We have conversations every day, all day long. But when someone has a communication impairment, like after a stroke, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, or has dementia, even a "simple" conversation can become a challenge.
Conversations are essential to recovery. The 2 way communication and just the interaction, helps speed progress.
But there are tools that can help.
Conversation and ALL communication, involves at least 2 people. BOTH people are responsible for the message and need to work together to be successful.
Having practice conversations is a form of practicing strategies from speech therapy and will help BOTH people improve their communication skills. Keep these practice sessions short initially; less than 15 minutes. 5 minutes is better.
Focus on topics that:
- are low stress
- involve happy Memories
- value their knowledge (use their area of expertise) so they're confident.
- Favorite photo, like a classic car
- Favorite object, like a hammer
- Grocery list
- Packing list
When practicing, choose a time when BOTH people are relaxed and in a calm, comfortable, quiet environment. Extra sounds like the TV, radio, or even a busy street can be distracting and add an extra challenge.
- Use short phrases
- Ask short, simple questions that don’t have a “wrong” answer
- Ask his opinion/preference
Reflect: repeat their message.
Expand: add what you think they may be trying to say.
Summarize: pull things together at the end of a longer discussion.
Write key words.
- Write your key words; when you figure out one of his words, write it down.
- Underline the first letter/sound to draw attention to it.
Ensure you understand.
- After you write his word, say the word, e.g. “boat, yes?” then encourage him to respond “yes” (or “no” if appropriate/if you misunderstood)
Give plenty of time to respond.
Ignore minor errors.
The goal is effective communication, not perfect.
The more you practice,
the easier the strategies will be,
the easier communication will be.
This video from Aphasia Access helps demonstrate how to use writing and gestures to supplement communication.