6 June 2021
By Tom Collins
June is Aphasia Awareness Month, a post-stroke language difficulty which impairs the individual’s ability to understand what they hear, read and express themselves through verbal or written communication.
Despite having a high incidence rate of 3,300 people experiencing aphasia annually in Ireland, there is little awareness about the condition.
Throughout June, Dr Helen Kelly of UCC and her Speech and Language students will coordinate events and activities on social media to raise awareness of aphasia.
Cork City Council and UCC will also be lighting their buildings blue for the month in support.
June marks Aphasia Awareness Month, a language difficulty that impacts an individual’s ability to comprehend language, both written and verbal. Approximately one in three people who have experienced a stroke will have aphasia, making it difficult for them to understand what they hear and read, and to communicate with other people effectively.
Approximately 3,300 people in Ireland experience Aphasia following a stroke every year. Despite the high incidence rate, there is little or no awareness of the neurological condition. Due to this lack of awareness, those who experience aphasia often experience social isolation because of a general lack of knowledge about the condition, uncertainty about how to communicate with someone living with aphasia, and how aphasia impacts their communication skills.
Throughout the month of June, Dr Helen Kelly of UCC alongside her students will curate a number of activities to raise awareness for the condition.
Dr Kelly and her Speech and Language students will upload short videoclips of people with aphasia on social media every week which will highlight their individual experiences with the condition, tips on how to communicate better with them, and more information on the condition itself.
In conjunction with the aforementioned, Cork City Council and UCC will light their buildings blue, a colour chosen by those with aphasia who attend Dr Kelly’s Aphasia Home Café.
The Aphasia Home Café is an online space for those experiencing the condition. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Café allowed individuals to meet face-to-face, however it has been adapted to go online to enable individuals with aphasia to meet each other, practice their communication skills and reduce their social isolation without compromising their health and safety. The Café runs fortnightly including the summer months and is open for everyone across the world to attend.
Dr Kelly states that aphasia awareness is of utmost importance for many reasons.
“Despite the high incidence and prevalence of aphasia, an understanding of what “Despite the high incidence and prevalence of aphasia, an understanding of what aphasia is in the general population in Ireland and globally is very low. People with aphasia often describe having an invisible disability where it is only noticeable when they start to communicate. Aphasia results in social isolation as people don’t understand what aphasia is, for example, that it doesn’t affect their intelligence, or how to communicate with someone with aphasia.”
Dr. Kelly’s Aphasia Home Café as well as Aphasia Awareness month are incredibly important for those living with the condition, and the general public. She says:
“In addition, much of government and health information is online, so difficulties reading, writing and generally using technology makes this information inaccessible to this population causing difficulties accessing services and resulting in Social Exclusion.”