Aphasia: Loss of Language


MIAMI. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Imagine waking up one day unable to speak. It’s a devastating disorder. See how music is helping those suffering the loss of language.

“She’s fluent in two languages, Spanish and French,” said Richard Blumberg.

But after 50 years of marriage, Richard’s wife, Estelle started stumbling when she talked.

“She would screw up her pronouns, she’d say you need to go to the store, when she meant herself, she needed to go to the store,” detailed Richard.

Estelle was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia.

Fred DiCarlo, Ed.D, CCC-SLP, an assistant professor and clinical supervisor in the department of speech and language pathology at Nova Southeastern University, explained “Aphasia is basically the loss of language.”

Professor DiCarlo said the disorder shuts down your ability to speak.

“You want to say something to somebody and the word just doesn’t come,” DiCarlo told Ivanhoe.

But he said they hide what’s happening by using “cocktail speech.”

“So they’re able to socialize, mingle and say the words here and there, and people don’t really notice,” said DiCarlo.

But over time, they can’t fake it and lose the ability to speak as well as to understand and remember.

Aphasia hit Gary Green after he suffered a stroke.

Professor DiCarlo and his students created a dance contest building on the success of melodic intonation therapy, which converts singing into speech to help with memory and verbalization, “Where you use melody, introduce the melody to words,” detailed DiCarlo.

Estelle’s breakthrough came with the words to her favorite frank Sinatra song!

Richard said, “Whenever I look at her and she’s smiling I feel good,” keeping those who lose their words in the rhythm of life.

Researchers from the University of Illinois compared three groups of older adults who walked briskly, stretched, or took dance classes. The first two groups had degeneration in the brain but the group that danced had improved processing speed and memory.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Judy Reich, Videographer.


REPORT #2427

BACKGROUND: Professor Fred DiCarlo from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Nova Southeastern University says “Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language. Aphasia may cause difficulties in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, but often does not affect intelligence.” It’s more common in older adults, particularly those who have had a stroke. People who have aphasia may have difficulty speaking and finding the “right” words to complete their thoughts. The main symptoms of aphasia include: trouble speaking, struggling with finding the appropriate term or word, and using strange or inappropriate words in conversation. Usually, a doctor first diagnoses aphasia when treating a patient for a stroke, brain injury, or tumor. Using a series of neurological tests, the doctor may ask the person questions. The doctor may also issue specific commands and ask the person to name different items or objects. The results of these tests help the doctor determine if the person has aphasia. They also help determine the severity of the aphasia.

(Source: http://www.webmd.com/brain/aphasia-causes-symptoms-types-treatments#1)

TREATMENT: Sometimes aphasia will improve on its own, but usually speech therapy is recommended. This treatment is carried out by a speech and language therapist. For people with aphasia, speech and language therapy aims to help you communicate to the best of your ability, help restore as much of your speech and language as possible, and find alternative ways of communicating. Evidence suggests speech and language therapy is more effective if it’s started as soon as possible. The type of therapy a patient undergoes depends on each person’s circumstance and how aphasia affects them. Other treatments besides therapy such as medications and transcranial magnetic stimulation are being researched.

(Source: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Aphasia/Pages/Treatment.aspx)

MELODIC INTONATION THERAPY: Another treatment approach is Melodic Intonation Therapy. In 1973, researchers developed a therapy based on the fact that speech and singing are stored in different parts of the brain. The left hemisphere of the brain is very specialized for speaking. And the right hemisphere is more specialized for carrying a tune. U.S. Representative Gabby Gifford suffers from aphasia after a gunshot injury to the head. Gifford’s struggle with speech is called non-fluent aphasia. Gifford is able to sing multiple lines of songs, but has trouble speaking. Gottfried Schlaug, a neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, has been conducting a trial of melodic intonation therapy. Patients will learn to sing a sentence first, and then eventually transform it into speaking. Professor Fred DiCarlo and his graduate student clinicians developed a treatment activity that used music to enhance communication skills, specifically speaking, following directions, and social support. The outcome was a dance show/contest called “Dancing with the Aphasia Group Stars.”

(Source: http://www.today.com/health/if-gabby-giffords-still-struggles-speak-how-can-she-sing-2D11888324)

* For More Information, Contact:

Fred DiCarlo, Ed. D. CCC-SLP                                  Maria Oxenhandler

dicarlof@nova.edu                                                     moxenhandl@nova.edu

954-262-7786                                                              954-262-5315

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