On Wednesday, March 30, the career announcement of Bruce Willis, who suffers from aphasia, put the spotlight on this little-known language disorder among the general public. But do you know it affects a lot of people?
What is aphasia?
Aphasia is a language disorder caused by brain damage. They are usually the result of a sudden event, such as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or head trauma. Maize “there are other possibilities, such as a degenerative disease”, for example, Alzheimer’s disease, which then caused progressive damage, explained Brenda Rapp of Johns Hopkins University. Bruce Willis’s family did not provide details about the cause of his aphasia.
“Aphasia simply means that someone has a language problem that they were not born with.”
Hugo Botha, neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota
The ability to speak, understand others, read and write is affected. About two million Americans suffer more from aphasia than from Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Aphasia Association.
What are the different shapes?
Scientists distinguish different forms of aphasia, depending on the part of the brain affected.
- In expressive aphasiae, “Usually people understand it quite well, but have trouble finding the words”says Brooke Hatfield of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). A person will then use very short sentences — such as “want to eat”-, to be understood.
- In receptive aphasia† “Words come easily, but they are not necessarily the right ones. And it’s complicated for these people to hear what they’re saying.” and therefore be aware of their mistakes, Ms. Hatfield explains.
- Global aphasia causes very great difficulties both in speech and in understanding.
How to deal with ?
After a stroke, some of the communication ability can quickly return in the first months. But often the difficulties remain beyond that. Language re-education therapies may allow for further recovery. For example, some learn to get around a missing word.
The entourage is also encouraged to be patient, to use simple sentences, to minimize environmental noise, to stimulate the person by involving them in conversations and most importantly not to stigmatize them.
Aphasia is not a problem of intelligence or mental retardation, experts point out. People with aphasia are always in possession of their knowledge and ideas. It is therefore counterproductive to address them as children.