5 Tips for Aphasia

5 Tips for Aphasia

If you’ve made your way to this post, it’s probably because you are currently caring for someone with aphasia.  Unfortunately, most people have never heard the word “aphasia” unless they or a significant other has received that diagnosis.  So without much knowledge on this diagnosis, it can be tricky to provide the best care for your loved one.  Although no two people are alike or present with the same aphasia characteristics, there are simple ways you can enhance your interaction and communication with your loved one.

Here is a list of easy-to-implement tips you can use while caring for someone with aphasia.  By using these tips, you can improve your communication and interaction with your loved one.

1. Reduce noise

A signature difficulty for people with aphasia is understanding spoken language.  If you are talking in a crowded restaurant or with a loud TV in the background, it will be harder for your loved one to understand what you’re saying.

2. Speak slowly

Slowing your rate of speech can enable a person with aphasia to understand you better.  It’s not necessary to speak unnaturally slow, but be mindful of your rate.  Add a few more pauses in between phrases or sentences to give your loved one time to process.

3. Use visuals

Visuals, such as pictures, gestures, drawings, and written words, can provide an extra layer of support for people with aphasia.  For example, if a person with aphasia cannot understand the spoken word “spoon,” you can provide additional support by showing him/her a picture of a spoon or demonstrating what to do with a spoon.  These visuals will allow the person with aphasia to successfully understand your message.

4. Shorten your sentences

It’s important that you speak to your loved one like an adult, but modify your sentence length so that processing is easier.  You can continue to talk about topics of interest (e.g., hobbies, politics, family), just keep it short and sweet.

5. Modify your questions

In everyday conversation, we use a lot of open-ended questions.  For example, we might say something like, “what are you doing today” or “why did you do that?”  However, for people with aphasia, these types of questions can be tricky.  Open-ended questions require them to find the word/words needed to answer the question, which may not be easy.  There are two different ways you can modify your questioning to assist your loved one.

1) Give possible answer choices for your questions.  For instance, if you wanted to ask, “what are you doing today,” you could provide pictures or written words of possible answers.  By providing choices, the person with aphasia will be better able to say an appropriate response or can point to the appropriate picture if s/he still can’t access the words to say them aloud.

2) Ask yes/no questions when possible.  For example, instead of saying, “what are you doing today,” you can ask “are you going to the store today?”

Courtney Caruso
Courtney Caruso
Courtney Caruso, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a bilingual (English/Spanish) speech-language pathologist and the owner and founder of Liberty Speech Associates LLC, a speech therapy practice in NJ and PA.