Aphasia and Speech Therapy

With Bruce Willis's recent diagnosis, aphasia has been making news headlines. What exactly is aphasia, and how can a speech therapist help?

Classified as a language disorder, aphasia can make it difficult for people to speak, read, write, and/or understand. Aphasia occurs as a result of brain damage. While the most common cause is stroke, it can result from any type of brain damage, including traumatic brain injury and brain tumors (American Speech Language Hearing Association, 2022). In the case of the neurological syndrome Primary Progressive Aphasia, language becomes more and more impaired over time (National Aphasia Association, n.d.).

Symptoms of aphasia depend on the type of aphasia, but can include:

  1. Word-finding difficulties
  2. Saying the incorrect word by mistake
  3. Comprehension difficulties

How can a speech-language pathologist help? Treatment is tailored to the individual patient, and can focus on a number of language skills, from word-finding strategies to sentence production to answering questions to reading and writing skills. For some patients, the speech-language pathologist may recommend an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to assist with communication. Treatment is always functional and aims to improve the patient's overall quality of life and support building back those language abilities. The speech-language pathologist may also recommend a support group to connect with other individuals that have aphasia (American Speech Language Hearing Association, 2022).

Thinking of Bruce Willis, his family, and all folks with aphasia and their caregivers during this time!

-Erika Baldwin, M.S., CCC-SLP


American Speech Language Hearing Association. (2022). Aphasia. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/aphasia/

National Aphasia Association. (n.d.). Primary Progressive Aphasia. https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-resources/primary-progressive-aphasia/?gclid=CjwKCAjw0a-SBhBkEiwApljU0g2stSi8DST5i6he2Y1LAl1NIH18IK6eKJXxsq9mtR4wx4Do00ixIxoCt1gQAvD_BwE