Let's Talk About Aphasia
By Kaylee Torok
Have you or a loved one experienced a stroke or head injury and now have difficulty communicating? Along with all of the challenges a stroke or head injury can bring, having trouble finding your words or understanding others can lead to frustration. All too often we see this frustration lead to reduced participation in conversation and social isolation.
A language disorder following a stroke or head injury is also known as aphasia. There are several types of aphasia (e.g., Broca's, Wernickes, mixed, etc.) that affect how a person communicates, including expressing and/or understanding thoughts and ideas. It can impact the way a person speaks, understands, reads, and/or writes. Individuals with aphasia are still able to communicate, however the modalities may vary. Often as treatment progresses, the communication modality changes. For instance, in the acute phase, pointing or use of gestures is common. This may transition into single-word response with varying intonation (e.g., "no!" v. "no?").
As speech-language pathologists, we see how frustrating it can be for both the individual with aphasia and communication partners. With the education and training, we are able to teach individuals and loved ones the strategies to make communication exchanges more fluid and functional.
Communication Partner Strategies:
Speak slowly and shorten your sentences
Be patient. Allow extra time for the person to respond
Do not finish sentences or try to interrupt
Ask them if they want help finding a word
Eliminate or reduce distractions as much as possible
Talk one-on-one-Speaking in groups increases difficulty
Stay on one topic at a time
Incorporate visuals or pictures
Maintain normal level of loudness during conversation
Be respectful and understanding
Aphasia affects communication and NOT intellect.
Word Finding Strategies for Individuals with Aphasia:
Give yourself some time for the word to come out. Be patient with yourself and also ask your communication partner to give you some time.
Describe what you are thinking of
This gives information about the word you’re thinking of including what it looks like or what it does. Describing can help them understand what you are talking about and even might help you think of the word!
Use an association
Try to think of something that is related to what you are thinking of. For example, if I am trying to say the word ‘hammer’, I may think of the word ‘nail.’ This can help the word pop out or convey the meaning to the listener.
Try thinking of a word that is similar or means the same thing
Use the first letter
Write or think of the first letter of the word. To help with this, scan through the alphabet to see if a letter triggers anything. For example, if I were trying to think of the word, ‘paper.’ I might scan the alphabet and know it begins with the letter ‘p.’
This is just like playing charades! Use your hands or body language to act out the word.
Visuals can help retrieve words. Draw out a picture of what you’re trying to say.
Identify the topic
Give the general category of the word you’re thinking of. Doing so, can provide context to the listener to know what you are communicating.
Click here for our printable, wallet-sized card below to help you identify yourself, aphasia, and strategies that will help with communication!