Key question with Bruce Willis and aphasia: is his condition typical or rare? | local news

Speech pathologist Katie Brown was among those concerned about Bruce Willis’ aphasia diagnosis.

She is also concerned about her clients and others with a neurological condition that limits the ability to speak and process language, the vast majority of whom don’t have the mental disabilities described in a Los Angeles Times story last month that revealed the star’s condition.

“People associate aphasia with cognitive impairment and it isn’t,” said Brown, owner of Neuro Speech Solutions in Amherst. “The people who have it are still as smart as they were before, but there is this brain-to-mouth separation. They know what they want to say.”

A stroke or brain injury affecting the left hemisphere, which is largely responsible for language processing, usually causes aphasia. It can affect language expression and comprehension when speaking, reading and writing.

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Brown estimates that 90% of her 25 clients with aphasia are as communicative as Willis but have a greater ability to understand what is going on around them.

In fact, it provides them with business-sized cards that they are welcome to present to others they meet, and encourages these people to be patient and speak in a casual tone.

The card reads: “Aphasia makes it difficult for me to speak, but I can still understand you. Aphasia does not affect my intelligence.”

The obverse reads in part, “I’m going to ask you to slow down or turn yourself back if I don’t understand.”



In general, there is always awarenessWhen it comes to aphasia, says speech therapist Katie Brown, owner of Neuro Speech Solutions in Amherst.


Photo courtesy of Neuro Speech Solutions


Most of her clients are under the age of 65. The youngest is in their 30s, even children can get infected.

“Earlier this week, I was reaching out to a client that I only see once a month because they’ve been back in business successfully,” Brown said. “Aphasia does not mean you can never go back to work, you can never have a relationship.”

Lesions develop when the brain is damaged by a stroke or other injury, paving the way for most cases of aphasia. As with other chronic health conditions, symptoms can range from mild to severe, said Brown, who specializes in treating neurological communication and cognitive disorders. The nature and extent of language barriers can vary greatly, depending on exactly where and how the brain is damaged, and how harmful it is.

“If you meet someone who has aphasia, you have met someone who has aphasia,” she said.

Brown said healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep can help repair damage, while speech therapy sessions can use role-playing exercises to reconnect signals in the brain by breaking the connection into bite-size pieces and building from there. For someone who enjoys reading the newspaper but struggles, for example, you’ll start clients with short stories, focus on questions that enhance understanding, and present longer, more complex stories as progress is made.

She and two fellow therapists in her practice generally include caregivers in sessions so that they can work together to bridge broken channels.

“Contact is a two-way street,” Brown said.

Health insurance covers most of the costs of treatment.

The disease can also coincide with other conditions, which Brown suspects may be Willis’s case, although she hasn’t treated her and knows only what has been reported.

It’s also possible for the movie star to have primary progressive aphasia, a less common neurodegenerative condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that slowly impairs communication.

“That would be my professional guess,” Brown said.

Jeff Simon: Wasn't there anyone out there looking out for the best interests of Bruce Willis?

“Willis always has an edge, whether he’s laughing with Ailo or delivering lines with a gentle, gentle smoothness that few of his contemporaries come close to.”

She said speech therapy can slow, but not stop, the development of this and other language deficits that come with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News asked key questions about Willis in his Gusto Sunday column last weekend: Who has been keeping an eye on Willis, if he lacks the resources to do it himself? Was he in his illness being used with sarcasm and contempt for the value of his star? Or was he supporting his heirs in his refusal? Or better put it on? Was he providing his support to the aspiring youth for work?

The answer to the first question remains elusive, and the rest may be yes.

“We don’t know his way of thinking,” Brown said, “but he probably knew this was happening to him. In general, there’s always consciousness.”

She said dementia may start to appear at some point.

What Brown cautions against is confidence in the assumptions people make when it comes to aphasia.

“There is a very large aphasia community,” she said, “and once Bruce Willis started having cognitive problems, people were very upset because they worked so hard to let others know that even though they couldn’t express themselves, that didn’t mean they lacked intelligence, which is Which unfortunately many people believe. And these are the things that can make this very isolating.

“Depression and anxiety are incredibly prevalent among people with aphasia. It’s prevalent in people who have had a stroke, but it increases dramatically if you have aphasia. People generally lose friendships. They stop doing the hobbies they used to like. They don’t go into Their gardening club is anymore because they are afraid to talk to people, because they don’t want people to think badly of them.

“Speech therapy can help with that mindset, and confidence too. It can help them have the tools to stand up for themselves and teach others how to talk to them. The brain is so amazing that it can rewire itself in many cases… at any age. .”

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