Primary Progressive Aphasia

What is it?

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is a degenerative condition which means that it will get progressively worse over time. There are three different types of PPA.

Initially, your language abilities become slow and impaired. As your condition progresses, you may find you experience other difficulties such as memory loss.

How does PPA progress?

At first, you may notice a subtle change in your language abilities which worsens over time. How language is impacted varies from person to person.

What type of PPA do I have?

Logopenic: Speech tends to be slow, but you are likely to find it very difficult to think of the correct word. You may find it difficult to repeat phrases or sentences.

Progressive non-fluent: You may not use many grammatical words in your speech (like ‘a’ and ‘the’). Your speech may be very effortful and halted. You may get some sounds incorrect. For example, saying ‘gog’ for ‘dog’.

Semantic: You may find it difficult to name objects. You may find it difficult to understand single words.

How can I aid my speech and language?

If you find it difficult to think of the right word, it can be useful to have some words written down about the topic. For example, if you like to speak about gardening you could write down ‘gardening’, ‘growing flowers’, ‘tulips’ to help support you.

If talking on the telephone is difficult, you could write a ‘script’ with some common things you say when answering the phone such as ‘Good morning, John speaking’, ‘I am feeling good, how are you feeling’ and ‘Thank you for calling, have a nice day’. You could keep this by the telephone to it is easy to access when you get a call.

If you have some difficulties in public, you could make a card that you can put in your wallet/purse explaining what PPA is to help people understand that you may have some difficulties communicating. There is an example below:

If making the right sounds during speech is difficult, you could use gestures (such as thumbs up or thumbs down) and facial expressions to communicate with others. Using a gesture or facial expression is a great way of showing people how you feel and giving your opinion.

When having a conversation, try and reduce background noise. For example, turning off the television reduces distractions and allows you to focus on your speech and language.

How can I help my family member with PPA?

Be patient: It can take someone with PPA extra time to think of the right words to say or to find the right sounds to produce. In a conversation, maintain eye contact and open body language to show that you are still engaged.

Ask yes/no questions: Open questions (where they must elaborate on answers) can be difficult for people with PPA. If you notice this, asking questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ allows your family member to give their opinion and be part of the conversation.

Use photographs: Your family member may find it difficult to understand information. If you have photographs that you can point too and use in your explanations, then this can help them understand what you are trying to say.

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Page last reviewed: 22 February, 2024