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More people have aphasia than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or muscular dystrophy. But very few people have heard the term "aphasia" or can tell someone what it is...

Aphasia is a language disorder, typically due to stroke, brain tumor, or brain injury. It does NOT affect intelligence, but it does make it difficult to connect thoughts to words.

As a simplified way of thinking about it...

Imagine that someone drops you into a foreign country where you don't speak the language. You would still know what an apple is and how a car works (your intelligence is intact!), but you wouldn't have the word for "apple" or be able to explain to someone how a car works (your language is impacted).

Aphasia is especially tricky, because unlike a physical limitation, we can't see it. Which often makes it harder for people to understand. We asked several people with aphasia to share their experiences to help build awareness for this "invisible disability."

Aphasia is an umbrella term. There are many different subtypes, severity levels, strengths, and weaknesses. Aphasia affects all areas of language – talking, understanding, reading, and writing, but it doesn't affect everyone in the same exact way.

It can range from virtually no ability to speak (very severe aphasia) to occasional difficulty thinking of words (mild aphasia). Comprehension, reading, and writing can also be affected to varying degrees.

Aphasia results from damage to the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. The severity of aphasia often depends on the extent of the damage and how quickly the person received treatment. Sometimes people recover quickly, but most people have some long-lasting difficulty with communication.

It can be very frustrating and isolating, especially when people don't understand what aphasia is.

Over 2 million Americans are living with aphasia, but many people have never heard of it. Share this post and help us spread the word! #aphasia #aphasiaawareness

How to optimize your recovery after stroke, brain injury, tumor

For a long time, researchers believed that the brain couldn’t change. It was thought that after childhood, the brain pretty much stayed the same throughout life.

However, science has proven this isn’t true. (Go science!)

And while it’s true that brains are more malleable in childhood, they can continue to adapt throughout life. Brains can change. And brains do change.

Brain cells can grow new branches to connect to other cells. They can also strengthen (or weaken) those connections, resulting in new pathways in the brain.

This is true whether you're learning a new skill, or re-learning skills after you have a stroke, brain injury, tumor, or infection.

However, this change takes time. And it requires repeated and specialized training. But if you understand how the brain responds to treatment and makes changes, you can optimize your recovery and create positive changes in your brain!

Here are the 10 principles of neuroplasticity, per research published by Kleim & Jones.

1) Use It or Lose It: Every thought, action, movement, and skill has a specific set of connections in your brain. When you don’t practice something for an extended period of time, the pathways for that task start to weaken, and they get weaker over time.

2) Use It and Improve It: However, if you practice something a lot, these connections can grow and become stronger. With aphasia, this means that the more you talk, listen, read, and write, the better your accuracy and speed will be in these areas.

3) Salience: Emotions can affect the strength of memory consolidation. If therapy is made interesting or important to you (ex: incorporating hobbies or interests), you can more easily remember new skills or pieces of information.

4) Repetition: Repetition of a learned (or re-learned) behavior is required for long-term changes in the brain. You need thousands of repetitions to master a skill. The more time you spend practicing, the better you perform.

5) Intensity: If you do something that doesn’t challenge you, you won’t see much of a difference. Intensity can be the number of times you do an exercise or how difficult it is. Try to find an intensity that is one step above your current level.

6) Specificity: You have to train your brain in very specific ways. Learning something new or re-training an old skill (rather than simply going through the motions of something you already know) helps increase connections in the brain.

7) Age: Our brains are the most flexible and adaptive when we are young. But connections in our brains can grow and change at any age! Effects are generally better in individuals with greater physical and mental activity.

8) Time: If therapy targets changing, increasing, and strengthening the pathways in your brain (using these principles), it should work any time. However, there may be windows of time where progress happens at a faster rate.

9) Transference: Learning in one situation (like therapy) can generalize to other situations (like social settings or the work environment). Similarly, training one specific skill can sometimes activate the pathways of nearby, untrained items and improve those skills as well.

10) Interference: Neuroplasticity means the brain is always learning. But it doesn’t know the difference between good and bad! Maladaptive habits or practicing the wrong things might interfere with the positive changes you want to make.

Yes – brains are adaptable and capable of change after injury. But we have to understand how these changes occur to optimize brain rehabilitation. At Atlas Aphasia Center, we capitalize on the principles of neurobiological recovery to make the most of your aphasia therapy.

Are you a rehab professional? Download our infographic to help explain neuroplasticity. (Or maybe just because you want it 😀)

Neuroplasticity - corrected
Download PDF • 4.03MB

Interested in our services?

We’re based in Seattle and specialize in speech therapy for aphasia (speaking, understanding, reading, and writing after a stroke or brain injury).

View of a desk with a computer (videoconference in session on-screen), a keyboard, post-it notes, and various other office supplies. You can see a person's arms sitting at the desk with an open notebook and pen, ready to take notes.

1) Affordability

We believe that communication is a basic human right. Atlas is dedicated to providing high-quality aphasia therapy at a low hourly cost. You can use Atlas to supplement your current speech therapy, or to continue services after medical insurance runs out. We say "no" to the plateau!

2) Expertise

Atlas works exclusively with people with aphasia. This is our specialty. We provide high quality treatment across all language domains, including expressive language, auditory comprehension, reading, and writing. (These are separate skills!)

A man sits at the kitchen table with a croissant, orange juice, and coffee. He is working on his laptop, and his dog is next to him, sniffing his face

3) Individualized Therapy

Personalized treatment goals are a top priority. We want your input for treatment goals to help maximize functional communication and keep motivation high. Share your favorite sports teams, music, pets, and hobbies for use in therapy activities.

4) Commitment

Our staff is dedicated to helping individuals with aphasia improve. We will do anything within reason for a motivated client. We will provide homework, training videos, real-life communication scenarios, and more.

5) Community

Having aphasia can be very isolating. We provide opportunities to socialize, both inside and outside of the clinic. You can participate in conversation groups, book clubs, game nights, karaoke, and other activities to practice what you’ve learned (and have fun)!

Atlas Aphasia Center provides individual and group speech therapy for adults with aphasia. This is often due to stroke, brain tumor, or other brain injury. We also provide services for family members, friends, and caregivers. Contact us to learn more!

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