Every year June is observed as aphasia awareness month all over the world. However, most people have not heard of the term ‘Aphasia’. Aphasia is a communication disorder resulting from brain damage. According to the National Aphasia Association (2012) 40% of stroke survivors will also have aphasia, then an estimated 7500 people who live in Kerala may have aphasia (Dalal, 2007). According to the literature, the number of persons with aphasia in the country is likely to be around two million. The awareness about aphasia can pave the way for better communication experiences for people living with aphasia.
Aphasia affects the ability to speak, write and/ or understand language. It usually occurs following a stroke or head injury affecting the language areas of the brain. Aphasia can have other associated conditions like paralysis, cognitive issues, swallowing difficulties, psychological concerns like depression etc.
Aphasia can severely affect a person’s quality of life by interfering with your job, relationships and daily functioning. Lack of awareness of a disease or disorder may affect general access to services for that disorder. Lack of awareness of aphasia and its symptoms may negatively impact access to aphasia services for the people who need them.
Following medical intervention, a multi-disciplinary teamwork from professionals is a prerequisite for rehabilitation of individuals with aphasia. The rehabilitation team can include a speech therapist, a physiotherapist, an Occupational therapist and a clinical psychologist. Among the professionals involved, the role of a speech therapist is to assess, diagnose and treat the speech, language, cognitive and swallowing issues which can be present in an individual with Aphasia. Speech therapists also help in guiding the family members of the individual with aphasia as their role is inevitable in the rehabilitation process.
If a person with stroke exhibits the following issues, it is important to consult a speech therapist;
● Difficulty in speaking (say short/ incomplete/ nonsense sentences)
● Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
● Not understand other people’s conversation
● Write sentences that don’t make sense
● Difficulty to identify letters for reading
● Difficulty to recall words
At National Institute of Speech and Hearing , Trivandrum , a unit for Acquired Neuro- communication Disorders (AND) under the Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology is functioning for the rehabilitation of individuals with aphasia and also individuals with other acquired neuro-communication disorders. The unit focuses on the assessment, treatment and counselling of children and adults with acquired neuro-communication disorders. Also, the unit collaborates with other professional services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychological consultations, and hearing screening to improve the overall quality of life of a person with aphasia.
Unit for Acquired Neuro- communication Disorders (AND), Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, NISH, Trivandrum
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