Thursday, April 07, 2016

How I learned about aphasia and intelligence - the hard way

The note on the right was written by my wife back in 1998. I was trying to say "Jonesboro," the last word on the list. Instead, I said the top three words on the list.

Nonsense, in other words. And maddening, in that I knew what I was trying to say but something was in the way. My intelligence was intact - just couldn't get out.

I'd never heard of aphasia before I had my stroke. Now, you do see it in the news from time to time, but it's still frequently misunderstood.

Here's a good rundown on how aphasia is a little-known, yet growing, health problem:
At least 25 percent of the estimated 795,000 Americans who will have a stroke this year will acquire aphasia, according to Williamson's nonprofit organization. Symptoms can vary widely. While many have trouble speaking, others also struggle to process words being spoken to them, to read and to write.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, has aphasia. Her occasional TV appearances showing her speaking haltingly and carefully have made her perhaps the most visible of the condition's sufferers.
What aphasia does not do is affect intelligence, though many people fail to grasp this.
"Language is such a pervasive feature of being a human being that when you can't talk anymore, people find it very frightening, even if your other cognitive features are pretty much intact," said Audrey Holland, a University of Arizona professor and one of the nation's most respected aphasia researchers. "People see it as, you must have a lot of other things wrong with you."
And has noted - aphasia does NOT affect intelligence.

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