1. Most people are familiar with aphasia.
FALSE – Most people have never heard of aphasia. The general public frequently misinterprets the difficulties an individual with aphasia is experiencing and may react as though the person is psychologically ill or mentally retarded. Feelings of social isolation with resulting emotional effects are common to individuals with aphasia.
2. Aphasia means a person has difficulty retrieving words for speech and usually has some problems reading, writing, and understanding spoken language.
TRUE – Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs an individual’s ability to use language. The primary symptom is an inability to express oneself when speaking, however, in some cases, reading and writing or understanding of speech can be the more impaired language modality.
3. The cause of aphasia is usually due to a heart attack.
FALSE – The most frequent cause of aphasia is a stroke (but, one can have a stroke without acquiring aphasia). It can also result from head injury, cerebral tumor or other neurological causes. Consequently, the onset is usually sudden, although rare cases of progressive aphasia in adults and childhood/developmental aphasia have been documented.
4. If people have aphasia they will always have a significant memory loss as well.
FALSE – Although a person with aphasia can have difficulty retrieving words and names, memory of situations, appointments, people and general knowledge remain relatively intact. The ability to access ideas and thoughts via language is disrupted.
5. Aphasia is more prevalent than Parkinson’s Disease or Muscular Dystrophy.
TRUE – It has been estimated that one million Americans or 1 in 250 people have acquired aphasia. About 2/3 of these are the result of strokes and 1/3 are head injured persons.
6. A person with aphasia may have no noticeable physical impairment.
TRUE – But most people with aphasia also have right sided weakness or paralysis of the leg and arm. This occurs because the left side of the brain is the side generally damaged when a person has aphasia, and it also controls movements on the right side of the body.
7. All individuals with aphasia have very similar symptoms of the same approximate severity.
FALSE – There are many types of aphasia. They are generally classified as either non-fluent or fluent. Specific symptoms can vary greatly; however the commonly shared symptom is an impaired ability to use language. The severity of aphasia symptoms can range from very mild to very severe. When there is almost total impairment of all the language modalities (i.e., speaking, writing, reading, listening) the condition is referred to as global aphasia.
8. Although most people with aphasia are older than 50 years of age, it is not unusual for younger people to acquire this disability.
TRUE – A widespread misconception is that only older people suffer strokes. In fact, young adults as well as children can sustain strokes, but in such instances it is usually secondary to a pre existing medical condition.
9. Some individuals with aphasia return to work, however, most are forced to retire or change jobs and work in a modified capacity.
TRUE – There are very few jobs that do not require speech and language skills. Individuals with mild or even moderate aphasia are sometimes able to return to work, but often with some changes in job responsibilities and a reduced workload.
10. Recovery from aphasia is usually complete within six months of treatment.
FALSE – Approximately half of those who initially show symptoms of aphasia recover completely within the first few hours or days. This is known as transient aphasia. If the symptoms of aphasia persist beyond the first 2-3 months after a stroke, a complete recovery is unlikely. Increased functioning is usually achieved through spontaneous recovery and speech therapy. Recovery is a slow process that usually requires a minimum of a year of treatment including helping the individual and family understand and adjust to long term deficits.