Aphasia is a communication impairment usually acquired
as a result of a stroke or other brain injury. It affects
both the ability to express oneself through speech,
gesture, and writing, and to understand the speech,
gesture, and writing of others. Aphasia thus changes
the way in which we communicate with those people most
important to us: family, friends, and co-workers.
The impact of aphasia on relationships
may be profound, or only slight. No two people with
aphasia are alike with respect to severity, former speech
and language skills, or personality. But in all cases
it is essential for the person to communicate as successfully
as possible from the very beginning of the recovery
process. Here are some suggestions to help communicate
with a person with aphasia:
- Make sure you have the person's
attention before communicating.
- During conversation, minimize or
eliminate background noise (such as television, radio,
other people) as much as possible.
- Keep communication simple but adult. Simplify your own sentence structure and reduce your
own rate of speech. You don't need to speak louder than normal but do emphasize key words. Don't talk
down to the person with aphasia.
- Encourage and use other modes of
communication (writing, drawing, yes/no responses,
choices, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions)
in addition to speech.
- Give them time to talk and let
them have a reasonable amount of time to respond. Avoid speaking for the person with aphasia except
when necessary and ask permission before doing so.
- Praise all attempts to speak; make
speaking a pleasant experience and provide stimulating
conversation. Downplay errors and avoid frequent criticisms/corrections.
Avoid insisting that each word be produced perfectly.
- Augment speech with gesture and
visual aids whenever possible. Repeat a statement when necessary.
- Encourage them to be as independent as possible. Avoid being overprotective.
- Whenever possible continue normal
activities (such as dinner with family, company, going
out). Do not shield people with aphasia from family
or friends or ignore them in a group conversation.
Rather, try to involve them in family decision-making
as much as possible. Keep them informed of events
but avoid burdening them with day to day details.
These guidelines are intended to
enhance communication with persons who have aphasia.
However, they cannot guarantee that communication will
or on a par with former skills.