How To Effectively Communicate With Someone Who Has Aphasia

Aphasia is a disorder that affects your ability to communicate. Caused by damage to the part of your brain responsible for language, aphasia can bring about trouble with reading, listening, speaking, and writing (via Healthline). People with aphasia often have trouble finding the right words or using words in the correct order, as well as understanding what others are saying, especially if they are speaking quickly, per Healthline. They also may experience difficulty with writing and using numbers (via WebMD).

There are several different subtypes of aphasia, generally falling under two umbrellas: fluent and nonfluent, per WebMD. Those with fluent aphasia tend to have fluidity in their sentences, but what they say may not be coherent or understandable. People with nonfluent aphasia have trouble creating a fluid sentence but may end up getting the general meaning of their thoughts understood. While strokes are the most common cause of aphasia, it can also occur through head trauma, dementia, or a brain tumor, per Healthline.

It is important to note that while aphasia can interrupt someone's ability to communicate, it does not affect their intelligence, per WebMD. To make it easier to communicate with someone who has aphasia, however, there are a few tactics that you can use.

Best ways to communicate with someone who has aphasia

Patience, understanding, and respect are key when it comes to communicating with someone who has aphasia. Talking slowly and using short and simple phrases and sentences is helpful, per WebMD. According to the National Aphasia Association (NAA), it's also helpful to talk in a quiet space without a lot of distraction. They also suggest that before you start speaking, make sure you have the full attention of the person and avoid trying to be a mind reader and finish their thoughts for them. It may feel like you're being helpful, but doing so could feel disrespectful to the person you are communicating with. Giving the other person plenty of time to both consider your words and respond can also go a long way not only in effectively communicating with them but in showing respect as well.

Using yes or no lines of questioning and utilizing hand signals or drawings can also be helpful (via WebMD). Finally, keep in mind that this person is not lacking in intelligence in any way, just in their ability to communicate, so be sure to continue to include them in conversations and making decisions in a way that feels compassionate and respectful, per NAA.