Visual aids can be one of the most effective tools to help people with aphasia communicate. People with aphasia often have difficulty with reading and writing in addition to speaking. Because of this, written text does not always help people with aphasia. However, most people with aphasia are able to recognize and use pictures and other visual aids.
For people who are able to speak and understand spoken language, visual aids can still be a helpful tool to reinforce a message. Providing a visual can establish a context. It can also be a resource when the person experiences word finding difficulties. When the communication partner is speaking, a picture or other visual aid can improve understanding. It also helps the brain to connect the picture with the spoken words.
For people who have more severe impairments, pictures and other visual aids can take the place of speech when needed. Relying on visual aids can reduce the pressure to speak. As the communication partner, you can still provide the word for the picture once the person with aphasia has selected it.
For instance, if the person with aphasia presents a picture of the garden, you can respond with, “You would like to go work in the garden!”
Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to use pictures and other visual aids. If you have a smartphone, then you always have access to many visuals that will be helpful. At any time, you can do a web search to find an image that will support communication. If you prefer, you can also print commonly used pictures and visuals. These can be kept at home, in the car, in a purse/backpack, or in a “communication book” that can be brought into the community.
Here Are Some Tips For Using Visual Aids to Communicate With Someone Who Has Aphasia
- Personally relevant is always best. If you can, use a picture of the person’s actual jacket rather than a general image found on the internet.
- Use visuals and speech together. Say the name of each picture as you point to it. The combination of verbal speech and an image help the brain to connect the words to the image. For instance, visual aids can be useful when presenting choices. You can say, “Do you want to go play golf (point to picture of golfing) or watch football (point to a picture of a football game)?”
- Use visuals to represent key points or topics. For instance, you might have just gotten some news about your niece’s upcoming wedding that you want to share with your loved one with aphasia. Be prepared with a picture of your niece and a wedding scene in order to establish a context and keep the conversation on track.
Visual aids can be helpful for people with any type of aphasia, from mild to severe. Because images are easy to find and use, they are a convenient tool to incorporate into your conversations.