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June Declared National Aphasia Awareness Month to Give Voice to the 'Silent' Disability

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 General News J E 4
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NEW YORK, June 17 In recognition of the urgentneed for more public awareness about aphasia Senate Resolution 566 (sponsoredby Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD) and House Resolution 1188 (sponsored byRepresentative Edward Markey, D-Mass), declare June as National AphasiaAwareness Month. Aphasia is the sudden inability to communicate, speak, read,write or understand language, usually as a result of stroke or traumatic braininjury. It is estimated that over 1 million Americans have aphasia, and thenumber of new aphasia cases is estimated to be as high as over 200,000 peryear.

"I was proud to introduce a resolution recognizing National AphasiaAwareness Month, which passed the Senate unanimously. During my recovery, Iwas blessed to work with professional and talented speech-languagepathologists whose confidence was infectious and who motivated me to workharder than I thought possible," said Sen. Johnson, who suffered the effectsof an arterio-venous malformation (AVM) in December 2006 and also credits thelove and support of his wife, family and friends for making an importantdifference in his recovery.

According to National Aphasia Association Executive Director EllayneGanzfried, "there is no cure for aphasia, but speech-language therapy andconstant social interaction is essential for recovery and maintaining ameaningful life. Because of their difficulty in communicating, over 70% ofpeople with aphasia report that people avoided contact with them and 90percent felt isolated, left out, ignored and lonely. This isolation, coupledwith the fact that intellect remains intact, makes depression another seriousresult of aphasia."

Representative Edward Markey, whose resolution is expected to getunanimous support, says, "Aphasia is a 'silent' disability because it quietspeople and causes them to withdraw from life. My hope is that National AphasiaAwareness Month will help give a voice to people with aphasia so that theirneeds and concerns can be heard. Aphasia is a condition that has affected anumber of my friends and colleagues, so I know from personal experience it isan issue that deserves a lot of acknowledgement and attention."

"Aphasia is more common than cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinalcord injuries, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, yet it is relativelyunknown by the general public," says Ganzfried, who is grateful to Sen.Johnson, Rep. Markey and other legislators for helping to raise awareness foraphasia.

"Among those who have heard of aphasia, there are serious misconceptionsabout the mental condition of people with aphasia. We are trying to make itabsolutely clear that aphasia does not affect a person's intellect. Aphasiadoes not make someone mentally ill. It only challenges their ability tocommunicate," explains Ganzfried. To further help raise awareness, the SixthNational NAA Conference -- Speaking Out! 2008 -- will be held June 19-21, 2008at NYU's Kimmel Center. The conference brings together medical/rehabilitationprofessionals, people with aphasia, family members, caregivers and the generalpublic.

Aphasia can occur in people of all ages, nationalities, socio-economicbackgrounds and equally among men and women. Understanding, patience and a fewcommonsense strategies will help family, friends, caregivers and the publiccommunicate with people with aphasia:

National Aphasia Association

NAA is a consumer-focused, not-for-profit organization that was founded in1987 as the first national organization dedicated to advocating for personswith aphasia and their families. Resources include:

NAA National Registry links to over 440 aphasia US support groups and 210state representatives.

www.aphasia.org receives over 9,000 hits per month, helping an estimated100,000 families a year.

The Aphasia Handbook: A Guide for Stroke and Brain Injury Survivors andTheir Families -- w
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