Medical advice: Essential but simple ways to help loved ones with Aphasia


We tend to take for granted our ability to communicate, how effortlessly our words flow out of our mouths. However, when our speech becomes impaired, we profoundly feel the impact.

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month. Yet, most people have never heard about this type of communication disorder. Aphasia is a language impairment that can affect the understanding or expression of communication, as well as reading or writing skills. The most common cause is stroke, but can also result from head trauma, brain tumor, or other neurological causes. Aphasia ranges in severity, depending on the amount and the location of the injury to the parts of the brain that contain language. Some characteristics of aphasia include:

  • Trouble finding the word(s) to express an idea
  • Switching sounds and/or words (for example, a fork is called a “spoon” or cell phone becomes “pell cone”)
  • Needing extra time to understand spoken information or directions
  • Difficulty following fast speech (for example, television programs)


While aphasia is more common among older people, it can occur in people of all ages, races, nationalities, and genders. When a person is diagnosed with aphasia, families can find themselves in need of information about how best to help their loved one improve their communication. A speech language pathologist (SLP) is the professional who conducts a comprehensive assessment of the person with aphasia, determining the communication strengths and weaknesses, and developing a treatment program to improve the person’s deficits. Family members also play an important role in the recovery of these language skills by helping the person with aphasia to compensate for the communication difficulties as well as to cope with frustration and emotional adjustment. Strategies for family include:

  • Continue to involve the person with aphasia in family decision making as much as possible
  • Give the person time to talk, without speaking for him/her
  • Simplify sentence structure and reduce your own rate of speech
  • Use natural gestures to help the person understand you
  • Make more comments and responses rather than ask questions or make demands
  • When misunderstanding occurs, paraphrase or repeat the message more simply
  • Talk to the person as an adult and not as a child
  • Accept attempts at communication through whatever means possible, such as gestures, drawing, and pointing to pictures
  • Consider a support group for the person as well as for family members




BIO: Lisa Reuther, M.Ed, CCC-SLP is a speech therapist at Lakeland Regional Medical Center’s Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Clinic and treats both adults and children.  She brings to the local community over 19 years of expertise in the evaluation and remediation of individuals experiencing impaired communication, cognition, and swallowing, including areas like aphasia and brain injury.


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