What is aphasia?

June is Aphasia Awareness Month, a national campaign dedicated to increasing public awareness about the language disorder and recognizing people who are living with or caring for people with aphasia.

In a Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, aphasia participants practice communication using multiple platforms.

In a Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, participants practice communication using multiple platforms. Photo by Tami Brancamp/UNR Med.

What is aphasia?

June is Aphasia Awareness Month, a national campaign dedicated to increasing public awareness about the language disorder and recognizing people who are living with or caring for people with aphasia.

In a Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, participants practice communication using multiple platforms. Photo by Tami Brancamp/UNR Med.

In a Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, aphasia participants practice communication using multiple platforms.

In a Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, participants practice communication using multiple platforms. Photo by Tami Brancamp/UNR Med.

Aphasia affects about 2 million Americans. It’s more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA, nearly 180,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year.

Yet most people have never heard of it.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to areas of the brain that are responsible for language production and processing. While core intelligence remains intact, aphasia disrupts communication – including speaking, listening, reading and writing – ultimately impacting an individual’s ability to create and maintain relationships, which is vital for human connection.

What causes aphasia?

Aphasia is most commonly caused by a stroke, particularly in older individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports almost 800,000 experience a stroke in the U.S. each year. But, brain injuries resulting in aphasia can also arise from head trauma, brain tumors, degenerative diseases, or even infections.

What are the long-term impacts of aphasia?

Aphasia is a chronic condition that impacts people for the rest of their lives. Impacts may include loss of social and vocational networks, reduced quality of life and life satisfaction, loneliness, social isolation, boredom, lack of participation, lack of control, frustration and depression.

How does the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology support people with aphasia?

Our goal is to empower those with aphasia to re-engage in life participation and to be at the center of all decision making in their recovery process. Working one-on-one with aphasia patients in speech therapy is beneficial to their recovery, but there is even greater benefit when people living with aphasia can meet, connect and share experiences. In addition to clinical services, we host a communication group and a book club to promote awareness and understanding of aphasia, provide education and support, and enhance the quality of life those with aphasia and their caregivers.

The Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group meets the first and third Friday of each month at 2:30 p.m. Aphasia book club meetings are held on the second and fourth Friday of each month at 2:30 p.m. In response to COVID-19, both meetings are being held virtually, via Zoom, until further notice. Both groups are offered at no charge to people with aphasia and their care partners.

While aphasia is a chronic condition, we now know that it's never too late to improve its effects. We encourage anyone who could benefit from our aphasia clinical services, communication group or book club to contact us at (775) 784-4887 or email Dr. Brancamp at tbrancamp@med.unr.edu.

Do speech pathology and audiology students work with aphasia patients?

Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group sessions are supported by our undergraduate and graduate students and facilitated by faculty. During this last semester, UNR students partnered with the Aphasia Center of Nevada to participate in service-learning collaborations totally more than 300 hours. Together, faculty, students, care partners and people with aphasia created multiple in -person events. Due to COVID-19, most events were held online. Together, we work to increase the communication and confidence of those living with aphasia, expanding student’s learning experiences in a safe and supportive environment for all.

UNR Med’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Department offers students a pre-professional bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology and professional graduate degrees in speech-language pathology.


Tami Brancamp, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is associate professor, clinical supervisor and director of graduate studies in the School of Medicine’s Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.

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