Sometimes people with aphasia say a particular word or phrase over and over and over again. The words can be spoken in different ways; they can sound like questions, they can come across as endearing, or they can be spoken with a negative tone depending on what the person with aphasia is trying to say. This is called perseveration and it occurs because finding and saying intended words is extremely challenging. Look at the title of this blog. Think about or try to say “Yeah Man” in two or three different ways. Can you say it like you are surprised? Can you say it like you are mad? Can you say it like you are really happy?
There are many word-finding strategies that speech therapists can provide to improve a client’s ability to express themself. But after today, I wonder just how often those strategies need to be implored.
I found myself visiting a town where a former client now lives. I sent him a text saying hello and we arranged a time to get together. We were happy to be reunited and despite the numerous sentences, I know he CAN say, he participated in our conversation saying, “Yeah Man” most of the time. He smiled while saying “Yeah Man”. He pointed to things and said, “Yeah Man”. He gave me a fist bump when we said goodbye and said, “Yeah Man!” His words had so much meaning because of the way he said them, the expressions on his face, and his use of gestures that allowed him to point and touch items he was referring to.
Because I am a speech therapist and know the power of supported communication and how to provide it, I was able to ask client-centered yes / no questions. I appreciated the use of his smartphone’s interactive map to talk about the places around us. And since I know this client well and value the relationship we created, I know what helps him be an effective communicator. While I tried to remind him to use the whiteboard app on his phone to write, I needed to recognize that his dismissal of my suggestion was happening in a social, non-therapeutic interaction so I didn’t push …too much. I was thrilled when with just a little bit of my help, he said other words that he had mastered years ago.
Seeing my friend with aphasia in his natural environment put a big smile on my face. It allowed me to value the real-life circumstances that require language to be flexible. It confirmed that aphasia doesn’t just happen to the person who has it. Everyone in that person’s life is affected by aphasia and YEAH MAN…. they all need to know how to talk in an aphasia-friendly way.
Be sure that your speech therapist provides skilled education to you, family, and friends that allows you to all communicate together. YEAH MAN….it makes a big difference!