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Aphasia

Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute

Specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center offer compassionate, effective treatment for aphasia – the impairment of a person’s use of language. We provide each patient comprehensive support that helps him or her successfully transition back to life at home, at work, and in the community. 

UT Southwestern’s rehabilitation program has special accreditation for stroke rehabilitation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Comprehensive Rehabilitative Care for Aphasia

When a stroke affects the left side of the brain, it can cause aphasia, a condition that can affect a person’s ability to:

  • Communicate thoughts
  • Read
  • Speak
  • Understand what others are saying
  • Write 

Although some patients recover from aphasia after a stroke within a matter of hours or days, others need extensive stroke rehab services. UT Southwestern provides effective rehabilitative treatment plans for patients, such as inpatient and outpatient rehab, as well as help arranging for home health rehab when needed. 

The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to provide comprehensive support that gets every patient to his or her best quality of life after a stroke. We work with patients to successfully transition them back to life at home, at work, and in the community. 

Types of Aphasia

UT Southwestern’s rehabilitation team provides specialized care for all types of aphasia, such as:

  • Broca’s aphasia: Trouble speaking fluently but intact comprehension (also known as nonfluent or expressive aphasia)
  • Wernicke’s aphasia: Impaired ability to grasp the meaning of spoken words (also known as receptive or fluent aphasia)
  • Global aphasia: The most severe form, characterized by a decreased ability to produce recognizable words and understand language 

Diagnosing Aphasia

Stroke rehab experts at UT Southwestern offer a thorough evaluation of patients with aphasia. The evaluation includes a series of tests to assess language skills. Patients are asked to:

  • Answer questions
  • Converse
  • Follow commands
  • Name objects

Physicians can also use imaging techniques to study the area of the patient’s brain that was damaged by the stroke. This information helps determine the type of aphasia a person has and what treatments will be most effective. 

Treatments

Some patients, such as those who have suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), might recover from aphasia without treatment. Most patients, however, will need speech-language therapy as soon as possible for the condition.

Specialists at UT Southwestern individualize treatment plans for each patient, based on the type and severity of a patient’s stroke. Treatments focus on relearning and practicing language skills, as well as teaching patients alternative or supplementary communication methods.

Treatment approaches include:

  • Cognitive linguistic therapy: Emphasizes the emotional aspects of language
  • Programmed simulation: Uses multiple sensory modalities
  • Stimulation-facilitation therapy: Focuses on the semantic and syntactic parts of language
  • Group therapy: Gives patients the opportunity to practice their skills
  • PACE (Promoting Aphasics’ Communicative Effectiveness): Promotes improvements in communication by using conversation as a tool for learning
  • Pharmacotherapy: Uses medications to enhance therapy 

Other services help patients learn to adapt to social situations, such as practicing how to ask others to speak more slowly or to repeat instructions.

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