How To Communicate With Someone With Aphasia
This blog post is going to focus on helping you communicate with someone with aphasia – whether you are a loved one, carer, health professional, teacher, friend or work colleague. These tips are mainly focused on helping you communicate with people with aphasia but may apply to other types of communication difficulties.
First of all, it is important to remember that there are several different ways to communicate. Depending on the severity of the aphasia, “normal” conversation might not be possible. If the person you are trying to communicate with wants to write, gesture or use any other method to communicate, encourage it! While it is important to encourage them to try and work on their speech, there is a chance their speech may never return fully so you should encourage any other way they feel comfortable communicating.
Secondly, it is important to consider the environment you are in and try to keep it as calm and stress-free as possible for the person. This might mean that you have to limit the number of people in the conversation to begin with or keep background noise to a minimum. As the person progresses over time you might consider slowly adding more people to conversations or try talking in areas where there is more background noise or distractions. Give them plenty of time and space.
Remember that aphasia may affect the person’s ability to understand what they hear, as well as their ability to speak. Therefore you must try and make it as easy as possible for them to understand you. This could include standing in their line of sight or ensuring you have their full attention before starting. It could also mean you have to use gestures and facial expressions or slow down your speech. You could also try simplifying your language, for example, by breaking sentences down into smaller chunks.
Aphasia can be incredibly frustrating for both the person with it and the person trying to communicate with them, so patience is vital on both sides. Ensure you give them enough time to process, understand and respond to you and try not to speak too quickly. Try not to finish their words or sentences for them or interrupt unless they ask you to or signal they need help.
Aphasia is the loss of language not intelligence so it is important not to talk down to the person as this can cause them to become upset or frustrated. You shouldn’t have to speak louder than you normally would but it can be helpful to emphasise the key words in your sentence.
But most importantly remember that the person is an individual and may need different levels of help, support and encouragement from you.