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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) What is aphasia?

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Frequently Asked Questions 


What is aphasia?




Aphasia is a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written. Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write.  It is a communication disorder that results from damage or injury to language parts of the brain that can occur with autoimmune encephalitis.

Aphasia gets in the way of a person’s ability to use or understand words. Aphasia does not impair the person’s intelligence. People who have aphasia may have difficulty speaking and finding the “right” words to complete their thoughts. They may also have problems understanding conversation, reading and comprehending written words, writing words, and using numbers.

If you know someone with aphasia …


  • Say when you don’t understand – it’s not a problem, you just need to try it again.
  • Stick to one topic at a time and make sure you both know when you’ve moved on to a new one.
  • Keep it simple – keep sentences short and ask one question at a time.
  • Use whatever you can – point to things, make gestures, write, draw, hum or sing.


  • Finish sentences or guess what the other person is trying to say – it’s extremely frustrating. Just give them the time they need to get there themselves
  • Pretend to understand what they’ve told you – always check
  • Forget that you’re talking to an adult who has problems with their communication, not their intelligence
  • Rush – give time to understand and respond

To better understand aphasia in the context of AE, it is important to first know how the brain processes language as well as the different types of aphasia that can occur as a result of damage to any of these language centers. Our handout about aphasia explains more. See handout.


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