Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs in adults following a focal brain damage which involves the language-dominant cerebral hemisphere. Individuals who previously were communicating and understanding others’ communication through speech, sign, reading and writing, suddenly find themselves unable or limited in their ability to participate in communicative activity of the social life. Although aphasia may result from brain tumors, head injuries or other insults to areas of the brain concerned with language processing, the most common cause of aphasia is stroke. According to the Italian Aphasic Association, in Italy there are 150.000 aphasic people and 10.000 new cases of aphasia annually. Aphasia affects the ability to use language. This means that its effects cause changes in the individuals’ social role and social isolation. The aphasic persons are unable to express their needs and to have to increase their dependence on others for activities such as shopping, making appointments, reading magazines… Aphasia is a serious social disability but, even today, in Italy it is an almost unknown problem for the community. It is very difficult to spread knowledge about social model of disability because we are still influenced by an old medical model.
I believe that for those interested in language disorders, it may be useful to open their minds to new visions about the role of community to influence the Quality of life of all of us.

Over the last years there has been an important development in the treatment of aphasia. Contributes from Europe, America and Australia covering cognitive, linguistic and social aspects of the aphasia therapy, carried out a well articulated theoretical framework for a variety of approach and research to support the claim that aphasia works. Eight different schools of aphasia therapy have been defined and described in literature (behavioural, cognitive, neuropsychological, pragmatic, etc.) with common assumptions about the process of therapy and the nature of aphasia. In spite of the wide spectrum of theoretical perspectives related to aphasia therapy, at the present, the common idea among therapists and researchers is to address attention to the individual needs and social problems of the aphasic persons. In this recent view aphasia is not only a deficit of speech language, but a disorder of the communication in all its modalities. In this way the aim of aphasia therapy is not to re-learn specific damaged skills, but to increase the use of all other potential means of communication to support and compensate impaired language. In Italy the study of language disability has been neglected and the therapy has been undervalued respect to the diagnosis. In Italy aphasics benefit from intervention of National Health Service’ s speech therapists. They offer a “traditional” treatment, based usually on unselected “stimolation” or many personal therapeutic approaches. The italian speech therapists take care of aphasic people alone, without possibility to discuss their professional choices with other members of the rehabilitation team. The are many reasons to explain this situation: big cultural distances among rehabilitation members, lack of contact between neuropsychological researchers and local operators. 

I am a speech therapist with extensive clinical and therapeutic experience of brain damage-associated speech disorders. I focus on developing and running integrated quality control systems for speech therapy. I attendeda professional training at Aphasia Institute and I am Advanced SCA Techniques Trainer. My main area of research covers the psycho-social aspects of aphasia. As well as my care activities, I run training courses in a number of areas and take part in national scientific congresses. I have worked on numerous european projects on disability issues and research projects on rehabilitation and integration between the health and social sectors. As Chair of the Ligurian Aphasia Association (ALIAS) I work with relatives to manage coping strategies, run group therapy sessions and provide training on communication disabilities for healthcare workers, caregivers and volunteers. I have written and co-authored numerous scientific papers and since 2000 have been webmaster and editor of the www.aphasiaforum.com site.

 Main activities:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of persons with aphasia following stroke, with a special care to setting Goals for life participation
  • Diagnostic intervention and rehabilitation on brain injuries patients, particularly related to communication disorders.
  • Neuropsychological assessments for cognitive changes during dementia, depression and ageing intellectual decline
  • Short and Long Term Education and Counseling
  • Individual and Group Therapy Options
How to rehabilitate aphasia: a question of words?
di Alessandra Tinti e Maura Marogna