A Man With Fluent Aphasia Tries To Answer A Simple Question

This could happen to anyone.

Speech-Language Pathologist Megan Sutton asked patient Byron Peterson in a YouTube video what they were just doing with the iPad she had.

"Uhh…right at the moment they don't show a darn thing," Peterson said.

Sutton asked him again about the iPad that they were using.

"I'd like my change for me and change hands for me," Peterson said. "It would happen. I would talk to Donna sometimes. We're out with them. Other people are working with them, them. I'm very happy with them. This girl was fairly good. And happy. And I'd play golf. And hit other trees."

To an outsider, it would seem that Peterson's response doesn't make any sense, and that is absolutely correct. But there is a medical reason for that.


Peterson has fluent aphasia.

Five years ago, Peterson, a graduate from MIT and Northwestern, suffered from a stroke and developed aphasia.

"At first I was told that all improvement would come within 90 days," his wife, Donna, wrote to Tactus Therapy. "Many families get this kind of information — it simply isn't true. The truth is that improvement can always happen, and does, but it's unlikely Byron will ever getback to 100%."

At first, Peterson's speech was entirely incomprehensible. With the help of speech therapy, he now understands about half of what he says, but he still cannot spell or repeat words.

The National Aphasia Association defines this disorder as an impairment of language, affecting the production of comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Singular or multiple aspects of speech could be impacted.  

Peterson has fluent (or Wernicke) aphasia in which the patient can still produce speech but the actual words are meaningless.

Head injuries, including trauma or brain tumors, can cause aphasia. But the biggest culprit are strokes.

Patients should seek a medical professional when they develop difficulty speaking, trouble understanding words, or problems with reading and writing.

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