June is Aphasia Awareness Month
Aphasia happens due to an injury to the brain. It can happen suddenly or over a longer period of time. Aphasia can be mild or severe. The severity depends on the cause. Some children may recover some or all of their language abilities, others may not.
In its most mild form, children may have difficulties finding words. However, they can make their needs and wants known. In the most severe forms, children are unable to understand anything. They cannot express any of their needs. There are many types of aphasia. They are named based on which symptoms a child has.
Aphasia is diagnosed by a physical and neurologic exam performed at the bedside. Common symptoms may include difficulties in the following areas:
- Trouble thinking of the right word to say
- Trouble putting words in the correct order for a sentence
- Switching sounds of different words
- Difficulty naming objects that are familiar
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Trouble following commands
- Trouble understanding a sentence or paragraph
- Difficulty spelling words correctly
- Misplacing words in a sentence
Children may have one or multiple of these symptoms. A child may not be aware of the language change. Some children may be frustrated that they are unable to communicate normally. Others will not appear bothered.
Aphasia is due to an area of injury to the brain. Such types of injuries include:
- A stroke (this is the most common cause)
- Trauma or severe injury to the head
- A tumor
- Inflammation due to an overactive immune system
Some progressive neurologic disorders can lead to aphasia. These disorders are more common in adults.
The causes for aphasia are diagnosed with:
- A physical exam:
- A pediatric neurologist will perform a physical exam that includes a thorough neurology exam.
- Special tests of language and understanding may be done.
- A child may see a speech-language pathologist (SLP). They can do more advanced language testing.
- A computer-assisted tomography (CT or CAT) scan
- A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Laboratory studies:
- These studies may help to understand the cause of aphasia.
- Aphasia cannot be diagnosed through lab testing alone.