Creative Communication

A friend of mine shared his communication challenges with his wife who has undergone several surgeries, rounds of chemo and radiation for brain tumors.  Since the treatments she has been suffering from aphasia, causing her trouble finding words, as well as effectively communicating her thoughts.

People with aphasia may find it hard to:

  • talk
  • understand others when they speak
  • read
  • write
  • use numbers and do calculations.

People with aphasia:

  • are still a competent adult
  • know what they want to say
  • can make their own decisions
  • are not deaf.

People with aphasia can think clearly, but have difficulty getting messages in and out. They know what they think and feel, but can’t get to the words

Creating Tools that Aid Communication

One tool that can assist someone with Aphasia in communicating their wants/needs through the use of pictures is a communication board.  You can create simple boards out of poster board and mount them in different areas of your house, as well as create a smaller version that they can carry around with them.

When creating the board keep in mind:

  • Make it Personal: You can cut out pictures from magazines as well as take pictures of items that relate to your life (such as the dogs, kids, grand-kids) to include on the board along with simple words they might struggle to find.(ex: eat, car, stop)
  • Include them in the creation of the board:, ex: finding pictures in magazines that relate to what they want to say. (This helps to give them a sense of investment in the project which will make them more likely to utilize it.)
  • Remember you are creating this for an adult: using personal pictures and magazine images rather than cartoon-like pictures, creates a more age-appropriate board.

Communication tips for family members:

  • Simplify language by using short, uncomplicated sentences.
  • Repeat the content words or write down key words to clarify meaning as needed.
  • Maintain a natural conversational manner appropriate for an adult.
  • Minimize distractions, such as a loud radio or TV, whenever possible.
  • Include the person with aphasia in conversations.
  • Ask for and value the opinion of the person with aphasia, especially regarding family matters.
  • Encourage any type of communication, whether it is speech, gesture, pointing, or drawing.
  • Avoid correcting the person’s speech.
  • Allow the person plenty of time to talk.
  • Help the person become involved outside the home.

For more information and resources visit or

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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