Understanding aphasia and communicating effectively with those afflicted

Posted by Shayna Miller, S.L.P.
June 18, 2014

Shayna Miller, S.L.P.

Communication seemingly is vital. We use written words and verbal exchanges to trade information every single day. But what if you lost your ability to communicate? That’s exactly what aphasia does — steals your ability to communicate. More specifically, aphasia is a condition that affects your ability to express and understand language, in both written and spoken forms. Most cases of aphasia result from a stroke or brain injury, but it can be a progressive condition that develops due to a brain tumor or other disease.

When treating aphasia, it’s important to understand that no two individuals are alike. Therapy is extremely individualized and should focus on the patient’s difficulties and how it affects their overall communication. Family and caregivers also are an integral part of successful rehabilitation.

The support family and friends offer is huge. Additionally, being able to effectively communicate with a person afflicted by aphasia makes a world of difference. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Keep your sentences simple
  • Speak at a slower pace
  • Start with one-on-one chats instead of large group discussions
  • Cut out any unnecessary background noise, such as music, TV or other people’s conversations
  • Make sure you have their attention before beginning to speak
  • Give the person time to talk
  • Don’t correct errors in their speech or finish their sentences
  • Keep them involved in conversations — don’t shut them out
  • Use alternative communication methods, like drawing, when they are having trouble understanding you

Speech-language therapy along with support and assistance from family and friends helps restore language abilities for patients. Dealing with aphasia is a marathon, not a sprint. Patients, family members and friends need to stay strong and resist the urge to let frustrations take over. Commitment to success enhances outcomes, as well as the health and well-being of the patient.

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