common brain disorders

Common Communication Disorders Defined: What are all these terms and what do they mean for everyday life?

Posted by Constant Therapy

As we have talked about in previous posts, there is so much terminology in the world of medicine, and communication disorders are no exception.  Read on to find overviews of common communication disorders and how they affect everyday life - AND what you can do!

Read on for a quick list of some of the most common communication disorders and associated conditions that can lead to communication disorders.

Aphasia

  • What is it?
Aphasia is the loss of language skills after a trauma to the brain.  This can be from stroke, trauma, illness, or other issues.  It does NOT affect intellect!  It can affect understanding and/or production of language.  No one person's aphasia is identical to another's.  The most characteristic symptom of aphasia is not being able to find the word that you want - it's like having the word you want on the tip of your tongue all day long.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Aphasia can be extremely frustrating, and often can prevent a person from returning to work, or even making a list to go to the grocery store or following a conversation with a friend.

Apraxia

  • What is it?
Apraxia is a neurologically based difficulty with coordinating speech.  The more complicated a word or sentence, the more trouble a person with Apraxia will usually have.  Apraxia can either be a developmental disorder (this is called Childhood Apraxia of Speech and is something a child is born with) or acquired (meaning it happens later in life after an incident such as stroke, TBI, or other neurological trauma or illness).
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Imagine knowing exactly what you want to say, having the word, but then hearing it come out garbled.  Apraxia, like many communication disorders, can be very frustrating.  It prevents clear speech, which affects all spoken communication.  Apraxia often co-occurs with Aphasia, making speaking particularly difficult - not only is the speech component of communication, but also finding the right words becomes extremely difficulty.

Articulation Disorder/Delay

  • What is it?
An articulation delay/disorder generally means that someone has difficulty with specific speech sounds; some of the most common are "s", "r", and "th".  Often these delays go away on their own during early childhood, and it is in fact normal for young children to make errors when they produce difficult sounds.  If persistent and untreated, these errors can continue into adult life.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
As with many communication disorders, having different speech and communication can be stressful and even embarrassing.  Speech therapists can often help with articulation disorders or delays - many SLPs offer free screenings.  Although articulation difficulties cannot always be treated in a school, school SLPs can be great resources if you need to find out if there is an issue - if there is an issue school SLPs can refer you to private practice or outpatient SLPs who can help.  Sometimes these services can be covered by insurance - it depends on individual plans.

Dementia

  • What is it?
Dementia is a degenerative disease (meaning it gets worse over time).  The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's Disease.  It affects memory, concentration, and can affect personality as well.  Although dementia is degenerative, there are studies that suggest cognitive training and remaining involved in the community can help to stave off worsening symptoms.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Imagine losing your keys EVERY day.  Imagine losing your train of thought constantly.  Dementia can wax and wane throughout the day - this varies for different people.  Often folks with dementia may be clearer in the morning but may experience a "sundowning" effect, where they become more confused later in the day.  Dementia affects every aspect of life, from everyday activities like grocery shopping, to carrying on conversations with loved ones.

Dysarthria

  • What is it?
Dysarthria is a voice disorder that is neurologic in nature.  It is often caused by stroke or by neurological disease, such as Parkinson's.  There are different types of dysarthria, depending on the cause and the ways that your voice system has been affected.  Some people speak very slowly and effortfully, others speak very quickly.  Sometimes people with dysarthria have very quiet, breathy voices, while others voices become very harsh.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
For this, think of having laryngitis... but much worse... all the time.  Often persons with dysarthria's voices tire over time as well.  This affects spoken communication ranging from ordering at Starbucks to speaking on the phone.

Dyslexia

  • What is it?
Dyslexia is a disorder specific to reading.  It ranges in levels of severity, but affects a person's ability to associate sounds with letters and then put those sounds together to form words.  It can be developmental (something someone is born with) or acquired (caused by an event, such as a stroke or brain injury).
  • How does it affect everyday life?
So much of our society, from ordering from a menu to finding a job you love and are passionate about depends on literacy and the ability to read.  When reading is hard, it's not fun, and this can affect performance in school and in life in general.  When acquired, dyslexia can take away a former joy from someone's life if they previously loved to read.

