Interacting with people who have Aphasia: Dos and Don’ts

13 Apr, 2020

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a language impairment which is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls listening, speaking, reading, and writing abilities.

Aphasia typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from brain tumours or degenerative medical conditions that affect the language areas of the brain.

Aphasia may affect single or multiple aspects of language modalities, such as the ability to retrieve object names, ability to construct sentences, and ability to understand others. As a result, this has a significant impact in one’s interactions with others in the community.


Interacting with people who have Aphasia

The severity of aphasia ranges from being very mild to very severe, where communication may be a challenge for the individual. While people with aphasia may present differently in terms of their severity and communication styles, it is fundamental that we assist them in expressing their wants and needs from the start of their recovery process.

There are various strategies which we can utilise to facilitate our communication and interaction with those who have aphasia. This enhances one’s ability to express their message to their communication partner(s) and allows them to be involved in different social activities within their community. Strategies are essential to allow people with aphasia to communicate as effectively as possible with their communication partner(s).

Here are some Dos and Don’ts when interacting with people who have aphasia:



  • Minimise distraction and background noises when talking, such as television and radio.
  • Ensure that you have their attention before you start speaking.
  • Keep communication simple by simplifying complicated sentences (e.g. breaking down instructions into smaller steps) and emphasising key words.
  • Listen patiently, reduce your speech rate, and provide more time for them to respond to you. Sometimes, this can be longer than you expect!
  • Use different ways to communicate, such as, gestures, drawings, facial expression, and writing to facilitate their understanding when you speak.
  • Involve and engage them in conversation and everyday activities whenever possible. Check with them to ensure that they understand, however, try not to push too hard as it might cause frustration.


  • While keeping communication simple is one of the key strategies when interacting with people who have aphasia, it is also important to not “talk down” to them and keep your communication appropriate for adults.
  • Try not to finish sentences or offer words when they are taking some time to finish what they wanted to say.
  • Do not ignore or disregard them in group conversation. Try to involve them in decision-making conversation as much as possible.
  • Resist the urge to correct them if words were produced inaccurately or if they remember something incorrectly.
  • Do not pretend to understand if you don’t. You can request for them to repeat if you do not understand them. This will help to make them feel like they are in a “normal” conversation. Additionally, this will also help them to practice their communication skills and build their confidence level in speaking.


Interacting with people who have aphasia can be challenging at times, however, it is crucial that we adopt these strategies to ensure that they are able to communicate effectively with you and others in the community.

What to do now

If you know someone who has aphasia and/or is having difficulties to communicate with others, give us a call at Generation Physio & Allied Health, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing lives of our clients. All our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.

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