10+ Tips to Speak to Aphasia Sufferers

Imagine with me for a moment your life as you know it is gone forever. You’re instantly thrust into a world you don’t understand, and the people don’t understand you. Now think about dealing with this every day of your life—365 days a year. Would you ever step out of your house?

In my last post, you got a sneek peek into the life of a person suffering from Aphasia. It makes for a very lonely existence unless you have someone who comes alongside you. Recently, I read a quote that said Aphasia is like playing a Scrabble game you can’t win.

All Aphasia is not the same but just as devastating. Aphasia is caused by injury to the left hemisphere of the brain. It affects reading, writing, speaking, and understanding, but not intelligence. That’s pretty weird, isn’t it?

There are fluent (Wernicke’s) and non-fluent (Broca’s) Aphasia, with profound differences between the two. Here’s how you know, and how you can communicate with these special people.


  • Speaks in longer sentences (5+ words at a time)
  • Words may be nonsense or with mixed sounds (“soon” for “spoon”)
  • Poor understanding
  • Generally, little physical weakness


  • Speaks in fewer than 5 words at a time
  • Effortful and halting speech (Um…there…car…)
  • Relatively good understanding
  • Varying degrees of arm/leg weakness


  • Write down key words while speaking
  • Paraphrase complex information
  • Speak in slower and simpler terms—don’t give more than one step at a time
  • Clarify frequently that they understand
  • Clarify frequently that you understand
  • Use objects or gestures while you speak to increase comprehension (“do you want toast or cereal?”—hold up or point to each)
  • Give them time to respond
  • Let them know when you don’t understand
  • Have patience and compassion (“I know that you know what you want to say but are having trouble.”)
  • Decrease distractions and get their attention
  • Keep visual and auditory stimuli minimized (no more than 3 choices)

I’m also looking into a device that is specifically designed for those with Aphasia called a Lingraphica Speech Generating Device. It’s a wonderful tablet that translates their words into speech and much more. I’ll let you know our experience


I was going to interview Ron for this blog, but his Aphasia made it too difficult for him. I did ask him if there was one thing he wanted you to know about living with Aphasia. This is what he said (I’m paraphrasing):

“Please be patient with me. I know what I want to say, and it will come out sooner or later. When you stay quiet, I can think and process easier.”

Please remember his words the next time you encounter someone who speaks haltingly or mixes up their words. Let’s be kind—always.

Penelope Silvers is a freelance writer and author of 9 books. Her newest work, “Extraordinary Detour, True Stories of Life, Death, and Miracles,” will be available at online retailers on May 31. She lives in Florida with her husband surrounded by beautiful lakes, breezes, and God’s wildlife. 


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