How to communicate with someone that has speech aphasia

It is very easy for those with aphasia to become isolated, frustrated and depressed. As their ability to communicate with others has been affected, they may feel lonely and cut off from their friends, family and the world around them.

What is speech aphasia?

Speech aphasia is when an individual has difficulty with speech or language, and this is mostly caused by damage to the left side of the brain after a stroke, for example, or another incident.

Symptoms of aphasia can range from a few words getting mixed up to having issues with all forms of communication. There are two types of aphasia, receptive and expressive and these describe whether the individual has difficulty understanding and/or expressing language.

People with speech aphasia often find it troublesome to listen, read, speak, type and/or write. The speech problems with aphasia are the most obvious out of the other language issues and this is because they might make mistakes with the words they use.

People with aphasia may struggle to put words in sentences together, choosing the right word or struggle to make the correct sound for a word. Even though aphasia affects the way a person communicates, it does not affect their level of intelligence.

Tips for improving communication with speech aphasic individuals

There are many ways that friends and family members can help support someone with aphasia. You can help by doing the following:

Minimise distractions – By turning off the TV or the radio and moving to a quieter room, it makes it easier for them to concentrate on what they want to say.

Be respectful – It can be hard for family and friends around someone who has aphasia to process that they are just as intelligent but just can’t find the words to say. Avoid speaking to someone with aphasia like they are a child or in a patronising manner. Although this may not be your intention, it could feel frustrating to them.

Yes or no questions – By asking yes or no questions it makes it easier for you and somebody with aphasia to have a conversation because they do not have to search for words before answering. When possible, give clear choices for answers but do not give them too many choices, as this may end up more confusing.

Giving instructions – When giving instructions or telling something to a person with aphasia, break it down into simple and small steps and give them time to understand and process what you are saying. This can often be longer than what you expect, so be patient.

Other communication methods – Other ways to communicate with those who have aphasia could include hand gestures, pointing, drawings, writing and signing. It may also be beneficial for people with aphasia, as well as caregivers to have a book with words or pictures about topics that are often spoken about to make communication easier.

Everyone with aphasia is different and has different personalities. The most helpful thing you can do is to be patient, communicate and understand what they are going through the best you can. Discuss what is best for them and what they prefer when it comes to communication, and this will help improve the way you both continue communicating with each other.

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