Aphasia happens when a stroke damages the language part of the brain.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia happens when a stroke damages the language part of the brain. This makes it hard for someone to communicate.

Symptoms of aphasia include trouble:

  • Sharing thoughts
  • Talking clearly
  • Understanding what other people are saying
  • Reading
  • Writing

Aphasia is a problem with language. It does not affect:

  • Thinking
  • Planning
  • Decision-making

Watch this video to learn more about what aphasia is:

Video credit: Lakeridge Health

How can I communicate more easily if I have aphasia?

There are many things you can do and tools you can use to communicate.

Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Let people know you have had a stroke. Tell them you need more time to express yourself.
  • Practice communicating with family and close friends
  • Practice communicating with 1 other person in a quiet room. As you get more comfortable, practice in different settings with different people.
  • Use a special computer
  • Use a communication board or book with pictures or photos of common phrases and topics that are important to you
Personalized communication book

If you would like to find out if a communication board or book or special computer can help you, talk to your Speech-Language Pathologist. You can also ask your healthcare team to refer you to an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic.

AAC clinics can help:

  • Test to see how the stroke has affected your ability to communicate
  • Recommend special communication equipment
  • Teach you how to use the equipment

Ask your healthcare team for a referral to an AAC clinic near you.

How can I practice communicating with others?

Join an aphasia or stroke support group.  These groups provide a supportive setting for you to practice communication skills so you can more fully participate in life activities.

Here is a list of some local aphasia centres in the Greater Toronto Area:

How can I communicate more easily with my loved one who has aphasia?

  • Speak naturally, using normal volume and an adult tone of voice
  • Acknowledge their frustration or fear of not being understood by saying, “I know you know what you want to say but are having trouble finding the right words.”
  • Use short phrases, gestures that are easily understood or pictures
  • Write down key words
  • Ask yes/no questions
  • Provide choices
  • Give them time to answer
  • Summarize clearly what you think they are trying to say. 
  • Use gestures or write down key words if needed.

Having read the information in this section, consider the following:

  • Can I communicate my needs and wishes so that I am understood?
  • Can my family and close friends communicate well with me?
  • Do I know how to tell people that I have difficulty communicating?
  • Can I join in on social situations?
  • Do I need any special supports (such as a computer or communication board) to help me communicate?

Where to get more information, help and support:

Toronto Central Healthline

Centralized Communication Equipment Pool

Canadian Hearing Society

Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists