The Adult Language Program at the Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic at the University at Buffalo offers evaluation and treatment services for individuals with communication difficulties related to congenital anomalies, head injury, stroke and progressive neurological diseases. Clients with aphasia subsequent to brain damage are seen within the Adult Language Program.
Aphasia is a communication disability caused by damage to the language centers of the brain, usually as the result of a stroke or head injury. It is not a loss of intelligence. Depending on where and to what extent the brain is injured, each person with aphasia has a unique set of language competencies and disabilities. While intelligence remains intact, abilities to speak, understand spoken language, read, or write may be reduced or eliminated.
There are many types of aphasia within two general categories: nonfluent and fluent. Someone with nonfluent (expressive or Broca's) aphasia speaks in a hesitant, telegraphic style using short phrases and effort in speaking. Individuals with nonfluent aphasia usually can understand speech more easily than they can speak. Individuals with fluent (receptive or Wernicke's) aphasia speak at a normal rate, but may have difficulty producing their intended words. They tend to "talk around" a point, substitute a similar word or use nonsense words. They may also have difficulty understanding speech. Persons who have very severe difficulties speaking, reading, writing and understanding are said to have global aphasia.
Guidelines for communicating with individuals with aphasia include being open to different ways of getting and sending messages, confirming that you are communicating successfully, allowing adequate time for speaking, and reducing noise.
Evaluations are designed to provide an assessment of a person's communicative abilities and potential. Expressive, receptive and pragmatic language abilities, phonology, voice, fluency and the hearing mechanism are evaluated during an in-depth diagnostic procedure. The assessments and intervention are conducted by graduate clinicians under the direct supervision of a faculty member with particular expertise in the area of concern. Clients are seen on an average twice weekly for individual sessions and once weekly within a group setting to maximize communication potential and utilize individual strategies within a naturalistic setting.
An Adult Treatment Room simulates a naturalistic environment to facilitate the transition from therapy to realistic life situations. Significant others are an integral part of the clinical process and are encouraged to participate as active members of the treatment team. Various treatment approaches are utilized and focus on maximization of functional communication. Compensatory strategies for word retrieval, auditory and reading comprehension and writing are emphasized. Augmentative/alternative communication devices are available for appropriate clients.
The philosophy of the program is to have the client successfully convey a message through all modalities and increase communicative competence. Counseling related to role changes and coping with chronic disabilities is offered by trained professionals familiar with the course of aphasia. The Adult Language Program is affiliated with the National Aphasia Association (NAA) which can be reached at 800-922-4622 or at its website.