For many stroke survivors, the loss or change in speech (dysarthria, apraxia) and language (aphasia) profoundly alters their social life. Ironically, research has shown that socializing is one of the best ways to maximize recovery.
The question then becomes: How can you socialize if you can't communicate?
Here are some tips to begin your recovery:
- Educate yourself about aphasia so you can learn a new way to communicate.
- Involve close family members so they can understand your communication needs.
- Experiment with strategies that facilitate social interaction.
- Write or draw to supplement verbal expression.
- Use gestures or a picture book, or even a computer communication system.
Family members can facilitate communication with some simple techniques:
- Ask yes/no questions.
- Paraphrase periodically during conversation.
- Modify the length and complexity of conversations.
- Use gestures to emphasize important points.
- Establish a topic before beginning conversation.
It’s easiest to begin practicing conversation in a one-on-one situation with someone you’re comfortable with. Make sure to practice in a quiet place with no distractions, like background music or TV. As you become more comfortable, you can venture out into less-controlled social situations.
But before you do this, practice common conversation starters:
- “How are you?”
- “It’s been a long time since I've seen you.”
- “Did you see the basketball game?”
- “Boy, we are having beautiful weather!”
The more you practice this script, the greater your chances for success.
Remember that speech and language changes can last a lifetime in some form or another. As life circumstances change, and your speech and language needs evolve, reevaluate what works and what has not worked in social situations. And continue to expand your horizons.
For more information on aphasia or to find an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist in your area, call ASHA’s Action Center at 800-638-8255 or visit ASHA on the Web at www.asha.org.