how do you explain aphasia?

Explaining Aphasia to Other People

The definition of aphasia is straightforward: Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to understand, produce, or read written or spoken words. While it’s straightforward, it isn’t easy to sum up aphasia in a quick sound bite before the questions start coming. So how do you explain aphasia to other people?

Predict the Questions

Start out by explaining aphasia as simply as possible to a loved one.

Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects my ability to read, speak, or write words.

Then have them ask you logical questions that may come next such as how is it caused or how is it treated? Start incorporating that information into your description. What you say will depend on your particular form of aphasia. In general, you can tell people:

Aphasia occurs after a head injury, stroke, or brain tumor. There is also a neurodegenerative disorder called primary progressive aphasia.

Or you can be specific and say, “My aphasia is caused by…” and then fill in the rest of the sentence.

Finally, you can tell them that speech therapy can improve word access in some types of aphasia, such as Broca’s or Wernicke’s, or it can help provide new communication techniques for people with PPA.

Accentuate the Positive

People unfamiliar with aphasia may try to make sense of the disorder by comparing it to things they do know. Because of that, you’ll want to add in that aphasia does not affect a person’s intellect.

Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects my ability to read, speak, or write words, though it doesn’t affect my intellect. The words are in my brain; they’re just hard to access. My aphasia is caused by _____________. I’m treating my aphasia with speech therapy.

Make a Card

We’ve also created an aphasia card that can be handed to people to explain aphasia when you’re having trouble communicating while you’re out-and-about. Right-click the image to save it and print a copy to carry with you.



Of course, we are happy when interested people come to our site to better understand aphasia. While your job isn’t aphasia teacher for the rest of the world, pointing people in the right direction for more information makes the world a better place for people with aphasia. So direct them to for more information so they can understand.

How do you explain aphasia to other people?



  • B. Bartos
    January 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    My explanation to others:
    His apraxia/aphasia was caused by a catastrophic stroke following a spontaneous carotid artery dissection. In addition to his left side paralysis, it affected his speech, reading, writing, spelling and numbers. He du unusual as one of the small percentage of people who are both right-handed & right-brained. He knows what he wants to say & understands everything others say. But there are two issues: his ability/inability to think of the word he wants to say; and his impaired brain/mouth physical connection, which makes it physically difficult to form the words he wants to say. Please just be patient and let him try to speak! (smile)

  • Cynthia Zelinski
    January 7, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    How do I get there sided card?

  • Cynthia Zelinski
    January 7, 2020 at 10:56 pm

    How do I get the 2-sided card?

  • Astrid
    January 29, 2020 at 9:49 am

    I send people the Wikipedia link to aphasia, which explains expressive aphasia in plain words. I also use the example of a fork. If I show my stroke survivor husband a fork and ask him what it is called, he is unable to shape his mouth for the “f” sound or the other letters (that’s the apraxia”) and neither can he produce the word “fork.” But he knows what a fork is, how to eat with a fork, where and when to put a fork in a drawer or the dishwasher, how to set a fork on the table, and that it goes with a spoon and a knife. Then, I sometimes add that 18 months after the accident that caused a carotid dissection, he is still unable to say his name (or mine).

  • Carla Ingram Ludwig
    February 29, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Yes, where can I get the 2-sided card above?

    March 29, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    I need the 2 sided card.

    Thank You

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