What is Expressive Aphasia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2016
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Expressive aphasia is a neurological disorder where people have difficulty speaking or writing to communicate. Patients with this condition know what they want to say but cannot express it, and their comprehension of spoken and written language is usually good, although they may struggle with things presented with an unusual syntax or structure. The most common cause of expressive aphasia is stroke. Supporting the patient through stroke recovery and providing rehabilitation sessions with a speech-language pathologist can help the patient redevelop communication skills.

This condition is also sometimes known as Broca's aphasia, a reference to the area of the brain involved, or non-fluent aphasia. Some people with this type of aphasia have difficulty saying words and creating phrases, and may speak in a disconnected, stilted fashion, using key words to try and communicate a point. Other patients may speak fluently, but with nonsense words or words used in a way that does not make sense.

According to patients who have experienced this condition and recovered, this condition is extremely frustrating. Patients may be able to think of what they want to say, but their brains cannot convert what is happening inside the patient's head into a format understandable by other people. Some patients with this condition become agitated as a result of the frustration and may gesticulate or shout as they attempt to be understood.


Patients with communication disorders like expressive aphasia may also be frustrated by the way people interact with them. People may start to speak simply and loudly around patients who have trouble communicating, even though those patients are capable of understanding, and this can feel patronizing. Getting impatient and trying to finish a patient's sentence is another common problem that can make patients frustrated and upset.

A speech-language pathologist can work with a patient who has expressive aphasia to develop communication skills. Some patients find that using communication boards and other tools during periods of aphasia can help them communicate clearly. Over time, people around the patient also tend to become familiar with the communication style used by the patient, and they can understand and interpret sentences that might not make sense to the average person.

In conversation with someone who has expressive aphasia, it is advisable to speak clearly and in a normal tone of voice, and be careful about using complicated sentence structure or syntax, as this can become confusing. Paying attention while patients speak and reflecting what you hear back to the patient can help establish clear communication.


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Post 2

I'd hate to have something like expressive aphasia happen to me. The idea of not being able to communicate important information to my doctors or family members would frustrate me too much.

Post 1

I'm convinced now that my mother-in-law had expressive aphasia while she was recovering from a stroke in the hospital. She was fine during the day, but then started making nonsense words that night. We called it "word salading". She was speaking in what sounded like full sentences, but the individual words didn't resemble anything in English. If she wanted to say "I need to go to the bathroom", it would sound more like "Ugh nid ta gour bashoom".

She kept talking like that all night, and she got really upset when people didn't understand her. If I said something to her, she still understood what I was asking her to do. She just couldn't answer with anything other than

gibberish. When her doctor came in the next morning, he told us it sounded like Broca's aphasia. It was related to the stroke. She did get better, but said it frustrated her that we didn't recognize her "normal" speech. She didn't realize it was jumbled.

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