Aphasia is an acquired language disorder characterized by impaired comprehension and production of language as a result of brain damage (most often as a result of a stroke.) It can dramatically impair a person's ability to communicate. The main symptom of aphasia is impairment in the ability to speak, while the understanding of speech, reading, and writing can also be impaired. Aphasia occurs when the parts of the brain that control language are damaged, and it results in obstructed speaking, listening, reading, and/or writing. 

Therapy Can Help Patients with Aphasia

Working with a speech-language pathologist can help many patients regain their ability to speak or find other ways to communicate; however, the recovery can be long, and some people never fully regain their normal speech. People with aphasia can live a full and enjoyable life, even with communication difficulties or deficits.

Tips for communicating with someone who has aphasia: 

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE. Speak in short, simple sentences.
  • BE PATIENT. Allow plenty of time for a response. Talk with him/her not for him/her 
  • BE CREATIVE. Try writing, gesturing, pictures, and communication tools like an iPad.
  • CONFIRM. Repeat back what you think he/she is saying.
  • DON’T SHOUT. Hearing is not affected and yelling does not help.
  • ASSUME COMPETENCY. Intelligence and cognition is generally intact and treat it like a language barrier.

Aphasia Clinic at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital

The Aphasia Clinic is designed for those who have experienced a recent stroke or other injury to the brain with resulting language problems. It is also appropriate for individuals who have previously been diagnosed with aphasia and want to improve their communication skills, even years after their illness or injury.

Patients have access to the comprehensive rehabilitation services at MedStar Health, including psychologists, and physical and occupational therapists, and individuals may also be eligible to participate in research studies on aphasia offered through MedStar Health Research Institute. 

Numerous support groups are available as well, including:

  • Mentorship Program:  People living with aphasia are matched with volunteer mentors who have been through the same experience.
  • Speech-Language Therapy: Therapy focuses on the real-life goals of people affected by aphasia, strengthening daily participation in life activities and social connections.
  • Computer Lab Group: Participants practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing using state-of-the-art computer programs and applications.
  • Reading Strategies: Participants practice decoding words faster and improving reading comprehension.
  • Book Group: Participants share the experience of reading by using outlines, simplified text, pictures, and auditory support through e-readers or audiotapes.
  • Motor Speech Group: For individuals with apraxia of speech, a condition that affects the motor planning abilities required for speech.
  • Dysarthria Group: For individuals with dysarthria, a condition in which the face and mouth muscles are weak, move slowly, are uncoordinated, and distort speech.
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic: We closely with vendors to provide a range of augmentative and alternative communication devices.

The hallmark of the clinic's approach is its comprehensive language and medical evaluation of each participant. This unique collaborative assessment helps the clinic team pinpoint the precise areas of the brain affected by stroke or brain injury, and characterize the type of aphasia clients are experiencing. The team uses this information to both better understand the individual's problem and make recommendations for additional management options.

Neurology

MedStar St. Mary's Hospital
25500 Point Lookout Road
Leonardtown, MD 20650
[Get Directions]
Phone: 301-475-6088

Stroke Services

MedStar St. Mary's Hospital
25500 Point Lookout Road
Leonardtown, MD 20650
[Get Directions]
Phone: 301-475-6111

Aphasia Clinic

MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital
102 Irving Street, NW
Washington, DC 20010
202-877-1100

Specialists

Anna Decker, MS, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital

Laura Hussey, speech-language pathologist
MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital

Peter Turkeltaub, MD, PhD, nationally-recognized cognitive neurologist
MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital