DisPatches, June 1999National Aphasia Week, June 6-12 by Gloria Kopshever
The use of speech to communicate is unique to humans. When speech is impaired or absent, the impact on the person and his family is profound.
One of the most heartbreaking and devastating disabilities is aphasia. Most people have not heard about aphasia, nor do they know the term until someone in their family or a friend acquires aphasia. It is always due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke.
It has been estimated that about 1 million people in the US have acquired aphasia. Age, sex, race, nationality, vocation and education are not determining factors, and in most cases cognitive abilities are intact and the person is able to process auditory and visual information. In other words, just because a person is not able to speak does not mean that intelligence is affected.
Apraxia of speech and Dysarthria are other speech disorders that may be confused with aphasia. These disorders relate to the mechanical production of speech, voluntary articulation, and spontaneous coordination of the speech mechanism.
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For 13 years Santa Rosa Junior College has offered a Group Speech Class, taught by Dr. John Samples, which has helped many persons overcome communication disabilities.