There are few things more frustrating than to know exactly what you want to say, but to not be able to say it. In everyday life, people without communication disorders have that “tip of your tongue” feeling, but for people with communication disorders, like aphasia, that feeling can be eternal — an all-day, unending difficulty.
It’s tempting for communication partners to just give the person the word they want, and in emergencies and times of great hurry, this does need to happen. However, when possible, letting the person with aphasia work their own way to the word they want is the ideal.
But how do you do that?
That’s when cues come in. Cues are basically hints, but very strategic ones. There are different kinds of cues that you can give. Some cues work better than others, and it depends on the person. One person with aphasia might respond to gestural cues immediately while another person with aphasia might respond better to sound cues. It just depends on which part of their language is stronger and can help out the other parts.
First, before you say anything, the most respectful thing to do is ask the person with aphasia if they would like more time or if they would like help. Not everyone likes cues and you should never assume that someone does. Try to do a mental count to 10 before you even say anything!
Not only can it be really gratifying for a person to say the word themselves, it is also strengthening the pathways to words, and how they are connected with other words, gestures, and sounds. So give it a try, and see which cue works best for you or your loved one with aphasia.