Dysphagia

  • What is it?
Dysphagia is not exactly a communication disorder, but it is often related to many communication disorders, such as Aphasia, Apraxia, and TBI.  It is difficulty with swallowing, which can be anatomically (issues with the physical parts of your throat that help you swallow) or neurologically (the signals sent from your brain) based.  It takes dozens of muscles to safely swallow!  If anything goes wrong, your swallow can be affected and then you are at risk of aspiration - getting liquids or foods into your lungs.  This can cause pneumonia and can be very dangerous.  As people get older, the swallow naturally becomes weaker.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Dysphagia can be very challenging, both to treat and to compensate for.  Some strengthening exercises exist, and trained professionals such as speech pathologists or some occupational therapists or ear, nose, throat doctors can guide you through these.  Additionally, sometimes such specialists will recommend changing the consistency of the liquids or solids you're eating - your liquids can be thickened or your foods softened to make swallowing easier.  This of course affects how easy it is to go out to eat, one of the many social activities that our society revolves around.

Fluency Disorder

  • What is it?
More commonly known as stuttering or stammering, a fluency disorder is when a person gets stuck when speaking.  They may go silent (called a block), or repeat sounds or words.  The cause of stuttering is not fully understood, and is usually developmental.  It is much more common in men than women.  It can be acquired (happening late in life) but this is more uncommon.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
As with articulation disorders, stuttering can be a very emotional experience, and often these emotional components can make the stuttering worse.  By working with a speech pathologist, a person who stutters can come to term with these emotional challenges, as well as their thoughts about stuttering, and can learn strategies to help themselves stutter less, or work through a particularly stutter-filled day.

Language Delay

  • What is it?
A language delay happens when a young child is slow to begin talking or demonstrating understanding of words or social expectations.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Language delays may only last a few months or years, and children may grow out of them with or without therapy - it really depends on the individual child and their situation.  As always, early intervention is key, so if you have concerns definitely talk with your pediatrician and/or a speech pathologist to see whether therapy would be appropriate.  Therapy at such a young age is very play-based and parent-involved and driven.

Parkinson's

  • What is it?
Parkinson's is a neurological disorder that affects initiation of movement and eventually can affect cognitive processes.  It also affects speech.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
Persons with Parkinson's often have trouble getting started, whether it's walking or speaking.  They also are often very hard to understand as their speech can run together and is often characteristically quiet.  This affects communication with others and persons with Parkinson's have significant difficulties with mobility and movement.

Phonological Disorder

  • What is it?
A phonological disorder affects the system of the production of speech sounds.  It is different from an articulation disorder as it is more systemic and generally affects multiple speech sounds.  Some phonological processes (compensations that children make to form adult sounds that they cannot quite yet make) are considered typical, such as gliding (i.e. substituting /w/ for /r/), where as others like backing (i.e. substituting /k/ for /t/, placing the tongue further back on the roof of the mouth) are not considered typical. When a child displays atypical phonological processes, they generally fit the diagnosis.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
A phonological disorder affects the intelligibility of a child, or how easy it is to understand their speech.  In some cases children with phonological disorders go on to have difficulty with reading, but this has not been fully studied and certainly not all children with phonological disorders have reading difficulties.

SLI

  • What is it?
A specific language impairment is a communication disorder where language specifically is impaired.  This is commonly diagnosed in children, but sometimes adults who were undiagnosed as children can be diagnosed later in life.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
SLI can affect a person's ability to get their point across when speaking or writing, and can affect their ability to fully understand language in both written and spoken form.  This can significantly affect performance academically as well as potential success in jobs and in everyday life, from sending emails to chatting with a friend, to reading the newspaper.

TBI

  • What is it?
TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury.  It occurs when there is trauma (impact) to the head.  This might come in the form of a car accident, war injuries, or a fall.  A less severe, but still potentially debilitating, version of TBI is concussions, or mild TBI.
  • How does it affect everyday life?
TBI can cause many difficulties, ranging from difficulties managing emotions to challenges making decisions, to trouble just focusing on one thing at a time.  It can also cause Aphasia, depending on what areas of the brain are injured.

 For many of these disorders, Constant Therapy can help!  Check out our list of 63 tasks - if you click on the task, it will allow you to look at a preview, a description of the task, and how it helps!  Try it out today - you get a free trial with full access to all 15,000 of our evidence-based exercises, and you'll get access to our great customer support services - call us at 1-888-233-1399 and talk to a real person!  Get started on your road to recovery today - download Constant Therapy.

Topics: Stroke, Speech-Language Pathology, Neuroscience, Dementia, Concussion, Traumatic Brain Injury, Learning Disorders, Brain Science, Wounded Warriors, Parkinson's, Survivors

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