Something so many of us take for granted every day is our ability to communicate. Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and have trouble talking to your spouse, children, or best friend? Or to hear people talking but not fully understand what’s being said? The simplest things, like answering the phone, giving directions, or ordering coffee turn into something so challenging, requiring so much effort.
This is the daily experience for more than 1,000,000 people in the U.S. who are living with aphasia. June is Aphasia Awareness Month.
What is aphasia? Aphasia is a communication disorder caused by stroke or brain injury that affects a person’s ability to use and/or understand language. It’s important to note that aphasia does not affect a person’s intellect. The severity of aphasia can vary from person to person: for some, it makes communication virtually impossible, and for others, it’s quite mild. Aphasia can make it difficult for a person to name objects, to put words together into sentences, to follow a conversation, or to read and write.
The Aphasia Community Support Group at Magee is on a mission to get the word out, to give a voice to this “silent” disability, and to cast light on this challenging, isolating, and often misunderstood condition. Even though there are four times as many people diagnosed with aphasia every year than cerebral palsy and ALS combined, most people have never heard of aphasia. We hope to change that! In honor of Aphasia Awareness Month, the group celebrated at their June 2 meeting with their newly acquired Proclamation from Mayor Nutter’s office declaring June 2015 as Aphasia Awareness Month in Philadelphia! Check out our photo above.
Magee’s Aphasia Community Support Group provides a safe, supportive environment for individuals with aphasia and their loved ones to practice communication skills, socialize, learn communication strategies and the most up-to-date interventions, and support one another. Our members are proof of the possibility of living fully in the midst of a communication disability. The group meets the first Tuesday of each month (except for August) and is led by Magee Speech-Language Pathologists Sarah Lantz and Rebecca Greenhow. To join, please contact Sarah at 215-587-3142.
So, what can you do if you meet someone who has aphasia? Be mindful that no two people with aphasia are alike. Strategies may vary from person to person, but in all cases, the goal is successful communication. Here are some simple suggestions:
– Speak down to them
– Speak for them
– Speak loudly (aphasia does not mean hard-of-hearing!)
– Speak face-to-face
– Speak at a slightly slower rate than usual
– Keep communication simple, but adult
– Repeat key information
– Use gestures
– Give them extra time
– Perhaps most importantly: talk to them about their aphasia! It’s probably a big part of their life, and something they work hard at every day. Acknowledging the effort it takes is a great way to connect.
For more information on aphasia, visit the National Aphasia Association.