To wrap up our Communication Tips quiz, we’re rounding up aphasia-friendly communication facts. These quick tips are meant to help people realize that we already use these best practices every day. Aphasia-friendly communication means being mindful of things we already do and using them whenever we’re speaking with someone who has aphasia.
We released the first 4 out of 11 communication tips last week. We’re back with another 7 to aid communication.
Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to understand, produce, or read written or spoken words. Aphasia presents differently in each person. In fact, the only thing everyone with aphasia has in common is that aphasia does not affect the person’s intellect.
Aphasia can occur after a head injury or stroke. It can also be the result of a brain tumor. In rare cases, aphasia is the result of primary progressive aphasia (PPA), which is a neurodegenerative disorder.
There are many types of aphasia, and each (Broca’s, Wernicke’s, global, etc) comes with its own challenges. Some people with aphasia have difficulty taking in messages. They have trouble understanding what other people are saying or what they’re reading. Other people with aphasia have difficulty producing messages. Saying the correct word, remembering how to say what they want to say, getting started speaking, or writing may be impaired. Aphasia can affect speaking, understanding, writing, and reading.
More Quick Communication Tips
Aphasia can be isolating. Imagine not being able to easily convey your thoughts to your friends and family. Imagine not being able to understand what they’re saying to you. But aphasia doesn’t have to be isolating. In fact, it can go a long way for a person with aphasia to know that you’re trying to help them to communicate and remain part of the conversation.
Help friends and family understand that the old ways of communicating may not work, and they’ll need to adjust in order to keep the person part of the conversation. Here are things you’re already doing that are part of aphasia-friendly communication.
You verify understanding in conversations without thinking, but aphasia-friendly communication asks that you do this consciously. Make sure that you understand what the other person is saying by repeating it or letting them know what you heard. Additionally, ask the person with aphasia to repeat back and verify they understood what you were saying. This “double-check” system makes for clear communication.
You would never nod at your boss and pretend to understand the task she was asking you to do if your job was on the line. Approach aphasia-friendly communication in the same way. Do not pretend that you understand what the other person is saying if you really don’t. Help the person by conveying that you want to understand, you have time to wait as they work on the message, and you have the flexibility to get creative with communication. It is much more rewarding for both people if everyone walks away from the conversation understanding each other.
Speak Directly to the Person
We instinctively know that we should always go to the source of the information when we have a question, but we sometimes forget that when a person has aphasia. Loop people with aphasia into the conversation by speaking to them directly instead of setting up moments where someone is speaking for them.
Ask If They Want Help
Adults with aphasia are adults, first and foremost. They have thoughts they want to convey and opinions they want to express. There will be times when they are having difficulty remembering or saying a word, and your first instinct may be to jump in and help. But it’s more helpful to wait to see if they can do it without aid and to ask if they want help if you sense frustration.
Ask Yes/No Questions
When we’re in a hurry, we instinctively start to phrase questions so people can give “yes” or “no” (as opposed to open-ended answers). For example, we’re more likely to ask: “Can you complete this by noon?” instead of “When can you complete this?” Again, take this communication method that you already do and apply it when possible to make questions aphasia-friendly. While some questions require a longer response, others allow the person to give a head nod or thumbs up motion in order to make their feelings known.
When you see someone yawn, you know that it’s time to wrap up the conversation. Take this communication tip you already do and remember that people with aphasia often experience fatigue. It can be exhausting to have conversations when you have a communication disorder. Provide rest periods, and try to hold more complicated conversations while the person has energy.
Use This Acrostic
Aphasia-friendly communication can be summed up with this acrostic for the word aphasia:
A: ask simple, direct questions
P: provide multiple communication options
H: help communicate if asked
A: acknowledge frustration
S: speak slowly and clearly
I: if you don’t understand, say so
A: allow extra time