Using yes/no questions can be a very effective and easy-to-use technique to help you communicate with a person with aphasia. Yes/no questions are often easier for the person to understand. They also do not require the person to produce a new word in order to answer the question.
Using yes/no questions can be very helpful in many situations:
- Offering options: “Do you want to watch TV?”
- Confirming understanding: “I think you mean you want to go outside. Is that right?”
- Clarifying intent: “I heard you say Sarah. Do you want me to call Sarah?”
Although this technique seems straightforward, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Stick to one thought per question. In everyday speech, we often ask things like, “Do you want to go to the movies, or should we eat lunch first?” This combination of questions can be confusing to the person with aphasia. Their answer can also be confusing to you. If they answer “yes,” you still aren’t sure which option they prefer.
Use visual aids. Some people with aphasia can have yes/no confusion. Although they know which response they mean, the wrong word might come out. It can help to use a gesture or picture to accompany the response. This can include a thumbs up/down, a head nod, or an image of a happy/sad face.
Don’t rely exclusively on yes/no questions. These questions can be very helpful to confirm information and gain understanding, but it is also a very limited way to communicate. Encourage the person with aphasia to engage in more communication than just yes/no in order to have more meaningful interactions. Whether it’s through speech, drawing or an AAC device, people with aphasia still have a lot to say.