Our last online chat was about the unique aspects of the participant’s aphasia, but it quickly became a commiserating session. Many of the problems experienced by one person ended up being experienced by others, too. In the same vein, sometimes participants shared solutions because what worked for one person may work for another. These were just a few of the challenges discussed.

Mixed Up Pronouns

One participant stated: “I usually get my pronoun mixed up when I speak. I used to blame it on my mother tongue, Malay, which does not use pronouns. But I met a handful of aphasics who are monolingual and only speak English who have the same problem. I’m interested to hear if anybody else has the same problem. My grammar could be better, too.”

Darlene, President of the NAA and a speech-language pathologist, explained a truism in speech therapy: “Little word, big problem.” Meaning, tiny, everyday words can sometimes be harder to say than unusual words. She called these words the “frosting on the cake,” though pointed out that it’s very hard to frost a cake.

76% of other people on the call also had trouble with pronouns. 4% said they sometimes had trouble, and 20% said they never had trouble.

Trouble With Numbers

Numbers are also affected by aphasia. One participant said, “I can only remember 3 to 4 numbers, so I have to write them down. I can write 3, maybe 4, then need to be told the next group of numbers. So don’t say a phone number without having to replay it multiple times.”

Many others nodded in agreement. 77% of participants also had trouble remembering or saying numbers. 10% said this was sometimes a problem, and 13% said this was never a problem. When the speaker goes slowly and pauses every few numbers so the brain can catch up, it helps to get numbers down on the first try.

Apraxia and Aphasia

Multiple people on the call experienced both aphasia and apraxia. Apraxia affects how the mouth forms words. The person may know what they want to say but have trouble moving their lips and tongue into the correct position to form the sound.

Doreen, a fellow participant on the call, gave a suggestion she used to work through her apraxia. She practiced speech in front of a mirror, watching her mouth forming the words. It wasn’t a one-time exercise but something she did regularly, even carrying a tiny mirror in her purse to use when she was out of the house and needed to watch her lips to remember how to form the words.

What are your aphasia challenges?