Dysphasia is a language disorder that is characterized by impairment of speech, writing, and comprehension of spoken or written language. The affection may be mild or severe.

Symptoms include difficulty in talking, writing, listening, and understanding. Daily tasks such as answering the phone or shopping may prove difficult. There may also be difficulties with grammar structure and verbal association.

Dysphasia can often cause people confusion due to the comprehension deficits, and it can cause stress at school and at home. People with this condition are often considered illogical and sometimes thought to be drunk or mentally confused.

Treatments include adaptation through coping mechanisms, speech therapy, and techniques such as repeating things, talking slowly, and using drawings.

Dysphasia results in changes to some or all of the following areas of communication: understanding, talking, reading and writing. The main centres that control speech and language are on the left side of the brain and dysphasia most often results from damage to these areas. Dysphasia will differ from person to person depending on which parts and how much of the brain is affected.

Conditions that can cause dysphasia include:

  • Stroke; blockage of blood supply or bleeding in the brain
  • Trauma to the brain; usually as a result of an accident, infection, or toxic substance
  • Degenerative diseases; e.g. dementia
  • Brain tumours

Effects of dysphasia

  • A person with dysphasia may experience difficulty:
  • Concentrating and remembering information
  • Understanding what people are saying in conversation
  • Understanding and using gestures, such as pointing, waving or facial expressions
  • Understanding written information such as newspapers, books and signs
  • Finding the word they want to use when talking or writing. People may get stuck on a word
  • Mixing up the sounds in words or meanings of words
  • Using correct words (some may be nonsense words)
  • Recognising specific sounds or words
  • Controlling automatic language (e.g. swearing).

Treatment of dysphasia

Treatment of dysphasia is dependent on the specific difficulties the person is experiencing. Treatment usually has a practical focus, helping the person communicate effectively in everyday life.

Various communication aids such as white boards, picture boards and electronic talkers may help a person with dysphasia convey their message. These aids may be used in the short and long term and are usually implemented with the help of a Speech Pathologist.

General Tips for Communicating with someone who has dysphasia

  • Reduce background noise and distractions
  • Ensure the person is wearing their glasses and hearing aid if appropriate
  • Include the person with dysphasia in conversations
  • Encourage and accept all attempts at communication
  • Always check to see if both communication partners are talking about the same topic.

Communicating with someone who has dysphasia - When you are listening:

  • Make sure you are looking at the person
  • Allow the person plenty of time to speak
  • Encourage the person to use gesture, such as hand movements or facial expressions.

Communicating with someone who has dysphasia - When you are talking:

  • Make sure the person can see your face easily
  • Use simple language - avoid complicated words and sentences
  • Allow the person plenty of time to understand what has been said
  • Ask questions that require a yes / no or one word response. e.g. ‘Would you like a vanilla or chocolate ice cream?’ or ‘Would you like a chocolate ice cream?’
  • Draw, write or gesture to add more meaning to your spoken words
  • Slowly repeat instructions or key words if you are concerned the other person has not understood.