Clarification On the Terminology and John Fetterman

The Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA) is the state association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Speech-Language Pathologists work with individuals who experience communication difficulties. There has been a lot of recent public discussion about John Fetterman’s post-stroke communication difficulties, and we would like to provide some clarification on the terminology that is being discussed in the media. Please note that PSHA does not have any knowledge of John Fetterman’s exact diagnosis or the difficulties he is experiencing.

A stroke often results in neurological damage, where cells in the brain no longer work the way they have previously. Depending on the location of the damage and the specific cells that are affected, difficulties may vary.

Aphasia is a communication difficulty experienced after a stroke if the areas of the brain responsible for language are impacted. Aphasia can interfere with the expression and understanding of language, but it does not mean that the individual’s intellect is impacted. More information on Aphasia can be found here:

Auditory processing difficulties can be a symptom of aphasia, specifically difficulty processing the language that is heard (rather than written or signed).

Cognitive difficulties are difficulties that impact skills, such as memory, learning, attention, organization, and decision making. These can also impact communication (for example, attention has a direct impact on one’s ability to stay focused during conversations).

Please contact the Pennsylvania Speech Language Hearing Association ( if you have questions, or would like further information on how Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists can assist with communication and swallowing.