Zachary Smith, MS, CCC-SLP | Aphasia
With the holidays fast approaching, many people turn their thoughts to the quality time they will get to spend with their family and friends. Celebrations, good food, football games, and parades abound this time of year and often serve to bring people closer together. But what about those who have communication and/or cognitive difficulties, which can limit or prevent their ability to participate to their fullest extent? Are you wondering whether there are aphasia-friendly tips that can help?
For people with aphasia, this time of year can produce feelings of isolation within the celebration. They may experience difficulty requesting a preferred dish at a family gathering, have difficulty understanding the flow of the football game, and may find themselves overstimulated from all the celebrations.
Fortunately, there are a few simple modifications you can make to your routine to make your table that much more accommodating and enjoyable for all! Read on to learn our top 5 aphasia-friendly tips for fostering an inclusive holiday environment!
Top 5 aphasia-friendly tips to make your Thanksgiving more inclusive
- Be patient – For people with aphasia, it can take longer than average to say what is on their mind, make requests, or tell stories. Exercising patience during your interactions can help them feel welcomed and heard. As a friendly reminder: while it may be tempting to help someone by providing words or completing sentences, refrain from doing so unless you have directly confirmed with that person that they are comfortable with it!
- Repeat and rephrase – Some individuals may have difficulty understanding what you are saying or miss what was said on TV during the big game. Repeating yourself can give them another chance to process the information you’re providing–and rephrasing what you said in different terms can help the person better understand the second time around!
- Use gestures and images – These can supplement or replace spoken language if someone can’t quite get their intended words out. Using widely known gestures, such as miming the use of a fork for “eat” or a cup for “drink,” can structure conversation in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. Images can also be a great complement to conversations, as someone can interact directly with the image if the words aren’t coming to them in the moment. For example, someone momentarily might not be able to think of the word “turkey,” but they can point to an image of a Thanksgiving turkey to get their point across just as well! If you need some inspiration for images to use at your holiday table, check out the communication board below!
- Provide space for decompression – While holidays are a joyful and exciting time for many, they can also be overwhelming. With many people gathering in one location, multiple loud conversations happening, and TV and music playing, sensory overstimulation is common. Setting aside a designated space in your home that is noise free, removed from smells, and has a comfortable place to sit can provide a haven if someone is starting to feel overstimulated. Once they feel ready, they can rejoin the celebrations and enjoy them at their own pace!
- Respect agency – Although a person may be experiencing a communicative or cognitive disorder, remember that they are a person first and foremost, with needs and desires just like anyone else. Try not to make assumptions about what types of food they might want on their plate, or what they might want to watch on TV. Always discuss things with the person first, and confirm details, to make sure that you are honoring their wishes. Using the aforementioned strategies during these types of conversations can help facilitate things as well!
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With these five aphasia-friendly tips you can make sure that your holiday party will be one inclusive of anyone who comes through your door to enjoy, allowing everyone–regardless of their unique health needs–to participate fully. From all of us at Constant Therapy, we wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season!