Guest post by Ted Baxter
If your loved one has aphasia, your means of communication with them has been drastically altered. It can be very frustrating (indeed, heartbreaking in some cases) to watch as a family member or friend tries valiantly to communicate even the simplest of messages.
As a stroke survivor (which occurred when I was 41 years old), I have been around all types of aphasia for about 12 years or so, and I’ve been a participant of many aphasia schools around the country. Recently, I’ve been teaching people with aphasia, clinicians, and students that want to be speech therapists what they should do in contrast with what they should stay away from in approaching people with aphasia.
Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know so that you can best help your loved one as he or she navigates this impairment in their speech.
People who have aphasia have language challenges. Each type of aphasia can cause impairment that varies from mild to severe. Common types of aphasia include the following:
Aphasia may be mild or severe. With mild aphasia, the person may be able to converse, yet have trouble finding the right word or understanding complex conversations. Severe aphasia limits the person’s ability to communicate. The person may say little and may not participate in or understand any conversation.
To improve daily communication with a person who has aphasia:
Always try to keep people with aphasia involved in conversations. Check with them to make sure they understand, but do not push too hard for them to understand, since this may cause more frustration.
And remember: Do not try to correct people with aphasia if they remember something incorrectly. It only causes embarrassment or further frustration.
As someone who has made a nearly full recovery from a massive stroke, I can now say that those first weeks after my stroke were among the most difficult of my life. I still experience occasional challenges with my speech, but it is minimal. I know that the help my family and friends offered me during my recovery sped along my return to full speech function. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.
About the author: After spending 22 years in the financial industry, Ted W. Baxter retired as a global finance executive with a large hedge investment firm based in Chicago.
Ted now resides in Newport Beach, CA where he volunteers at several health-related institutions and hospitals in Orange County, leading groups in a stroke-related communication recovery program, and is a stroke and aphasia advocacy ambassador. He is the author of Relentless: How A Massive Stroke Changed My Life for the Better. For additional information, visit www.tedwbaxter.com.