Friday, March 25, 2011

Masking Your Aphasia

Aphasia affects people in different ways.  In my practice as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have seen various severities of aphasia.  These severities range from the individual who cannot say a single word all the way to the person who can communicate his/her thoughts but may stumble on a few wording finding episodes.

I recently met a woman who had a stroke a couple of months ago and now suffers from aphasia.  From afar, she looks like she has it all together: nice looking, stylish dresser, nice family, great job, lots of friends.  She even can converse in small talk with you to where you would never know she had aphasia.  She does well to "mask" her aphasia.  How?  Well, she doesn't initiate any conversations with anyone or include herself in any group activities, and has actually removed herself from activities she previously enjoyed because she does not want anyone to see her limitations.  She knows that if you were able to sit with her and really talk with her you would see how much of a struggle it is for her to really carry on a meaningful conversation.  It is very frustrating for her.  In her mind, she doesn't want anyone to know that she no longer has it all "together".

So, is "masking" her aphasia and avoiding people and situations the right thing to do?  In my professional opinion, absolutely not.  I understand the pride thing, I really do.  However, you should not cut off your friends and stop doing things that make you happy because you are afraid of what people think.  You have to continue living your life.  Also, from a therapist's point of view, the more interactions and conversations you have with others, the more likely you are to progress in your speaking ability.  I know this is easier to say than do, but I definitely believe that the quality of life is more important than the quantity.