aphasia hacks

Aphasia Hacks

Aphasia hacks. They’re the little things you do to navigate the world with aphasia or help someone else navigate the world with aphasia. They’re the tricks that you have up your sleeve to communicate. The things that make a hard situation a little easier. We’ve compiled a few of our favourites below, but we want YOU to share your favourite aphasia hacks, too.

Carry a Card

Some people carry a card explaining they have aphasia, but it’s equally helpful to carry a card with the most commonly-needed phrases for while you’re out and about. Think about things you’ll want to communicate while you’re at home with all the time in the world, such as instructions for a hairdresser or what you want to order at a restaurant, and write it down. Bring the card with you in case the words don’t come while you’re in the moment.

Draw a Picture

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and an image can certainly help you convey an idea when you’re struggling with words. Give this communication tool a bit of artistic flair by using a sketch pad and a special marker. Carry it with you and you’ll always paper at the ready.

Use Humour

Joan Pfeiffer wrote on Facebook that “one of my favorite sayings when people realize my speech sounds foreign and asks where I am from is: ‘I am from Aphasia and I speak Aphasian’.” Using a joke not only explains a difficult situation while making the other person feel at ease, but it generally makes the conversation flow better once everyone understands.

Write it Down

Lauren Marks writes down every word she suddenly remembers, keeping a journal of reclaimed words. She writes on page 31 of her memoir, A Stitch of Time, “In my journals, a discovered word was a sacrement — a thing I could write. And if I could write the thing, I could read it. And if I could read the thing, I could often say it.”

This process brings her back to the old words she used to know, one at a tme.


Circumlocution is saying all the words around the unknown word. For instance, if you can’t remember the word for the object, you may describe it using all the words you do know in connection to the missing word: fruit, food, eat, red, juicy, sweet… APPLE! Even when you don’t remember the missing word, the other person can help supply it because they figure it out from all of the great clues you give based on everything you know about the object.

Now it’s your turn: What are your best aphasia hacks that you either learned in speech therapy, from another person, or came up with on your own?



  • Anonymous
    July 6, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Slow down – I find that when I speak slower more folks understand me.

  • Ruth Gallegos
    July 6, 2017 at 10:29 am

    I have pink post it notes with names of the people in the picture. We have pictures of our grandchildren and I put their names on the post it note. My husband goes to every picture every day so he can say the names of our grandchildren. He still cannot say the names without looking at the post it notes on their picture. He had his stroke 9/24/2015. His nouns are the only words blocked now. Still working with him every day. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

  • Bill
    July 6, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Dining out opportunities when your PPA Sweetheart struggles with speech and reading skills. I have photos of preferred restaurants along with a favorite waitress or another recognizable figure and a few plated meals she normaly orders. It really helps in picking out places to go and menu selection options. Another thing that I now do is try and order my meal with a few different selections. She often likes something I order better once she sees it. Between the two plates of food I can satisfy both our appetites. I keep it simple. That makes us all happy.

    July 6, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    “Show me”. (don’t try to say it act it out/point to it etc.)

    Wordless travelers guides. Pictures drawing etc of everyday thing- of course you can add you own pictures drawings etc of things special to you e.g. family members.


  • James R Douglas
    July 6, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I’m 70 y/o and have just been diagnosed with PPA. However, the condition has been slowly manifesting itself for over a year.

    I have an excellent doctor in Montgomery, Alabama, and a world class medical facility available, The University of Alabama Hospita in Birmingham (UAB)l, along with Kirkland Clinic.

    My questions all revolve around the timeline, or progression of symptoms for the typical PPA patient. I know every patient is different but are there “typical” progression symptoms?

    James Douglas

    PS: I have a masters degree and have always been able to express myself. This email took 20 minutes to write because I could not come up with the right word. FRUSTRATING !!!

  • Anonymous
    July 7, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Circumlocution seems to be my problem. It is so frustrating when I know what I am thinking and can’t find the right words. A stroke is my problem, but I am grateful it has not been worse.

  • Sharon
    July 7, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Thank you for articles as I have severe apahasia and need to know about these idea – I use an iPad for a lot of communication with photos and maps and software called prologue2go
    My carer is writing this as I have trouble spelling and reading – my iPad is set to read text aloud so I can understand theses words

  • Judy
    July 11, 2017 at 11:49 am

    My husband has Aphasia. He has limited speech. He uses his cell phone to explain what he wants. He can not spell so he takes pictures of items to show the clerks,etc
    It has really helped him. He uses the maps app all the time too. Wonderful tool for him

  • Kelsie wahl
    July 11, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    After I had my stroke, I used to get so embarrassed at myself because I could talk or couldn’t find the words. I remember trying to find the words to say and instead saying “I am stupid, I dno.” Then, my mom start to say to me ” you can do it, just take your time and it’ll come out.” After I kept reminding myself of that little piece of advice, I stated to speak better and build more confidence.

