When Someone Has Aphasia: 7 Tips For Communicating

It’s Aphasia Awareness Month. Approximately one million people in the United States have aphasia, with more than 200,000 Americans being diagnosed each year.

While there are many types of aphasia, it is always due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke. But brain injuries that result in aphasia can also come from head trauma, brain tumors or even brain infections.

It is an acquired language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. It can be so severe that communication is almost impossible, or it can be very mild, or anywhere in between. Varying levels include difficulty reading, writing, understanding speech and speaking.

The National Aphasia Association has a comprehensive list of types of aphasia and their definitions online.

Often the person with aphasia has no impairment to their intelligence, which can be very frustrating.

But a person with aphasia can still lead a full, active life.

One of Gwinnett Medical Center’s most popular stroke peer visitors compensates for his lingering aphasia with broad smiles as he meets stroke survivors and their families. While he’s had to give up his full-time profession, he is very active in the community and still enjoys driving cross-country to see new parts of the continent. His inspiring story, “Positive Influence,” is available online in the Summer 2011 issue of Vim & Vigor magazine.

Here are a few tips for communicating with someone with aphasia from the National Aphasia Association. Read all the tips at aphasia.org:
  • Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start.
  • Keep your own voice at a normal level, unless the person has indicated otherwise.
  • Simplify your own sentence structure and reduce your rate of speech, but don’t “talk down” to them.
  • Give them time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.
  • Confirm that you are communicating successfully with “yes” and “no” questions.
  • Praise all attempts to speak – do not insist on perfect pronunciation.
  • Encourage independence and avoid being overprotective.

How GMC Can Help

Learn more about the different type of aphasia and its treatment at GMC’s Health (e) Library, explore the stroke and other rehabilitation care GMC offers at Glancy Rehabilitation Center or see if one of GMC’s support groups is right for you. Among the support groups is the Jack Jacobs Aphasia Conversation Group, which meets the second and fourth Thursdays each month, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.


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