Archive for August, 2012

Aphasia: Help Me Communicate

August 30, 2012

Aphasia’s “wordlessness” is bewildering not only to the victim, but also to those who interact with them, including doctors. The victims cannot speak, and often cannot read and write. The doctors most needed to support them do not comprehend the situation. Each group finds itself in an awkward, uncomfortable communicative vacuum that too often leaves the victims feeling ignored and abandoned.

Some in the speech profession are striving admirably to remedy that vacuum. University of Washington Aphasia Retreat Day professors stressed the importance of doctors being able to communicate with their aphasic patients and suggested that one way would be to use a form similar to the one below. It can be prepared for the aphasic victim by a speech therapist or caregiver to be presented to the doctor.

Items can be checked off, added or subtracted as they may apply to particular communication needs. What doctors learn from one aphasic will help future patients.

Tips for communicating with someone with aphasia.*

I have aphasia. Below I have marked some ways that you can help me communicate. Please remember that my thinking and memory are good. I just cannot communicate easily with language.

 _____   Talk a little slower, but still use a normal tone of voice. No “baby talk.”

_____   Face me when you talk so I can watch you. That helps me understand.

_____   Use gestures and body language to help convey what you are saying.

_____   Write down key words you are saying. Write down anything you need me to remember.

_____   Draw simple pictures to help me understand.

_____   I want to know all of the information, but explain it slowly and clearly. Define new words for me.

 Things you can do to help me express myself:

 _____   Allow me to use my communication notebook or other communication aid.

_____   Give me extra time to answer you.

_____   Sometimes it is hard for me to say exactly what I mean. Check to be sure you understood what I meant.

_____   I use a lot of gestures, body language, or drawing to communicate. Watch me closely.

_____   If I get stuck, it is OK with me if you try to guess what I am say. Or ….

_____   If I get stuck, please do not interrupt me. Please wait until I finish what I am saying.

 Getting help from my family or other caregivers:

 _____  I like to have my family with me to help. However, please still talk directly to me and include me in conversations.

 *Form contributed by Dr. Carolyn Baylor and Dr. JoAnn Silkes, Aphasia Day 2012 Handout.

Carol Schultz, Author

Crossing the Void: My Aphasic Journey

Aphasia: Communicating With Your Doctor

August 19, 2012

Dr. Baylor of the UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine offers tips to aphasics about how to communicate with your doctor or other healthcare provider.


She says that most doctors do not learn how to communicate with aphasic patients. Do not assume your doctor knows how to communicate with you! Doctors want to help, but might not know how.


What can you do? Your family can help you.

  • Ask for a longer appointment.

Sometimes it helps to schedule the last appointment of the day when the doctor does not have to rush on to the next patient.

  • Before the appointment, write down any questions you have for the doctor.
  • Give your doctor 3 or 4 communication ideas that will help him communicate with you.
  • Bring your communication book or other communication aid. Show your doctor how to use it with you.
  • Do not pretend to understand the doctor if you do not. Tell the doctor you do not understand.
  • Let the doctor know if he misunderstands you.
  • Bring a family member of friend who can help you communicate and take notes.


Contributed by Dr. Carolyn Baylor and Dr. JoAnn Silkes, Aphasia Day 2012