  • Kelsie wahl
    July 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    After I had my stroke, I used to get so embarrassed at myself because I could talk or couldn’t find the words. I remember trying to find the words to say and instead saying “I am stupid, I dno.” Then, my mom start to say to me ” you can do it, just take your time and it’ll come out.” After I kept reminding myself of that little piece of advice, I stated to speak better and build more confidence.

  • Jen
    July 11, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    What if I can’t read? It took my reading too at 37 years old. Not everyone can read after aphasia.

  • Brian Spangler
    July 12, 2017 at 6:37 am

    The more tired I get the worse it becomes. So been sitting back and taking a break away from people for a moment.

  • Elizabeth Sullivan
    July 12, 2017 at 8:28 am

    My husband also has aphasia due to complications from a brain tumor. He spends time by himself during the day while I’m at work. We have found a couple of things that work well for us. If someone is coming to the house to do some work (plumber, electrician, etc.) we type out a paper introducing my husband, his speech issues and the notes of what we need done. That has worked really well. Also, I contacted the emergency response department in my county to notify them that there is someone who is non-verbal living in the house. If my husband calls 911 they will just send everyone and won’t wait for him to tell them the problem. Haven’t had to test that one out yet, thank heavens. We also put an app on his phone that lets us create canned text messages so that he can send me a text to me at work without having to find the words to type. The texts we made say things like “Having a problem, call right now.” or “Just letting you know that I’m fine.” or my favorite “You are my queen. I worship the ground you walk on.” I don’t get that one very often.

  • Alice
    July 13, 2017 at 2:49 am

    James R Douglas,

    Aphasia is usually caused by a trauma to a specific part of the brain. That type is not progressive, some improvements are possible/likely. Progressive aphasia would indicate that it is secondary to a degenerative neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration.

    Perhaps a growing tumor is disrupting function…
    Or you are experiencing repeated mini strokes, which every doctor would check for first.
    Perhaps you just think it’s getting worse, stress and fatigue make symptoms worse. Good days and bad days are real with aphasia.
    -Alice (almost) PhD

  • mark
    July 13, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I’m military, Ret., A=alpha B=Bravo C=Charlie, etc…..A-Z. help me…..27 yrs military….

  • Anonymous
    December 13, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    My husband lost speech ,writing, reading he cann’t use the speaking device to communicate. He understand what some else is saying. His stroke was 2009 and still improving. So slow never give up.

  • Michael McDonald
    December 13, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    My dad has expressive aphasia he can get a yes out but sometimes he means it to be a no so corrects himself by a shake of the head.He can draw naturally right handed but had no function from his arm so uses his left.I allways have a draw App whilst we are out incase I forget a notepad and pen.Also sometimes if we get too frustrated we come back to it at a later time sometimes we can never find out what he wants.If he requests something I ask if it for your body ? Which part legs? Arms? Face? Etc.Is it for the house ? If so room is it bathroom? Bedroom? Kitchen ? .What do you do with it show me the action.If it’s a request for something from a particular shop or store I Google the logos to show him etc

  • Joanie Scott
    August 15, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Meet other people with aphasia. Nobody will be exactly like you, all brain injuries are different, but sharing and knowing that you’re not alone is valuable. People who’ve just been diagnosed with aphasia can be reassured by those further along in their journey and it’s good to ‘pay it forward’. You’ll probably find that your communication is better if you’re with people who understand what you’re going through.

  • Mrs. Tim Webster
    August 15, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Never knew aphasia was what I was struggling with until years later. Multiple car accidents plus a possibility of ADHD means my brain works a little differently than others. I can be in mid sentence and stop, it’s like a stutter, and I can’t find the word. Or I blurt out the word in the wrong language, and don’t realize it until others are looking at me oddly.

    Two things help me: My daughter is great about supplying the correct word in English often before I even see the quizzical looks.

    Also, I use ASL (American Sign Language) to speak in crowded locations, because the noise levels make it hard to think. It helps me focus. Sometimes if I’m stuck, I can look at my hands, and it gives a clue about what I was saying, and helps get me back on track.

    I hope that helps others too. Typing this wasn’t a problem. Only spoken word is affected.

  • Joan Levine
    August 15, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    My father had a stroke in 2011. He purchased Rosetta Stone for learning English. It helped tremendously in the first few months, and there has been gradual improvement since then. We repeat things several times and then write it if he still doesn’t understand. I try to use short simple words and sentences enhanced by gestures.

  • Kim Beesley
    September 24, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    My daughter who is 35 has aphasia, 2 years post stroke, and she uses Siri on her phone for help with spelling. Usually works or at least gives her the beginning letter which is often all she needs to spell the rest of the word.

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