Aphasia is a language impairment which affects a person’s ability to understand, read, write or speak, and it is usually caused by stroke: an estimated 350,000 people live with aphasia in the UK alone.

Aphasia changes the way that people interact with their family and friends, limits their ability to work, and be involved with the community around them.

Our Speech and Language Therapists work with people living with aphasia, supporting them to adapt and overcome the challenges they face. To mark Aphasia Awareness Month, here is one of the many stories about the many people our team help support.

After her mother Anna had a stroke in February 2017, Janette was supported by our Speech and Language Therapy teams as her mother recovered. Anna had difficulty forming words and problems with swallowing, and Speech and Language Therapist worked with her family to come up with goals to help with these problems.

With the help of our teams, Anna has now moved on from only being to eat and drink very little, to normal drinking and eating a soft diet.

She also continues to get better at speaking, and is currently working on being able to speak short phrases, so that she can make requests and participate in conversations.

Anna’s daughter Jeanette said “I have found that my mum’s speech has progressed with the wonderful help from Louise (one of our speech therapists).”

In the beginning, my mum found it so very hard to say anything, but now we are so happy with the progress she is making, so thank you Louise!

Louise Evans, a speech and language therapist at Oxford Health, said: “With an ageing population, aphasia is going to continue to affect people both here in the UK and around the world, and I feel proud of the work that speech and language therapists are doing to support people living with this condition.”

“Our knowledge and expertise has been described as ‘invaluable’, and feedback from relatives, carers and friends here in Oxfordshire also highlights the wider role we have as counsellors and motivators, right from when patients are in the hospital to when they go back to their own communities.”

More about speech and language therapy
Speech and language therapy is the main treatment for aphasia, and it aims to restore communication abilities and provide other methods of communication if needed.

Our therapists also work alongside other healthcare professionals to support decision making, which can be very challenging when a person has difficulties understanding or communicating.

As stroke is the main cause of aphasia, our speech and language teams also work closely with the Stroke Association, the UK’s leading Stroke Charity, who does fantastic work here in Oxfordshire providing support services and campaigning to raise awareness about stroke.

Their most recent campaign calls for us to ‘Change the Story’ of Stroke Survivors’ by investing in research to support recovery after Stroke.

Harriet Hammond from the Stroke Association said: “Our Communication Support Service supports stroke survivors with communication difficulties, providing information, advice and directly helping them work towards functional communication goals, usually following on from speech and language therapy’s impairment-based intervention.”

“Working in collaboration with speech and language Therapists ensures a holistic provision of support for the stroke survivor, avoiding overlap or gaps in service”.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have also been working alongside the Stroke Association, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Communication Matters and other organisations across the world, to create a symbol for businesses and services to display to show that their staff are trained on supporting people with communication difficulties.