Updated: Jun 6
June is Aphasia Awareness Month! According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 1 million people in the US are living with aphasia and there's an estimated 180,000 new cases of aphasia per year in the United States (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [NIDCD], 2015).
According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (n.d.), the goal of intervention for an individual with aphasia is to maximize on their strengths while targeting weakness related to their functional communication.
Through this intervention, the use of compensatory strategies, such as the use of AAC, may be required for the individual with aphasia.
This may include low-tech AAC, such as alphabet supplementation, or high-tech AAC using a speech-generating device such as the ProSlate series offered by Forbes AAC.
According to the National Aphasia Association, about one-third of stroke patients have aphasia (n.d.).
Other etiologies of aphasia include brain injuries, tumors, Parkinson's disease, or illnesses such as meningitis or epilepsy.
An AAC intervention approach for individuals with aphasia includes teaching multi-modal communication strategies. This will include both the use of residual speech and language as well as the use of compensatory strategies including the use of AAC (Beukelman & Light, 2020).
Speech-language pathologists work with the individual with aphasia and their families to identify, design, and implement intervention strategies to allow the person with aphasia to learn to use these strategies effectively.
According to Elsahar and colleagues (2019), AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech and it is alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional. This is particularly true for individuals with aphasia.
The wide range of abilities, both receptively and expressively, for an individual with aphasia may require them to use AAC as a way to supplement their existing speech and use it as an alternative to speech that is significantly impaired.
For example, for an individual with Broca’s aphasia they may be able to communicate to an extant with single word utterances, but use AAC as a means to communicate longer, more complex utterances.
For a patient who presents with Wernicke's aphasia, they may demonstrate difficulty understanding spoken language. The use of AAC may provide them with additional supports for understanding conversation or directions.
To learn more about AAC and aphasia, check out this week's free webinar!
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Aphasia (Practice Portal). www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Aphasia/.
Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative & alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed.). Brookes.
Elsahar, Y., Hu, S., Bouazza-Marouf, K., Kerr, D., & Mansor, A. (2019). Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) advances: A review of configurations for individuals with a speech disability. Sensors, 19(8), 1911. https://doi.org/10.3390/s19081911
Garrett, K., & Beukelman, D. (1992). Augmentative approaches to treatment of severe aphasia. In K. Yorkston (Ed.), Augmentative communication in the medical setting. Tucson, AZ: Communication Skill Builders.
National Aphasia Association. (n.d.). Aphasia Fact Sheet. https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/aphasia-factsheet/
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2015). NIDCD fact sheet: Aphasia [PDF] [NIH Pub. No. 97-4257]. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/Documents/health/voice/Aphasia6-1-16.pdf
Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.