in conversation, every relationship, life role and almost every life activity is at risk. With additional reading and writing difficulties, the impact is devastating. The results are not only barriers to accessing services and information in stroke/health care, but also an inevitable loss of self-esteem and a profound sense of social isolation.

There are over 100,000 Canadians living with aphasia today.2 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. 

1 Kagan, A. & Simmons-Mackie, N. (November 2013). From My Perspective: Changing the Aphasia Narrative. The ASHA Leader, Vol. 18(11), 6-8. doi: 10.1044/leader.FMP.18112013.6. 

2 Dickey, L., Kagan, A., Lindsay, M. P., Fang, J., Rowland, A., & Black, S. (2010). Incidence and profile of inpatient stroke-induced aphasia in Ontario, Canada. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation91(2), 196-202.