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Tips for communicating with aphasia at home

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

It's Aphasia Awareness Month! Let's talk about aphasia.


Aphasia IS:

· A language disorder that can affect a person’s ability to speak (i.e. recall specific words and names), read, write, and sometimes understand language

· Typically develops after a stroke or brain injury

Aphasia is NOT:

· A deficit in intelligence


Tips for those with aphasia:

· Practice speech and language skills in real-life situations at home

· Have a conversation with your family member/spouse, using all forms of expressive communication modalities (written letters/words/drawing, pointing to pictures or maps, gestures, text, verbal communication) to get your message across

· Label things in your home with the written name of the item and different pictures/representations of the same object and practice naming items in your home.

· Describing items you use every day or places you go every day can help activate the word finding networks in the brain (i.e. what does it feel like, what shape or color is it, what is it used for, where do you find it?)

Helpful compensatory strategies for individual with aphasia:

· Talking around or describing a word

· Using a different but similar word

· Supportive communication strategies (drawing, writing, gestures)

Supports:

· Write down names of family members and places in easily accessible place

· Use simple “low technology” communication book

· Use a calendar (i.e. iPhone, calendar book)

· Use “speech to text” app

· Use FaceTime when possible, rather than voice phone calls

· Memory aids (reminders/alerts in phone, written lists, notes in phone)

Tips for helping loved ones manage aphasia:

· Clarify any areas of confusion in their speech

· Help them to retrieve the specific word they’re looking for IF asked for assistance

- Develop a signal for the listener/communication partner to either guess the intended word or to hold off

· Provide supportive conversational behaviors without interrupting or rushing the individual (active and engaged listening)

· Write out key words when they are speaking to assist in understanding or can break down their message into grammatically simple, short, and easy to understand sentences.

· Provide ample time for the person with aphasia to respond

· Seek out support or your support system for yourself as you are dealing with a significant emotional load supporting the person with aphasia as well

· Be patient and supportive

· Acknowledge the frustration of the person with aphasia when communicating

· Keep in mind that the person with aphasia may have difficulty retrieving words that they know (even very familiar names!) and it is not that they have forgotten them

· Provide an intended word when the person with aphasia wants assistance

Strategies:

  • Recalling names of objects/family members

  • Try to aid the person in retrieving the word

  • Ask “can you describe it to me?”

  • “Do you know what letter it starts with?”

  • “Can you write it? Or can you write the first letter?

  • Can you draw a picture?

  • Point to it on the map or in the communication book

  • Ask clarification question to get context (i.e. “Is this a restaurant?” Is it in Stamford?” “Have we gone there together?”

Word association exercises

  • Producing word opposites (i.e. producing “little” when prompted with “big”)

  • Retrieving specific words from a set of given descriptive clues

  • *(Keep this relevant to words used in daily life)

Reading and summarizing

  • Read a relevant short passage

  • Summarize each line using SPECIFIC words (not a lot of “fluff”)

If you or a loved one has aphasia reach out to set up a free consultation to see how I can help.

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