When communicating with someone with aphasia, sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. Despite good intentions, sometimes our first attempts are not always the best. Even though we want to improve our communication, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some things not to do:
Avoid The Following When Communicating With Someone Who Has Aphasia
Don’t repeat yourself in a louder voice. It’s important to speak clearly, but if the person with aphasia did not understand you, saying it again louder will not help. Try rephrasing and making your language more simple.
Don’t discount the person’s intelligence. Remember that aphasia is a language impairment, not a cognitive impairment. People with aphasia are able to think logically and make decisions.
Don’t talk for or over the person with aphasia. It might be tempting to finish their sentences, but that can be frustrating for the person with aphasia. Instead, be patient and allow plenty of time for them to speak. Encourage others (such as family members, doctors, community members) to speak directly to the person with aphasia. Don’t speak on their behalf unless they ask you to. If you sense that the person might be getting frustrated and need help, you can ask “Do you want me to talk to the doctor?” Get their permission before you communicate for them.
Don’t lose sight of who they are. Aphasia is a big life change, but they are still the same person underneath the new struggle. Focus on communicating about hobbies, family jokes, and things that show their personality.
Don’t give up on communication. When communication is difficult, it can be tempting for both the person with aphasia and the communication partner to say “forget it.” It’s important to be persistent and let the person with aphasia know that you care about what they have to say. Tell them you want to keep working to figure it out.