Effective tips for communication success following an acquired brain injury
Posted by: Vicky Carruthers (Specialist Occupational Therapist – Neural Pathways)
Communication difficulties experienced as a result of an acquired brain injury can vary and include problems producing clear sounds and words, difficulty understanding what is being said to you and not being able to find the right words to express yourself. Problems with cognition, such as concentration and memory, can also have a negative impact on communication.
These issues can make everyday life extremely difficult for the injured individual and the people supporting them, such as friends and family. The following tips may seem simple to some, but they can be very effective when supporting someone with communication difficulties.
We all understand how easy it is to be distracted by background noise when we’re concentrating on something specific. Ensure that distractions are kept to a minimum and the environment is quiet by turning off the TV or radio for example.
Avoid any extra conversation
It’s beneficial to stick to the topic during a conversation, and not veer off in different directions, bringing up different subjects. It’s also helpful to keep social “chit chat” to a minimum and not ‘overload’ the conversation with too much language, so it isn’t too overwhelming.
Try to avoid multiple or complicated questions
Keep questions simple and clear to receive clear and precise answers. Ask questions with one key point, for example, “Shall we go to the café today?” Rather than, “do you fancy going out today? We could go to the park or café or maybe somewhere else?”
Enhance your spoken communication
Using visual aids such as pictures, written information, gestures and objects can be a lot more engaging when communicating. Visual aids are proven to hold people’s attention more than just spoken language alone.
When supporting someone to make choices (food, clothes, activities etc.), visual aids can be particularly helpful. It can be productive to show someone two options, while allowing them time to point to their choice.
Limit the number of choices offered at one time.
Offering too many choices can be overwhelming and confusing. For example, say “would you like a cup of tea?” Rather than, “would you like a hot drink? We have tea, coffee, hot chocolate or would you prefer something different?”
Allow plenty of time for someone to respond.
Be patient and try not to “second guess” what their response might be, or interrupt them while they’re trying to explain what they want to communicate.
Rephrasing the question
Checking they understand what is being asked of them or offered to them by rephrasing the question or using visual aids is a really simple way to support an individual who is struggling with communication.
If more specialist help is required, it is advisable to seek advice from a Speech and Language Therapist.