What is Aphasia?

Ever had the feeling that a word is “on the tip of your tongue” but you just can’t find it? You’ve had a small encounter of what it can feel like to live with aphasia.

Aphasia is a language disorder that can affect a person’s ability to speak, understand the speech of others or the ability to read and write. It commonly occurs following a stroke – 1 in 3 stroke survivors are diagnosed with Aphasia. Other causes include brain injury, dementia, and other progressive neurological conditions such as Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence but can have a huge impact on their quality of life. These sudden changes in ability to communicate with the world around them can affect every part of a person’s life. While most of us are familiar with the “tip of the tongue” feeling, people with aphasia might experience this multiple times over the day, significantly affecting what they want to say. Living with aphasia can be extremely frustrating – not just for the person with aphasia, but also for their loved ones.


Recovery from stroke is not time-limited. With appropriate therapy, language can continue to improve many years following a stroke.

Speech Pathologists working with individuals with aphasia often use two approaches:

  • Impairment-based therapy – aims to help a person recover their speech and language abilities.
  • Communication-based therapy – various strategies can help someone communicate or compensate for their communication difficulties. Therapies can include training for loved ones, developing scripts, using a topic board, or the use of high- or low-tech Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC).
    Speech therapy for aphasia can be done effectively both in person and via telehealth.


If you have a loved one with aphasia, there are many things you can do to be a good communication partner.

Getting the message IN

Ways to help the person with aphasia understand you:

  • Speak directly to the person. Face the person so they can clearly see your lips moving. You may need to slightly slow your speech but still make it natural.
  • Make a conversation-friendly environment. Minimise background noise and other distractions.
  • Keep communication simple, but still adult-appropriate. Keep sentences brief and to the point. Talk about one idea at a time.
  • Support your speech. Use visual aids like gestures, facial expressions, pictures, maps, calendars or objects.
  • Have paper and pen handy. Write key words about what you are talking about or draw simple pictures to support your message.
  • Rephrase if the person doesn’t understand.

Getting the message OUT

Ways to help the person with aphasia express their thoughts:

  • Be patient. Give the person time to speak and find their words.
  • Avoid jumping in. Ask if you can help before you try to guess what they want to say.
  • Ask yes/no questions where possible. Provide a short number of options when asking questions. E.g. “Would you like tea or coffee?
  • Check that you have understood. Summarise, then ask “Is that correct?”
  • Remember to take breaks. People with aphasia often experience fatigue and conversations can be exhausting. Try to talk about more complicated topics at a time when the person feels their best such as in the morning.

If you or a loved one are experiencing aphasia, the team at Adult Speech Therapy have experienced therapists who love to work in this area. Ask about individual therapy options that are tailored to your needs. Contact us on 04 6659 2104.

Adult Speech Therapy
We are a small team of passionate, motivated and purpose driven professionals ready to help you live an enriched and meaningful life. Our team provides a personalised service and will support you to achieve meaningful goals.
We are registered NDIS providers and help NDIS participants achieve amazing outcomes for a range of speech related conditions.