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How do I speak to someone with a Brain Injury?

It is common for people who have a brain injury to experience difficulty understanding information. This can result in miscommunications, misunderstandings and conversational breakdown. Having a good communication partner can make all the difference! The following are some strategies to help you be an excellent communication partner to those who are living with an acquired brain injury:

  • Listen – It is very important to listen and really hear what the person with a Brain Injury is saying. Often times, as communication partners we are too focused on our message and making sure it is clear and understood.  It is better to spend more time hearing the message of the person that has a Brain Injury.  Once we have received their message we can then voice it back to them to confirm we have heard it accurately.  This technique also allows the individual to feel heard and understood.
  • Keep it simple – express your message clearly and get to the point. Doing this allows your communication partner to know that everything you are saying is important and keeps them from having to tease out the relevant and irrelevant parts of your message.
  • Provide examples – it can be beneficial to provide a real-life example of what you are trying to explain. If the information/concept is new to the person, they will benefit from having the example as an added framework for understanding what you are talking about.
  • Use visuals and gestures to get your point across – drawing a flow chart, diagram or map on a piece of paper can be helpful in getting your message across clearly, and ensuring your communication partner is understanding what you have said. Gesturing with your hands, to express ideas such as “first and next” or “later”, can also be helpful in conveying your message.
  • When you sense that something is unclear, explain it again in a different way.Your communication partner will benefit from hearing your explain something again using different words, rather than simply repeating what you said the first time.
  • Encourage the other person to “check back with you”, to ensure they have understood you correctly. You can say, “Do you want to confirm the instructions with me?” or “do you want to tell me how to save this file, to make sure it was clear”?

Being a good communication partner is a skill that can be learned and one that can prevent communication breakdowns with your friend, family member or an acquaintance with an acquired brain injury. Use the strategies outlined in this article to help your communication partner understand you better!

Written by:

Ilana Klain, M.Sc., CCC- SLP, Reg. CASLPO
Speech-Language Pathologist at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services

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