May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, allowing us to remind everyone about how communication changes after injury to the brain. Below are some tips that can enhance interactions for people with communication disorders.
Have you ever spent a night at a concert singing and can’t talk the next day? Or traveled to a different country where you can’t speak or understand the language? Think about how frustrating it was for you to try to communicate. Now, imagine experiencing that challenge every day.
Communication is vital for quality of life. As a Speech Language Pathologist, I work each day with people who struggle to express the most basic of needs. One thing is certain: the family and friends of my patients want the best for their loved one and yearn for the opportunity to hold a conversation with him or her. However, damage to the speech and language centers in the brain create challenges that can cause frustration, depression, and lead the individual to become withdrawn.
So, what can be done to enhance communication with your loved one after an injury to the brain? Here are some simple tips that can make communication more effective and pleasant.
I like to focus on the positive, so let’s get the “don’ts” out of the way.
- assume the patient can’t express their feelings or ideas.
- speak for the person, unless you ask permission first.
- speak to the individual like a child.
- switch topics or ask several questions in a row.
- frequently correct the individual’s speech errors.
Now for the positive part: here’s how you can help. Trust me, your loved one will thank you later!
- Allow extra time for the individual to talk and respond.
- Accept all forms of communication: speech, gestures, facial expressions, writing, drawing, and pointing to pictures.
- Ask yes/no questions to clarify what he or she is trying to say.
- Ask permission before helping the individual speak.
- Create a calm environment: face the individual, sit close by, keep eye contact, go somewhere quiet when able.
- Gain the individual’s attention prior to communicating.
- Speak in the same way you speak to others. At times, you may need to speak more slowly.
- Speak directly to the individual, not the caregiver.
- Treat the individual with respect. He/she is able to understand more than his/her ability to communicate shows.