Aphasia is the inability to express thoughts in words, or the inability to understand thoughts expressed in the spoken or written words of others.

Aphasia can range from mild to severe.

  • Global aphasia is the severest form, where the child has either very little understanding of or very little ability to use spoken language.
  • Broca’s aphasia (non-fluent aphasia) results in the understanding but limited use of vocabulary and slow, laborious speech.

Other types of aphasia have also been identified.

Aphasia in children is quite rare and is usually the result of damage to the brain through birth trauma, stroke, brain tumour, infection or accident. It is usually treated through speech and language therapy. Aphasia affects one or more of a person’s language functions, depending on the part of the brain that has been damaged.

Key characteristics

Children with aphasia may:

  • have expressive language difficulties, but an understanding of some spoken language
  • sometimes have difficulty swallowing
  • have receptive language difficulties (trouble understanding meaning), but be able to speak using a limited vocabulary
  • have difficulties learning to read and write.

Support strategies

All support strategies should be implemented under the guidance of a speech and language therapist. They may include:

  • exercises for the facial muscles
  • speech-sound activities
  • noun picture cards to improve memory of object names
  • learning sign language
  • using ICT to support development of speech, hearing and reading comprehension.

Support agencies

British Institute for Brain Injured Children (BIBIC)