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Aphasia Awareness Day, August 19th

17 August 2005

Aphasia Awareness Day, August 19th

Have you ever had the feeling that a word is on the tip of your tongue? Have you felt the frustration of knowing what you want to say but not being able to find the right words to say it? For many New Zealanders this is a feeling they have every time they speak. Aphasia is a language disorder which is experienced by many New Zealanders; it occurs most commonly after stroke and affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.

The 19th of August is New Zealand Speech Language Therapists’ Association (NZSTA) Awareness Day. The theme this year is Aphasia and Language Disorders, the aim of the day is to increase awareness and understanding of the devastating effects of Aphasia. Speech-Language Therapists have coordinated public displays. Stalls will be set up in malls and major hospitals to provide information and education to the public.

Most of us are aware of the crippling effects a stroke can have on the physical abilities of a person. Fewer are aware that a stroke can impact on the language centre of the brain, sometimes leaving a person unable to communicate with friends, family or colleagues. This language difficulty often occurs in the presence of fully intact mental processes, leaving the person trapped inside their heads, unable to express thoughts, fears, feelings or even the most basic of needs.

Aphasia is not as simple as not being able to find the right words. It can affect all forms of communication; speaking, understanding, reading, writing and calculation. Even the ability to use gesture may be lost. Can you imagine playing charades without your hands? Or trying to communicate without words when your ability to write and draw has also seemingly vanished into thin air?

Statistics show that stroke is the third biggest killer, and the greatest cause of major disability in New Zealand. Each day on average 20 New Zealanders have a stroke. Approximately one third of these will have some degree of Aphasia, that is, eight people every day. Remember too that stroke does not just affect older people. In fact, 25% of all stroke patients in New Zealand in 2003 were below retirement age.*

Speech-Language Therapists work with the Aphasic client to improve their ability to communicate; and with their families, friends and colleagues to assist them to provide a supportive environment. Often the person with aphasia is still able to communicate effectively provided the listener understands their difficulties and is willing to provide them with the support they need.

*Statistics courtesy of The Stroke Foundation of New Zealand


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