How to Talk to a Person with Aphasia

Speaking Environment
Keep the surroundings noise-free minimizing as much background noise as possible. Limit the number of people in the conversation. Stand in the person’s line of sight. Use facial expressions and gestures. Give the person time to speak and avoid talking for the
person unless he/she gives you permission to do so. Make sure you have the person’s attention before starting to communicate. Encourage independence and make sure the person with aphasia continues to attend all functions with friends and family.

Tone of your speech
Do not talk down to the person with aphasia. Keep the communication adult-like but simple. Don’t speak louder than usual but do emphasize key words. Have patience. Give your speaking partner time to communicate. Let them complete what they have to say. Help out only if they become overly frustrated. Speak at a normal rate. Speaking too quickly can make it difficult for an individual with aphasia to comprehend. Stick to one topic at a time. Switching thoughts midstream through a story might make it difficult for an aphasic to follow the conversation.

Characteristics of your speech
Encourage all modes of communication including writing, drawing, pointing to pictures, and gestures in addition to speech. Ask questions in a way they can answer you with a simple yes or no. Give clear choices for possible answers, but do not give them too many choices. Break down instructions into small and simple steps. It may help the person with aphasia and their caregivers to make a book with pictures or words about common topics or people so that they can communicate better. Check with them to make sure they understand.

What to do when you don’t understand
Try to avoid saying what or I don’t understand. Instead, repeat back the part of the conversation you do understand. I know you are hungry but I didn’t understand what you wanted to eat. Or you could guess what was said like, “Did you say you wanted a peach”? You could also encourage alternate means of communication like gesturing, drawing, or writing the first letter of the requested item. When you think you do understand, confirm it. Oh, you want a peach! You may offer an initial sound or syllable if the person gets frustrated and you know what the word is. You could help the person find the right word or words by asking questions like “How is it used”? Where would I find it? , or Can you describe it? If you still do not know what the person wants after several attempts, be honest with them. I am sorry but I do not understand. I know you know what you want but just can’t say it. How about we try to figure it out later.