Types of Aphasia

Two men talking and laughing

A stroke that occurs in areas of the brain that control speech and language can result in aphasia, a disorder that affects your ability to speak, read, write and listen.

Different aspects of language are in different parts of the left side of the brain. So your type of aphasia depends on how your stroke affects parts of your brain.

Wernicke's Aphasia (receptive)

If you have Wernicke’s Aphasia, you may:

  • Say many words that don’t make sense.
  • Use the wrong words; for instance, you might call a fork a “gleeble.”
  • String together a series of meaningless words that sound like a sentence but don’t make sense.

Broca's Aphasia (expressive)

Injury to the frontal regions of the left hemisphere impacts how words are strung together to form complete sentences. This can lead to Broca’s Aphasia, which is characterized by:

  • Difficulty forming complete sentences.
  • Leaving out words like “is” or “the.”
  • Saying something that doesn’t resemble a sentence.
  • Trouble understanding sentences.
  • Making mistakes in following directions like “left, right, under and after.”
  • Using a word that’s close to what you intend, but not the exact word; for example, saying “car” when you mean “truck.”

Global Aphasia

A stroke that affects an extensive portion of your front and back regions of the left hemisphere may result in Global Aphasia. You may have difficulty:

  • Understanding words and sentences.
  • Forming words and sentences.

Family and friends can help

Some people mistakenly think those with aphasia aren’t as smart as they used to be. But they can think; they just can’t say what they think. You can help people with aphasia express themselves by:

  • Asking yes/no questions.
  • Paraphrasing periodically during conversation.
  • Modifying the length and complexity of conversations.
  • Using gestures to emphasize important points.
  • Establishing a topic before beginning a conversation.

If you have aphasia, you can practice common conversation starters like “How are you doing?” in a quiet, distraction-free environment. As you become more comfortable in one-to-one or small group interactions, try less-controlled social situations with your speech-language pathologist, close friends, family or other stroke survivors. And through intensive rehabilitation, you can avoid the frustration and isolation that aphasia can create.