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Advocates explain Bruce Willis's aphasia diagnosis and how it affects communication

Posted at 2:29 PM, Apr 01, 2022

Many people are learning about aphasia for the first time since the announcement of Bruce Willis’s diagnosis.

It’s a brain disorder that affects people's ability to communicate.

There are different forms of aphasia that can also affect a person's cognitive ability.

Those who work with and advocate for people living with the disorder want you to know what it's like for them.

Darlene Williamson is a speech language pathologist and president of the National Aphasia Association.

“The first thing that people with aphasia want others to know is that I’m still me, I’m still in here. it's just the words that I’m having trouble accessing,” Williamson explained.

“Think of aphasia like being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language and you're being asked to understand what people are saying, respond, read and write and it's all very difficult for you if you don't speak the language,” she said.

Williamson says there are an estimated 2 million people living with the disorder.

“Even people with primary progressive aphasia, which is a deteriorating condition can benefit from expert treatment, medical treatment and speech language pathology to maintain their communication skills,” she said.

She says people with aphasia may learn new ways to communicate through pictures.

A strong family support system is also key.

“The primary tip is to always allow extra time to engage with the person and allow them time to process and come up with the language that they need to communicate their thoughts,” Williamson said.

Improving life quality is the greater goal for people living with aphasia.

Williamson says they like to work with the individual in their environment on the goals that are most important to them.

The National Aphasia Association has all resources on communication available on its website.