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Communication Tips for Aphasia

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So as promised in a previous blog about Aphasia Awareness Month, here are some simple tips when communicating with someone with Aphasia:

To Help Get the Message IN:

  • Keep it simple. Don’t use long drawn-out sentences without any pauses.
  • Write key words as you’re speaking to emphasize the message. Using a black marker on a white blank paper works well.
  • Use pictures or their communication device.
  • Review what you are saying and ask them if they understood you.

To Help Get the Message OUT:

  • Allow extra time.
  • Ask one question at a time and provide choices.
  • Encourage the person to use gestures, draw pictures, or write words to help if they’re stuck on a word.
  • Acknowledge their competence. You can say “I know you know what you want to say, it’s just hard getting it out.”
  • Use pictures or their communication device.
  • Review what you think the message is.
  • If you don’t understand what the person is saying, it’s ok to say so.

You’d be surprised how effective these strategies can be. I once had a client who could only say “yes” or “no” on his own after his stroke. He came to therapy visibly upset one day and instead of starting the session, I spent some time trying to figure out why he was upset. He pointed to his belly. By writing down key words, giving him choices, and using pictures, I was able to determine that “needle,” “stomach,” and “this morning” were important words. I then took this information to the nurse after the therapy session and the nurse immediately realized that he had not gotten his insulin shot that morning.

This example goes to show how much people with aphasia can communicate with us if we use the right tools and strategies. There are some nice graphics from the American Heart Association reviewing some of these communication tips.

If you know someone with aphasia and would like to find out more about how to communicate with them most effectively, send us an email or give us a call at or 289.856.9933.


*Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at
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