Aphasia is a disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate. It is the result of damage to the parts of the brain responsible for language. It can affect a child’s ability to understand and produce language.
A child with aphasia can experience many difficulties with language such as struggling to understand what is being said, thinking of the right words to use or saying them in the right order.
Our speech and language therapists can help alleviate the difficulties a child with aphasia may be experiencing by providing them with advice, coping mechanisms and therapy.
What exactly is aphasia?
Aphasia is a condition that impacts upon a child’s communication abilities. It can affect their language production, their comprehension of language or both. Difficulties with production and comprehension of language is not just limited to speech, but reading and writing too.
Aphasia can be classified into three types:
- Receptive aphasia – difficulties with understanding language; written and spoken.
- Expressive aphasia - difficulties with expressing language using both speech and writing.
- Mixed aphasia - difficulties with both language comprehension and expression.
The type and severity of aphasia a child can have, depends upon where in the brain the damage has happened and how much damage has been done.
What causes aphasia?
Aphasia occurs as a result of damage to the parts of the brain that control language production and comprehension.
Damage to the brain can occur in following ways:
Research suggest that there are 250,000 people living in the United Kingdom who have aphasia.
Symptoms associated with aphasia
The symptoms that present in children with aphasia vary upon the type of aphasia and the severity of the damage to the brain. If the aphasia is the result of a traumatic brain injury or stroke, the symptoms would appear straight after the incident. If the aphasia is the result of a progressive condition the symptoms may appear over time and gradually deteriorate. Children with aphasia may not always be aware of the difficulties they present with and they may assume you are able to understand all of what they are saying.
- Difficulty understanding long or complicated sentences, both spoken and written.
- Difficulty following instructions, both written and or spoken.
- Difficulty understanding meanings of words.
- Difficulty with short-term memory e.g. remembering what has been said or discussed.
- Difficulty expressing their thoughts.
- Slow pace of speech.
- Hesitant speech.
- Word finding difficulties.
- Simple speech limited to small phrases.
- Difficulties with grammar.
- Difficulties with spelling.
- Difficulty retelling or recalling information.
- May speak in long fluent sentences but they may lack meaning or contain nonsense words.
How does aphasia impact upon function?
Aphasia can have a great effect on a child and their family’s lives. It can make simple everyday tasks around the home and school very difficult for a child. It can reduce the levels of independence a child has gained, this can cause frustration. Some difficulties a child can face on a daily basis include:
- Understanding what others are saying.
- Accessing the school curriculum and extracurricular activities.
- Expressing their thoughts and feelings in a manner that is understood by others.
- Behavioural problems due to the lack of understanding or ability to express themselves.
- May be easily distracted or lack attention during long speeches or stories.
- Starting or taking part in conversation with friends and family.
- Difficulties with social communication.
- Completing written or oral assignments.
- Low levels of self-esteem.
Speech and language therapy can have a positive impact on the life of a child who has aphasia. It can help to reduce the level of difficulties experienced by the child by providing them with a therapy programme that works specifically on their difficulties and improving their communication with others around them.
Speech and language therapy assessments suitable for aphasia
Our speech and language therapists can assess your child’s language and communication skills to establish the areas of difficulty and the level of difficulty. Our speech and language therapists may use both formal and informal assessments to assess the different features of language and communication. Our speech and language therapist will also look at the impact such difficulties have on your child’s activity and participation in daily life.
Assessments for aphasia include:
- Assessment of auditory comprehension.
- Assessment of verbal expression.
- Assessment of reading skills.
- Assessment of written expression.
- Assessment of social communication.
- Assessment of short term memory.
Speech and language therapy treatment available for aphasia
Speech and language therapy can be highly valuable to a child with aphasia, it can help to restore their language abilities and strengthen their existing communication skills. Our speech and language therapists can provide individualised therapy for your child, specific to their areas of difficulty. Our speech and language therapists work to provide your child with therapy that is unique to their skill set whilst incorporating their motivators and goals, as well as yours and the school's priorities.
A child with aphasia may struggle with verbal expression, they may know what it is they want to say but find it difficult to find the right words or to say the words in an order that is correct or understood by others. Our speech and language therapists can provide strategies to help increase their ability to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that is understood by others.
Depending on the severity of the child’s difficulties our speech and language therapists may introduce Augmentative and Alternative Communication such as signing, communication books or hi-tech devices.
Therapy for aphasia our therapist provide include:
- Receptive language therapy
- Expressive language therapy
- Melodic intonation therapy
- Computer based therapy
- Reading therapy
- Writing therapy
- Increasing social communication
- Advice, strategies and training for parents, family, carers and professionals involved with the child
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Our speech and language therapists can help provide your child with an individualised therapy programme that concentrates specifically on decreasing the child’s levels of difficulty and providing them with effective means of communication. This can reduce their frustration and help them to increase their quality of life.