My mother recently suffered a stroke. Fortunately, she is in the early phases of recovery, but this led me to think a great deal about the importance of family support during the recovery period. Language impairment and communication deficiencies are common hurdles for stroke survivors. I asked Debi Rabe, ST, one of the speech therapists who works with us at Active In-Home Therapy, to recommend ways to develop effective communication. Specifically,
“How to talk to someone who has speech and language difficulties following a stroke.”
She provided this thoughtful list which I find to be very useful:
- Try to honor the general message your loved one
is communicating. What they are trying to say is more important than the specifics of how
it was communicated.
- If your loved-one is trying to use strategies taught in Speech Therapy, thank him or her for the effort, regardless of whether it was perfectly effective.
- Use a variety of the ideas below, streamlining them to fit the severity of communication disorder.
If your loved-one has difficulties forming
the speech sounds:
1. Allow him uninterrupted, extended time to
2. Repeat back what you heard him say, asking, “Is this what you meant?”
3. Avoid correcting his mispronunciations, instead, request him to repeat the sentence. This allows for the opportunity for him to practice the pronunciation without feeling like you are the “teacher”.
4. Ask him to “stretch his mouth” or “over-exaggerate” while talking. This will help him slow down and hit each speech sound target.
If your loved-one has difficulties understanding what you are saying:
1. Make sure she can see your lips when you talk
2. If she has a hearing aid, make sure she is wearing it and the battery is working.
3. Speak in slow, punctuated sentences.
4. Repeat key parts of the sentence.
5. Ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”
6. Give choices, such as “do you want the chocolate or vanilla?” Wait for the answer.
7. Give simple, one-step directions.
8. Pause between sentences, allowing time for her to process what you just said.
If your loved-one has difficulties
finding his words:
1. Allow plenty of pauses while he searches for the
2. Allow him to find the word, instead of jumping in to supply the word.
3. Ask him to describe the missing word.
4. Ask him to substitute a synonym for the missing word.
5. Complete word-searches, word-puzzles, cross-word puzzles, scrabble games, together and out-loud.
~ Karl Power, CEO
* this post is not a substitute for the professional judgment of health care professionals in diagnosing and treating patients.