What is aphasia? 

Aphasia is an acquired language disorder. It is a change in the way your child uses or processes language after a medical incident or injury. Aphasia can make it hard for your child to understand what others say, what they read, or show their full knowledge of something. Your child may know what they want to say but have trouble expressing it through talking or writing. 

Causes of aphasia 

The following can cause changes in your child’s brain that lead to aphasia:

Symptoms of aphasia

You might notice changes in how your child understands or uses language, like:

  • Word-finding difficulties (your child feeling like the word is on the tip of their tongue)
  • Using the wrong word for something (with or without realizing it)
  • Using vague language
  • Difficulty making sentences or telling stories
  • Challenges understanding directions
  • Difficulty spelling or writing
  • Difficulty reading or understanding what they are reading

Symptoms can range from mild to severe:

  • If your child has mild symptoms, they may have word-finding difficulties only some of the time. They may still be able to have a full conversation, read and write.
  • If your child has severe symptoms, they may not be able to understand conversation and directions. They may not be able to say more than a few words or syllables at a time.

Testing and diagnosis for aphasia

Notify your child’s doctor if you notice sudden changes in your child’s ability to understand and use language.

Here at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), one of our speech-language pathologists (SLP) can assess your child's language skills. This assessment can determine the presence and severity of aphasia.

Treatment for aphasia

Our CHOP SLPs provide therapy for children and young adults with aphasia. They can provide therapy for your child in the following settings:

  • Inpatient/acute care
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Day hospital
  • Outpatient

Speech-language therapy sessions will involve you, your child, their other caregiver(s) and a CHOP SLP. Sessions may be play-based or structured with tabletop activities. This will depend on your child’s needs and abilities. Sessions will also include your child's interests and your family's culture. This leads to better engagement, relevance, learning and fun.

If your child has aphasia, they may need support in their school setting. Therapy or strategies to support learning (accommodations), can be written up in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

Reviewed by Arielle Berne, MA, CCC-SLP