Deirdre Tay, Head of Speech Therapy Department at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) explains the diagnosis and treatments for asphasia.
Continued from previous page.
How is aphasia diagnosed?
When a person shows signs of changes in communication ability after brain damage, doctors or other healthcare professionals caring for that person may refer him or her to a speech-language therapist (SLT).
The SLT assesses the person and determines the type and severity of aphasia through a detailed evaluation of the person's communication ability. The assessment may include an assessment of the person's speech, voice, understanding, ability to use words, reading and writing. SLTs around the world use different tests developed in a variety of languages and countries to best assess people with aphasia.
In Singapore, language assessment tools used by local SLTs were developed in mainly English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. At times, the materials used in these tests are unfamiliar to the Singaporean population, which may lead to inaccurate responses. The lack of suitable Mandarin aphasia tests further limits the in-depth analysis of aphasia in Mandarin-speaking Singaporeans.
In 2010, the Singapore Aphasia Test (SGAT) was developed by a team of speech therapists at
Singapore General Hospital (SGH). It is designed to provide speech therapists in Singapore with a better understanding of the extent of language and speech problems in the local population of people with aphasia. It has been developed in English and Mandarin. The team at SGH still needs the active participation of people with aphasia to help validate the use of the test. At the end of the undergoing validation study, the team hopes to make the test available to all SLTs in Singapore who work with people with aphasia.
How does aphasia treatment work?
Aphasia treatment depends on the needs and goals of the person with aphasia.The SLT may emphasise working on specific language skills identified as problems after brain damage. For example, the patient may practice naming objects, following instructions or answering questions. The exercises vary depending on the person's needs and can become more complex and challenging as language skills improve.
When speaking is not possible, the SLT may teach the person with aphasia other ways to express their ideas. For example, the person may be more able to use gestures and writing.
For people with mild aphasia, the SLT may focus on conversation skills. Sessions may include role-playing common communication situations such as making a telephone enquiry, ordering a meal in a restaurant, and giving a presentation. These role-play activities eventually equip the person with skills and confidence to communicate independently.
Free language assessment for people with aphasia
If you have aphasia or know someone who does, you can help validate the first aphasia test developed for Singaporeans. The SGAT study is recruiting 70 Mandarin-speaking and 70 English-speaking patients with aphasia. Please call 6576 2715 for more information if you meet the following criteria:
- Medically stable after left-brain only strokes
- Strokes occurred within the last two years
- At least primary school education
- Understand and speak English or Mandarin
To learn more about the
signs and symptoms of aphasia, see previous page.