The Lingraphica Blog

12 Strategies for Successful Conversation with a Person Who Has Aphasia

Jul 28, 2017 | by Angie Maher

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Communicating when aphasia is in the mix can be effortful, challenging, and frustrating for all parties involved. Read on to learn about 12 helpful strategies to better conversation.

As a clinician, you've most likely heard a variety of conversations between communication partners and someone who has aphasia. Chances are, not all of them have been textbook examples of great communication. Perhaps some have even gone like this:

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Communication partner: John, would you like some lunch?

John (has aphasia): Yes.

Communication partner: What would you like?

John: I…I…I… (long pause)

Communication partner: Well…?

John: I…I…want… (long pause, then a deep sigh)

Communication partner: John, I have three loads of laundry to wash, grocery shopping to do, and prescriptions to pick up today. Can you
please decide?

John: (sigh). No. Nothing.

Communication partner: Fine. I can’t wait around all day. I’ll check back with you later. Maybe you’ll know what you want by then. (Leaves the room.)

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As you know, conversations like these happen between many communication partners and persons with aphasia. Oftentimes, both parties end up feeling frustrated, annoyed, and possibly hurt by exchanges like these. So, what can be done?

In an effort to reduce the number of times these types of interactions occur, Lingraphica has created a one-page downloadable sheet of 12 Strategies for Successful Conversation with a Person Who Has Aphasia, free to download, print, and share with your colleagues, clients, and their communication partners. Adapted from the Aphasia Institute’s Supportive Conversation for Adults with Aphasia method of communication, the implementation of these strategies rests largely with the communication partner. To make things a bit easier, we’ve broken them down into two categories:

  • 6 strategies for helping the person with aphasia understand your message
  • 6 stategies for helping the person with aphasia communicate their message.

For example, one strategy to get the person with aphasia to understand your message would be to use short, simple sentences in a normal tone of voice. Speaking loudly isn’t necessary for most people with aphasia, and less complex sentences may be easier for him/her to process and understand. A strategy for helping the person with aphasia to communicate his/her message would be to ask “yes or no” questions. This will help you hone in on what your client wants to say to you. Remember: whether the communication partner is you or someone else, communication partners are the ones who can speak. Be patient and supportive when engaging with someone with aphasia. As you know, their speech is a struggle.

Even if the strategies are not completely new to you, they may be new to other communication partners who frequently try to converse with your client(s). Sharing this information with them could be incredibly valuable to many communication partners who also happen to be spouses.  

Click below for your printable 12 strategies…and we encourage you to hang them on a bulletin board or take them to client sessions with you. Here’s to more effective, supportive communication!

Download the 12 Strategies