What is Aphasia? Part 2: Strategies to Help Communicate
Here are some general guidelines to follow when communicating with someone with MILD-MODERATE aphasia. Not all of these strategies may be appropriate or useful for everyone, but most of these suggestions serve as a sound framework for setting up a successful conversation.
1. Give the person with aphasia lots of time to formulate and execute their words. It can be uncomfortable to watch them struggle, but it can be even more frustrating for the person with aphasia if you “jump in” and finish their sentence for them, causing embarrassment and a sense of defeat.
2. On the flip side, IF the person with aphasia can not come up with a word and they indicate they want your help, by all means try to fill in the missing word / words for them. Just make sure to ask them first “do you want help?” before completing their sentences.
3. Encourage the person with aphasia to utilize other means of expression, such as gestures, facial expressions, and drawing out pictures. Sometimes the person with aphasia may not be able to say the word they want, but their hand can write out the word with relative accuracy. Always keep a pad of paper and pen handy!
4. Write down key words during a conversation so that the person with aphasia can refer back to those words as necessary. For example, if they are trying to tell you something about a family member, write down that person’s name along with key words related to that person. (Example: Bob, computer sales, wife Susan, son Tommy, lives in Ohio, etc.).
5. Always converse in a quiet environment free of distractions. Turn off the T.V. Make sure to maintain eye contact and speak with a slightly slower rate of speech to ensure the person with aphasia understands you. Ask simple questions to confirm what they are trying to tell you.
Remember, aphasia is a disorder of language, not a disorder of cognition, so the most important thing to remember is to help the person with aphasia maintain their dignity as much as possible.
For more information about aphasia, check out:
National Aphasia Association at www.aphasia.org.
There are many support groups, resources for loved ones, and information about specific treatment techniques available.