ACC News

Public Learns about Aphasia through Rep. Gabby Giffords’ Recovery

Little-known disorder affects 2 million people in U.S. Founder of 15-year old Aphasia Center of California urges more public education

OAKLAND, CA — More than 2 million people in the United States are affected by aphasia, more than muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis, yet few people ever heard about this language-impairment disorder. Until, that is, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords survived a gunshot wound to the head and is now appearing in public as she recovers from the tragedy. She has aphasia.

Giffords has spent months in a rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas, where she recovered some of her ability to speak, walk, read and write. She continues to receive speech therapy along with music, physical, and occupational therapy. When Giffords is spoken to, she replies mostly with one-word greetings and responses.

While the media coverage about her recovery has described her condition as “aphasia” it is a little-known disorder to most of the U.S. population. Aphasia (pronounced uh-fay-zhuh), is a loss or reduction of language following brain damage, typically as a result of a stroke, or an injury or trauma to the brain. Although intelligence remains intact, those affected by aphasia experience difficulty with speaking, understanding, reading, and/or writing.

“It is our hope that through Gabby Giffords’ courageous example, more people will learn about aphasia and its profound impact on individuals, their families, and friends,” says Roberta J. Elman, Ph.D., founder/director of the Aphasia Center of California. “Often, doctors do not mention the word aphasia with their patients following a stroke or brain injury, and it can take months or even years for someone to find out about the help that is available to them. This is a needless delay.”

Elman founded The Aphasia Center of California 15 years ago, as the first independent charitable organization in the United States dedicated to providing direct services to individuals with aphasia. Elman and her team of speech-language therapists pioneered innovative group communication therapies, now modeled at centers throughout the world.

“Today, the Aphasia Center of California provides cutting-edge treatment programs that offer a ‘lifeline’ for individuals, families, and caregivers affected by aphasia—creating a community of support and understanding—along with stories of success,” says Elman. “We hope that Gabby Giffords’ story will bring light to those still in the dark about aphasia. We are heartened that the media has begun using the word aphasia in their coverage of Giffords’ recovery and hope this is the beginning of an ongoing public education about this disorder.”

About the Aphasia Center of California
The mission of the Aphasia Center of California (ACC), a 501c3 organization, is to enhance communication skills, quality of life, and overall well-being for all those affected by aphasia following stroke or other brain injury. Services including speech-language treatment, caregiver groups, recreational classes, and communication training: For further information, call Dr. Roberta Elman at 510-336-0112.