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Communication Forum Scotland

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Lindsay is a member of Forth Valley Speakability

Audio Audio quote from Lindsay

'I'm Lindsay. I had a stroke three years ago and I developed aphasia after the stroke. Aphasia has been a nightmare for me.

'Aphasia is a difficulty in communicating with speech, reading, writing, numbers. Sometimes it can be all these things. Sometimes it could be just one or a variety of them. And it's not just speaking and reading - it's understanding.

'Concentration is limited, partly because your brain is having to work so hard to understand things that have been said to you and work out what you're going to say. It's tiring after a while.

'I can't read. If I read more than a few pages at a time I have to go back and read them again because I can't remember.

'Firstly, it would be useful if whoever is holding the meeting prepared some notes to send out to people before the meeting. At least then they have time to go over the words, figure out what they mean and make some notes of what they want to say etc. And they can do that in their own place and where they feel comfortable, and in their own time. Because if you just give notes out at a meeting, it's a nightmare trying to read them and work out what you're supposed to be doing and saying. There's not enough time because somebody else is speaking and trying to get the meeting on. So, it would be helpful if there was something sent out to you beforehand.

'Other things to make a presenter help our understanding: speak slowly and if possible - it's not always possible - but if possible, short sentences. Sometimes a yes/no answer is all that's required. Not always - I'm not good at yes/no answers - but sometimes.

'Make eye contact. Very important. That's difficult to say but..  I know this from myself, and you can tell eye contact when somebody's actually listening to you, and taking heed of what you say.

'Facial expressions are very important.

'Pointing and gesturing - I do that quite a lot. Gesturing is quite important.

'When you draw or you have PowerPoint it's important, if there's drawing or picture, point to the drawing or the picture you are talking about. If you're just not pointing - you're just talking about the drawing - you don't know what is actually being discussed.

'Time and patience. With any communication problems it's important you don't rush people, because the more you rush the more their communication falls on its face.

'Other things that are important. Humour and animation. At a recent meeting, there was a person giving a talk and she sat behind a desk at a computer screen and she talked about the PowerPoint without pointing to where she was talking to. She talked in a monotone voice and she talked very quickly. I'm quite sure that a lot of people in the room lost what she was trying to say about five or ten minutes into it. It would have been better over two meetings and if she got up and made it more lively, interesting animation.

'Frequent breaks, because again with the concentration you have to give it makes it tiring. So frequent breaks. If you create the right atmosphere, it's alright for somebody to get up and walk out the room if they're needing space, and then join the meeting later on.

'If you feel as a presenter that this talking is not getting through to the majority of people - stop. Change the topic onto something else and come back to it. You'll probably find that it would get to people maybe the second time. There's no point in going on if you don't think that you're getting through to people. Use key words and stress them. There must be some sentences where one word is important. And stress that, and repeat it if necessary.

'Some aphasics need to hold up the conversation and interrupt the presentation, but asking if you can go over that point again. If you are not open to interruptions, aphasics they tend to... if they haven't understood the first point, nothing else makes sense and if you wait until the presenter ends that particular topic, you've forgotten what it was you meant to interrupt about. So, you have to be open to interruptions and not think "she's interrupting my flow again".

'A social meeting - not just an aphasia consultation or a communication consultation. So often that's the only social interaction people with aphasia get and if you make it friendly, social, encourage people to come back for another one - another consultation. That way, someone in the group might be better at writing, reading, speaking and different positive qualities which might be brought into use. This is really important, that all gets a chance. When you're in a small group, somebody could take on the part of writing, somebody could read things to the other group. There must be somebody who's a better speaker than others. She could speak at the end - the report. It brings everybody closer together and brings out something positive.'