Aphasia is a language disorder that may impact a person’s ability to speak, listen, read and write. Appearing as a common side effect following a stroke, aphasia occurs in approximately 30% of stroke survivors and more than 100,000 Canadians live with aphasia.
Some people with aphasia cannot speak at all, some are unable to find the right words or pronounce the words properly, some have difficulty understanding the words they hear and others may not be able to read and write. Aphasia can be very frustrating and frightening for the person with aphasia and their caregivers. Aphasia often affects the ability to have conversations and can be very isolating.
Aphasia makes a person look less competent than they actually are. People with aphasia know more than they can say and can usually make decisions and direct their care when they have communication supports. Speech-language pathologists (S-LPs) assess for aphasia and provide speech and language therapy that is tailored to the person’s specific needs. Speech-language therapy is recommended for people with aphasia and is offered individually or in groups. A number of organizations also run community aphasia groups which use supported conversation techniques and give people with aphasia the opportunity to communicate in a social environment.
An S-LP can indicate if the person with aphasia would benefit from computer-based therapy and/or a communication device. An S-LP can train family, friends and caregivers to become more effective conversation partners for the person with aphasia. This training has great benefits for improving communication between conversation partners and the person with aphasia.
SAC has developed a poster on aphasia for Speech & Hearing Month 2021. Here are some tips for communicating with people with aphasia:
- Reduce or eliminate background noise while communicating.
- Get the person’s attention before you start speaking.
- Keep your language simple, but appropriate for an adult.
- Speak slowly and clearly using your normal voice.
- Give the person with aphasia time to speak. Don’t interrupt.
- Keep a pen and paper handy.
- Use drawing or gestures to help with communication.
- Print the main key works of your message to help with communication.
- Ask questions that need a yes or no answer.