My blog post Communication Skills was a reminder to all of us about how important good communication skills are and how we can forget simple strategies in our busy day to day lives. It is one thing to consider this advice when all of our communication skills are working well but what happens if we are experiencing some challenges with understanding or speaking? The points discussed remain relevant but we also need to consider other ways to adapt our communication. In my job as a Speech and Language Therapist, I work with people who are have communication difficulties following a stroke or brain injury. We tend to talk about ‘receptive’ difficulties when people have issues with listening, understanding or reading and then ‘expressive’ difficulties when someone experiences problems with speech, writing or any aspect of expression. This blog post focuses on communicating with someone who has difficulties with listening or understanding. These are my top tips:
- Ensure the person can see your face and mouth. Some people’s understanding can be enhanced by watching your face and mouth while you speak
- It can help to keep the conversation about things in the here and now rather than talking about events or people who are removed from the situation
- Some ways to achieve the above point are to use photos, pictures or magazine/newspaper articles as a basis for conversation. Remember someone might not understand all of the words in an article so maybe start with headlines or very short articles that are accompanied by pictures such as weather reports or television listings. If someone has other difficulties as a result of their stroke or brain injury such as reduced attention, concentration, or information processing speed or visual difficulties, these ideas will be much more challenging
- Try to talk about one idea or topic at a time
- Keep language simple
- Use short sentences or phrases
- Emphasise key words
- Reduce your rate, speak a little more slowly and pause more often
- If someone has not understood you, try not to raise the volume of your voice. This will not assist someone who is having difficulty understanding the words being said or with the speed at which they are able to process information. Sometimes it can help to repeat information
- Consider if just using speech is the best option. Some people find gesture, pictures or written key words helpful to aid understanding
Difficulties with Expression or Speech is my blog post that covers those specific areas of communication. Some people will have challenges with all of these aspects of communication following a stroke or brain injury, others will have very specific difficulties – it will depend upon the areas of the brain that have been affected.
The above tips are general communication principles which can be helpful and hopefully offer you a starting point. However, when a person has difficulties with communication these can present in a variety of ways and so some strategies are more appropriate or helpful than others. A Speech and Language Therapist can offer individual support and advice so please do not hesitate to ask for that assistance.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. More of my blog articles are available here. Please do get in touch if there is anything you would like to share or ask.