While the characteristics of people with aphasia are well documented and regularly studied, less is known about the traits and habits of the speech-language pathologists who treat them. Here are 10 sure signs that aphasia treatment is your niche:

1) You have talked through the sequence of making a bed more times than you have actually made your bed.

When you left for work this morning, the duvet was half off the mattress. The trio of throw pillows you thoughtlessly tossed were laying in a sloppy pile on the floor like trash bags on the curb. At the center of the whole queen-sized mess was a cat. Or a laptop. Or a cat on a laptop.

But that’s your bed.

The imaginary bed your patient is making up in treatment? It will be put together more meticulously than a bed in a five-star hotel. You’ll see to that.

Unmade Bed of an Aphasia Therapist

This bed would never pass a verbal sequencing test

2) When someone mentions The Western, you think of the assessment, not a cowboy movie.

“Have I seen the Western? Yes, it’s on the top shelf, but don’t take it. I am using it for a re-eval in a few minutes. Wait, what? Clint East-who?”

Western Aphasia Battery

The Western Aphasia Battery (or “WAB”) is a standardized test that has nothing to do with horses

3) When other adults say they find the language in today’s popular music offensive, you assume they are referencing the grammar.

Sure, the beat is great, but the syntax! Linking verbs, people. Use them. Y’all gonna make me lose my mind up in here.

4) You have mastered the art of writing upside down and backward.

Your penmanship isn’t beautiful. Maybe you didn’t make it to the final round of the spelling bee. There is one handwriting trick you can turn with as much ease as signing a check, however, and that is this: you can write upside down and backward.

When the patient across the table from you needs a carrier phrase printed or targeted category written, you can jot it down in two shakes without reorienting the white board.

Aphasia Therapists can write upside-down

Aphasia patients learn to write with their left hands; aphasia therapists learn to write upside-down

5) While other peoples’ kids are playing Angry Birds at restaurants, yours is identifying a verb from a field of six on Comprehension Therapy.

…or playing the Type “game” in Tactus Therapy’s Number app. And he is having a blast!

The gigabytes on your tablet are limited. To get the most bang for your buck, you download only the most useful, most versatile apps available. You select those apps for work, but your kid likes them, too. He is an SLP’s kid. Enough said.

Aphasia therapist's kids play with aphasia apps

Comprehension Therapy is a fun way to learn Spanish, French, and German too!

6) When you watch television shows about compulsive hoarding, you side with the hoarder.

Compulsive hoarders hold onto damaged or useless things because they see value in them. Broken coat hangers. Piles of coupons which have been expired since Ronald Reagan was in office.

You see these hoarders on television shows, and while part of you feels pity, there is another part of you that also sees the value in their belongings. That broken coat hanger could be juxtaposed to a new coat hanger for a compare/contrast activity. Right? And those old coupons: surely they could be used for addressing everyday math skills.

If only you had more storage…

Aphasia therapists love coupons

If you saved 50 cents on a $2 pack of fruit cups in 2014 and invested your savings at 3.5% interest…

7) When someone takes longer than two seconds to get their word out, you reflexively mouth it to them.

You purse your lips. You silently overarticulate the word you suspect he is trying to say. Even if that person is on television. Fish gotta swim, eh?

Aphasia therapists are always mouthing words

Watch my lips. Look here. Like this.

8) You have had an earnest conversation with a coworker about the type of treatment you’d prefer in the event that you have a stroke.

You have given this a great deal of thought. You know precisely how much thickener you will be willing to tolerate in your coffee. You know the AAC device you’d most prefer, the PT with whom you’ll most easily work, and though you know it is nonsensical, you have specified which type of aphasia you think you would like to have over another. It is a verbal advanced directive that only an aphasia therapist would make.

9) You occasionally see strangers whose names you know.

You have patients bring family photos to therapy. Names of children, siblings, and grandchildren become treatment targets, and you assist your patient as she strives to regain the ability to call her loved ones by name.

Sometimes the people in those photos show up in real life. Occasionally, you find yourself standing in line behind them at the grocery store. You will see them at a nearby table at a restaurant. How do I know those children?, you think. And then it hits you.

They are the grandsons of your former patient. They are real people. They are bright and handsome, just as she’d described, and they are blissfully unaware of how hard their grandmother worked to learn their names a second time.

But you know.

10) You count yourself lucky.

Like everyone else in the work force, you have complaints about your job. About paperwork. Medicare guidelines. Insurance hurdles. You have concerns about productivity expectations, holiday work schedules, and limited resources, but you love…your…job.

Patients trust you. They trust that, if they follow your recommendations, things will get better. That they will get better. And they do. You are part of that. You are an aphasia therapist, and you love your job. You are lucky, indeed.

….But seriously, throw away those old coupons.


Ginger Anderson, SLP

Blogger Bio

Ginger Anderson, M.Ed. CCC-SLP is a freelance writer and SLP for an outpatient rehab facility in northwest Georgia. She recently published Humor in Treatment is No Joke in the ASHA Leader and writes a personal blog. She can be reached by e-mail at ginjuh@gmail.com.