People with aphasia may make the best teachers when it comes to aphasia. The Waterloo Wellington Regional Aphasia Program in Canada is pairing people with aphasia with doctors, nurses, and speech therapists for conversations to promote understanding. It ensures that medical personnel can learn and people with aphasia have the space to express themselves at the same time.

The Main Message

The main idea the group is trying to get across to medical personnel is that aphasia may impact communication, but it doesn’t impact intelligence. They need to understand that the adult in front of them is still an adult. The Canadian Broadcasting Company wrote about the initiative recently, following the story of one participant, Steve Goff. His wife, Carol explained that “because her husband couldn’t speak after the stroke, people would often treat him like a child — even one hospital nurse.”

Steve Goff offers this eye-opening question for medical personnel: “Imagine if the last sentence you say tonight is the last full sentence you will say for the rest of your life.” By placing medical personnel in the shoes of people with aphasia, they can better understand what people with aphasia need and communicate accordingly.

Why Educate Medical Personnel

It’s not just about dignity. It’s also about educating medical personnel so they can best care for people with aphasia. They need to know how to get important information from the individual as well as impart their treatment plan.

People with aphasia, especially those further along their treatment plan, are in a good position to express how to best communicate with people with aphasia. For instance, allowing the person with aphasia to speak for themselves as much as possible. Making sure they understand the question or any information you’re imparting about their treatment plan. One great analogy the group makes is that just as people with mobility issues need wheelchair ramps, people with aphasia need communication ramps; in both cases, when modifications are made, it allows the person to participate fully in getting around and understanding.

As Carol Goff states, “You don’t have altered intelligence, you just have to find a different way to communicate.”

It’s an interesting program. What would you want medical personnel to know about aphasia?

Image: Hush Naidoo via Unsplash