June is Aphasia Awareness Month

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   22nd Jun 2022

We can all play a role in supporting people with aphasia

This month is Aphasia awareness month and the Irish Heart Foundation is delighted to support this important initiative to increase awareness of aphasia in Ireland.

Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia with research showing that approximately one-third of stroke survivors are affected by the condition.

Given that almost 6,000 stroke patients are admitted to hospital every year in Ireland, there is a considerable number of people affected by aphasia.

Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that can also be caused by any type of brain injury, brain tumour, or a neurological condition such as dementia.

Despite the relatively high prevalence of aphasia post-stroke research has shown that there is a very low level of awareness and understanding of the condition among the general public.

Aphasia predominately affects people’s ability to communicate as it causes difficulty with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and expression or ability to speak.

Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to understand what they read or hear, or to express themselves in spoken or written words. It does not affect their intelligence.

Studies have shown that people with aphasia post-stroke are at a much higher risk of developing depression and low mood than stroke survivors without the condition.

The Irish Heart Foundation patient support service runs an  online peer and education group for people living with aphasia

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The Irish Heart Foundation patient support service is currently running an  online peer and education group for people living with aphasia in partnership with dyscover – a specialist aphasia support charity based in the UK.

These courses are facilitated by an Irish Heart Foundation staff member and a qualified speech and language therapist and focus on education and information about stroke, recovery, aphasia and conversation. It also provides information for carers of people with aphasia post stroke. The next course starts in November 2022 if you are interested in attending or would like some more information please email refferals@irishheart.ie

According to the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IALST),  the recognised professional association of Speech and Language Therapists in Ireland, aphasia presents very differently from person to person and therefore requires highly specialist assessment, diagnosis, and treatment from Speech and Language Therapists.

There are three main groups of aphasia. Expressive aphasia is impaired ability to produce words, sentences, and conversations to express oneself. Receptive aphasia is impaired ability to understand spoken, written, and signed language. Global aphasia is when there is both expressive and receptive aphasia are present.

“I know what I want to say I just can’t get the words out.”

Person living with aphasia

“Though relatively common, most people do not know what it is. Raising awareness is important for including people living with aphasia in society, which is a fundamental human right. We can all play a role in supporting people with aphasia, and people with communication disability / differences, to be part of the community and valued members of our society,” the IASLT stated.

The IASLT has a number of helpful resources for people with aphasia including information videos and details on the role of speech and language therapy for people with aphasia on its website.

Another great resource for people living with aphasia is the Aphasia Café in University College Cork (UCC).  The Aphasia Café is an initiative of Dr Helen Kelly and her Speech and Language Therapy students (UCC Clinical Therapies Society) to support people living with language difficulties following a stroke or other brain injury. It is a Facebook group that acts as a safe space online for people with aphasia and other communication difficulties.

One person living with aphasia has described their experience on the condition on the Aphasia  Café Facebook page as “I know what I want to say I just can’t get the words out.”

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