Aphasia is the result of a stroke or brain injury. The Brain Injury of Massachusetts offers some wonderful ideas and coping skills.
Aphasia is a complex condition. It affects each person differently and may be hardly noticeable or very severe. A person with Aphasia may find that their communication difficulties can change from day-to-day or even hour to hour. They are likely to be worse when tired, unwell or under pressure.
People with Aphasia have described the experience as being:
“locked inside my own head”
“everything been washed from my brain”
Having Aphasia is often isolating and extremely frustrating. It usually results in loss of work for people under retirement age, with loss of status, social contact and financial security. Roles within the family may change, and friendships and close relationships come under great strain.
Will it improve? Each individual will have a different set of problems and will achieve a different level of recovery. It is impossible to predict how much language the person will regain.
Having the confidence to use whatever language skills remain seems to be even more important than being able to find all the right words. With practice and support, even people with severe Aphasia can continue to express their needs, choices and unique personality.
When you are talking with a person with Aphasia:
- Choose a quiet place with few distractions if possible e.g. (background noise and more than one person speaking at once can make it very hard to follow a conversation).
- Gain and maintain eye contact before starting to speak. This will ensure that facial expressions and gestures will give a lot of clues about the message you are trying to get across, even if he/she finds the words hard to follow.
- Allow plenty of time for him/her to absorb what you have said and to make his/her response.
- Talk with a normal voice but at a slightly slower speed than usual.
- Give only one piece of information at a time.
- Use short sentences.
- Check you have both understood. Don’t pretend you have understood when you haven’t!
- Use familiar words and phrases.
- Make it clear if you are changing the subject.
- Have a pen and paper handy, as some people can read or write better than they can speak. Sometimes drawing the message or using other ‘props’ (pictures, photographs and real objects) can help.
- It is easier to answer questions with a “Yes” or “No” answer (closed questions) than questions that need a fuller answer (open questions). For example, “Do you want a cup of tea?” rather than, “What would you like to drink?”
- It is quite common for people with Aphasia to mix related words when they speak (such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or ‘he’ and ‘she’). Sometimes it can help to use gestures (thumbs up or down) or point to a symbol (tick, cross, smiley face, unhappy face) to check the meaning.
- Avoid shouting, interrupting, patronising or ignoring the person with Aphasia. Many people with Aphasia have had the experience of being treated as “stupid”, “drunk” or “mad”, which makes living with a language impairment even harder to deal with.
Good new is that there are new websites that offer tools to cope with aphasia. Hope, Humor and Hard work will improve our disorder.