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.