Communicating and Aphasia: The Dos and Don’ts
Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that can affect one or all forms of language, such as reading, writing, speaking and understanding messages. The impact of aphasia may be significant, and it can cause frustration and stress for individuals with aphasia.
Helping people communicate can be an essential part of the rehabilitation journey. This journey, sometimes, can take many years, but people with aphasia can continue to improve their speech, when provided with speech therapy, support, and compassion.
Here are some DOs and some DONTs to ensure you, as a family member, caregiver, or friend can help support the person with aphasia.
- Get the person’s attention before you begin a conversation.
- Eliminate or reduce distractions (background noise, such as TV, radio; and having a conversation in public places).
- Use simple sentence structure and reduce your rate of speech.
- Emphasize key words, either in speech or by writing them down.
- Use gestures while speaking.
- Use visual aids – pictures, key words, signs, etc.
- Allow the person time to speak.
- Use yes or no questions, or multiple-choice questions. Try offering choices with only a few possible answers.
- Use topic introductions, paraphrases, and repetitions in conversation to guide and understand the conversation.
- Break down instructions in small, simple steps.
- Verify the message at the end of a long conversation, “this is what you shared with me …”. Allow for an opportunity for the person with aphasia to confirm that you understood well
- Use complex sentence structure and complicate the conversation.
- ‘Talk down’ or use child-like language.
- Raise your voice.
- Give the person ‘your words’. Resist the urge to fill in the blanks.
- Communicate all, multi-step instructions at once
A Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help!
These strategies, and many more, can be discussed with your speech-language pathologist. A speech-language pathologist can show you on how to use these strategies with someone with aphasia. By participating in Communication Partner Training, you will learn more about aphasia and communication strategies to guide you to optimize conversation with a person with aphasia, and reduce frustration for you and your loved one. Successfully communicating with strategies can also give your loved one the confidence to communicate with others.
Neetika Dhaddha is a Speech-Language Pathologist who enjoys working with variety of communication disorders and clients of all ages. She has a special interest in acquired brain injury, language and literacy development. She uses a functional and client-centered approach to therapy to help clients achieve their goals.