It’s understandable for kids to be confused by aphasia because aphasia is also difficult for adults to understand. How do you convey that the person is still the same on the inside though they may have trouble epxressing themselves verbally on the outside? We’ve pulled together some ideas to get this conversation started.
Just the Facts
There are so many unknowns with aphasia and no one can predict the future, so stick to the facts you know in the moment. Additionally, aphasia presents differently in each individual, so make sure you only state the problems the person is currently experiencing. Explain that aphasia affects a person’s ability to speak, read, and write, and that they may or may not have difficulty understanding someone else’s words.
You can open your conversation about aphasia by talking about the underlying cause such as a stroke or head injury. Make sure your child can ask questions and express their fears so you can reassure them.
This video has a child explaining his grandfather’s aphasia, and it can be a great springboard for your own conversation.
Still the Same Inside
One important point to make is that the person with aphasia is still the same person they were before experiencing communication issues. Aphasia affects the ability to speak and write but not the person’s intellect.
Choose Good Activities
There are plenty of activities — with or without words — that can fill a visit. Arts and crafts, movies, looking at photos together, taking a walk, reading aloud to one another, and playing board games are all good ideas. Kids may enjoy being a special helper with the iPad while using apps for aphasia therapy.
The most important point is to spend that time together. Too many people with aphasia feel frustrated by a loss of social interaction. Make sure you set up plenty of unrushed visits between the child and the person with aphasia.
Be a Helper
Kids love to know how they can help, and you can give them concrete communication tips. Explain that the person may need for the child to slow down their speech, use short sentences, or repeat their words. The child also needs to understand that they need to give the other person time to form their words. Just as kids don’t like it when adults speak for them, adults with aphasia want kids to give them a chance to speak their own thoughts.
Kids can tap into their creativity and find new ways to communicate, such as pantomime or using pictures to express ideas.
Remind your child that people get frustrated when things are hard, and while they may witness that frustration, it isn’t directed at them. People with aphasia may also get tired more easily due to underlying causes or the hard work of negotiating communication issues. Knowing these two possibilities can help the child understand a moment of frustation or having to end an activity early.
We’d love to crowdsource your advice if you’ve ever explained aphasia to a child. Let us know your tips in the comment box below.
Image: Andrei Niemimäki via Flickr via Creative Commons license