Law Enforcement Response to Persons with Aphasia

Although aphasia is little known, it is fairly common. Officers are more likely to come into contact with people with aphasia than with people with Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autism, or muscular dystrophy. Aphasia affects about one out of every 275 people. One of the reasons that aphasia is not better known is that people with aphasia are among the disability groups least able to advocate for themselves. They have trouble communicating.
Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but it does not affect their intelligence. People with aphasia describe it as a short circuit in the brain between the ability to think and the ability to use words. In addition to affecting the person’s ability to speak and to understand others, aphasia may also impair their ability to read, write, and do calculations.