Learning about aphasia, a language disorder that affects 2 million Americans

UNR Med’s Speech Pathology and Audiology provides clinical and community services for language disorder affecting 2 million in the U.S.

In the Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group, participants practice communication using multiple platforms including talking, low-tech pen and paper, high-tech smart phones and iPads. All communication methods are supported and encouraged.

In the Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group-which met in-person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to meet virtually-aphasia participants practice communication using multiple platforms including talking, low-tech pen and paper, high-tech smart phones and iPads. All communication methods are supported and encouraged. Photo by Tami Brancamp/UNR Med.

Many people have never heard of it, yet aphasia affects about 2 million Americans and is more common than Parkinson's Disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year, according to the National Aphasia Association (NAA).

June is Aphasia Awareness Month, a national campaign to increase public awareness about the language disorder and to recognize people who are living with or caring for people with aphasia. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology (SPA) is increasing aphasia awareness by educating the public on the effects of having aphasia, and aphasia clinical and community services available from UNR Med.  

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aphasia is defined as 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.  

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

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.  

UNR Med's SPA department offers clinical and community services, and hosts a bi-monthly Aphasia Communication Group, as well as an Aphasia book club to promote awareness and understanding of aphasia and provide education and support to those with aphasia and their caregivers, in order to enhance their quality of life.  

"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," said Tami Brancamp, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. "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."  

The Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group is open to all people with aphasia and their care partners, and is free of charge. Communication Group sessions are held the first and third Friday of each month at 2:30 p.m. The meetings are held virtually, via Zoom, in compliance with Governor Steve Sisolak's Stay at Home directive for Nevada, limiting gatherings to 10 or less as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the meetings return to in-person sessions, they will be held on the UNR Med campus, in the Nell J. Redfield Building, located at 123 17th Street, Reno, Nevada, just north of Mackay Stadium off North Virginia Street. Take RTC bus route 7 to North Virginia Street or the Sierra Spirit bus.  

Brancamp facilitates the Not Alone Aphasia Communication Group sessions with University undergrad and graduate SPA students, to increase communication and confidence with those living with aphasia, in a safe and supportive environment.  

Aphasia book club meetings are held bimonthly on the second and fourth Friday of each month, at 2:30 p.m. Book club meetings are also held virtually, via Zoom, until further notice.  

UNR Med's Speech Pathology and Audiology department offers a pre-professional bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology and professional graduate degrees in Speech-Language Pathology. 

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Email: news@med.unr.edu

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Tuesday June 2, 2020 @ 6:00 AM