How to communicate if you have aphasia


What is aphasia?

Aphasia happens when a stroke damages the language part of the brain. This makes it hard for someone to communicate.

Symptoms of aphasia include trouble:

  • Sharing thoughts
  • Talking clearly
  • Understanding what other people are saying
  • Reading
  • Writing

Aphasia is a problem with language. It does not affect:

  • Thinking
  • Planning
  • Decision-making

Watch this video to learn more about what is aphasia:

Video credit: Lakeridge Health


How can I communicate more easily if I have aphasia?

Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Let people know you have had a stroke. Tell them you need more time to express yourself.
  • Practice communicating with family and close friends
  • Practice communicating with 1 other person in a quiet room. As you get more comfortable, practice in different settings with different people.
  • Use a communication board or book with pictures or photos of common phrases and topics that are important to you
  • Use a special computer


Personalized communication book

If you would like to find out if a communication board or book or special computer can help you, talk to your Speech-Language Pathologist. You can also ask your healthcare team to refer you to an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic.


What is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Clinic?

AAC clinics can help:

  • Test to see how the stroke has affected your ability to communicate
  • Recommend special communication equipment
  • Teach you how to use the equipment

Ask your healthcare team for a referral to one of these clinics listed below:


How can I practice communicating with others?

Join an aphasia or stroke support group.  These groups provide a supportive setting for you to practice communication skills so you can more fully participate in life activities.

Here is a list of local aphasia centres in your community:


How can I communicate more easily with my loved one who has aphasia?

Try these tips for communicating with your loved one: 

  • Speak naturally, using normal volume and an adult tone of voice
  • Acknowledge their frustration or fear of not being understood by saying, “I know you know what you want to say but are having trouble finding the right words.”
  •  Use short phrases, gestures that are easily understood or pictures
  • Write down key words
  • Ask yes/no questions
  • Provide choices
  • Give them time to answer
  • Summarize clearly what you think they are trying to say.  Use gestures or write down key words if needed.


Watch a Speech-Language Pathologist help a person with aphasia to communicate:

Video Credit: Stroke 4 Carers


Where to learn more about this topic:

Toronto Central Healthline