While not a household name, aphasia is a disorder that affects approximately 25 to 40 percent of stroke survivors and can severely disrupt a person’s life. A condition that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language, aphasia can cause difficulties in producing language, understanding language, reading and writing. The disorder can create significant barriers to communication and can result in social isolation. Like most other after effects of stroke, this is frustrating both for the patient and their loved ones.

There are many ways that spouses, adult children and other family and friends can better communicate with someone who has aphasia. It is important to remember that while a person with aphasia may have difficulty speaking and processing language, aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. Here are some strategies to use, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

1. Engage

Get the person’s attention before you start speaking.

2. Make eye contact

Maintain eye contact and watch the person’s body language and use of gesture.

3. Remove distraction

Minimize or eliminate background noise, including from television, radio and other people.

4. Watch your volume

Keep your voice at a normal level. Do not speak loudly unless the person asks you to do so.

5. Don’t demean

Keep communication simple but adult. Don't talk down to the person with aphasia.

6. Break it down

Simplify your sentence structure and emphasize key words.

7. Go slow

Reduce your rate of speech.

8. Be patient

Give the individual time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.

9. Diversify

Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing and facial expressions in addition to speech. Encourage the person to use drawings, gestures and writing.

10. Simplify

Use yes and no questions rather than open-ended questions.

11. Offer encouragement

Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. Avoid insisting that each word be produced perfectly.

12. Support

Encourage the person to continue to be active in family and community social activities. These techniques are useful not only for loved ones but for anyone in the community who is interacting with a stroke survivor.