June is Aphasia Awareness Month. Each of the twelve months of our calendar year has been designated as THE month to be aware of: Parkinson’s, cancer, MS, aphasia…

For as many diseases, disorders, or disturbances there are in the medical and social arenas, the year is bulging with awareness opportunities. I consider myself to be an aware person; I know something about certain subjects, can relate on some level to what is happening, and am not totally in the dark about it.

Sometimes I admit to saying, “Enough already. Must every month shout at me to be aware of some disease or problem?” Until that particular dis- ease or dis-order hits home. Dad got Parkinson’s. Harriet has MS; too many people have cancer, and my brother-in-law Paul had aphasia.

Aphasia: a•pha•sia (uh-fay’-zhuh) n. A language disorder that impairs the expression and understanding of spoken language, reading, and writing. It occurs most often from a stroke or brain injury. This frustrating condition affects a person’s ability to communicate, but does not affect his or her intellect.

Okay, so what does that mean in real life terms? Picture these scenarios:

Do you wonder why your Uncle George takes ever so long to reply to your questions? Yes, he had a stroke, but he’s walking again, the doctor said he’s fine. What’s with him?   

Or   Does that man really have to talk so loud in the store and why is he cursing? Someone should tell him to stop.   

Or    Why won’t my wife tell me how she feels? I want to help her after this stroke, but she just says, “Never mind.”

Each of these people has aphasia, a devastating effect of stroke or a brain injury. The words they want to say are in their heads, but the passages from the brain to vocal cords are locked, shut down, on strike. Words come out wrong, or don’t get verbalized at all. It’s more than what I usually think of as “on the tip of my tongue.” Because usually I can compensate or it comes. For years my mantra has been “Words are powerful.” With aphasia those words may never come.

But wait!! There are ways to make it somewhat easier, less frightening, and more comfortable for you and the person with aphasia.

My brother-in-law, Paul Benson, had both aphasia and apraxia following a stroke in 2005. He lived for eight years following this life-changing event and was the epitome of someone who not only survived, but also thrived, and wanted others to know there is life after stroke.

Are you aware? Do you see, suspect, wonder, or know someone you know and love has aphasia?

In the next three days, we’ll do more than be aware. The scrambled maze that is aphasia can be unraveled. We’ll complete the acronym for ADAC. Awareness, Decision, Action, Change. You can use ADAC for any problem. This month it’s designated for Aphasia.

Tomorrow: D-Decision. Make a decision to do something about your/your loved one’s aphasia isolation