Aphasia is a disorder of language resulting
from damage to the parts of the brain that manage language. Aphasia
affects a child's ability to use words to express ideas and to
understand the speech of other people. A speech pathologist
can diagnose language disorders and teach your child strategies to help.
What are language disorders?
Language disorders after brain injury are
commonly referred to as aphasia. Aphasia can affect all
aspects of a child's language such as thinking of the right
word, using the correct grammar when they talk or write and understanding what they hear or read.
The most common cause of aphasia is
stroke. Traumatic brain injury, brain tumours and some
diseases can also cause aphasia. The nature and severity of the
problem is different for each child depending on the amount and
location of the damage to the brain.
Receptive language is a child's ability to understand
and process spoken or written language. Children may experience some or all of the following problems:
- following directions or completing
- understanding long or complex sentences
- understanding the meaning and context
of words and sentences
- recognising the difference between
- they may appear to be not listening or ignoring you most of
- they may not keep up with classmates, either
with school work or socially
- they may have behavioural problems or be acting up in class
- they may be easily distracted or drift off when
listening to speech or stories
- they may appear to be forgetful. For
example, they only complete part of an instruction or remember part of a shopping list
Expressive language is a child's ability to express
themselves and get their meaning across through speaking or
writing. Children may experience some or all of the following problems:
- poor sentence or grammatical structure
- limited content in their speech
- confused meaning and grammar
- they generally use short, simple sentences
- difficulty coming to the point
- problems starting or participating in
- difficulty recalling or retelling
- difficulty completing oral and written
narratives and/or assignments
- have trouble finding the right words
A speech pathologist can assess if your child child is
having language difficulties or other difficulties
with speech and language development. If possible, it is most
helpful for your child to see a paediatric speech pathologist experienced in
looking after children with brain injury. Your local brain
injury service will usually have a speech pathologist or can advise
you how to find a suitable speech pathologist in your area.
A speech pathologist does a formal language
assessment to identify the specific problems and strengths your
child may have. Input from a neuropsychologist can also
help identify any other cognitive problems that can affect
To start with, some children may need one-on-one
therapy to manage and develop specific
language skills. School based language intervention is also very
useful to help your child develop skills and
strategies to cope with their difficulties. Schools and
special education teachers can help set up individualised education
programs for children who have language difficulties. Support from a teacher's aide may also be needed for more severe
Key points to remember
- Aphasia is a language disorder that is a result of damage
to the specific language centres of the brain.
- The severity of the problem depends on the amount and
location of the damage to the brain.
- A speech pathologist can diagnose language disorders
and help with developing strategies to help your
For more information
Developed by The Royal Children's
Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service based on information from the Brain
Injury Service at Westmead Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH
consumers and carers.
Reviewed September 2020.
Kids Health Info is supported by
The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.