Holidays with Aphasia

The holidays act as a significant checkpoint in our lives. It is a mechanism we use to measure time and to which we attach our memories. In November and December, we reflect on the year past which can spark mixed emotions. Here are a few tips to navigating the holidays when aphasia is part of the equation.

Holidays are a time for traditions. Familiarity brings comfort. Simply going through the motions of a favorite holiday tradition can be a cathartic endeavor for anyone, but especially for families learning to cope with aphasia. However, if a tradition no longer makes sense, update it. Be proactive about forming new traditions based on current circumstances.

Slow Down
It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Special considerations for these annual events can be overwhelming. A fundamental communication technique used for living with aphasia can be beneficial to us all as we approach the season: Slow the conversation. Give each person a chance to collect and communicate their thoughts. Be sure to have pen and paper available for writing and verifying key words, and keep that paper to make it easier to come back to that topic. Everyone has a voice and wants to be understood.

Be Thankful
Take time to think about and document or verbalize things and people in life you are thankful for. Keep it simple, but not childlike. Make this list and check it twice.

Break into Song
Aphasia is a communication disorder caused by an injury to the part of brain that controls language, typically the left side. The most common cause is stroke, but any trauma to this region of the brain such as an aneurysm, brain tumor, or head trauma can cause aphasia. Specific symptoms and their severity depend on the location of the brain effected and the extent of the damage.
In some cases, people who are not able to speak can sing because different areas of the brain control these two functions. Singing is a function of the brain’s right side. Make the most of holiday songs if this works for your family. For those not able to participate by singing, music can still be enjoyable and connect one to fond memories.

Give and Help Others Do the Same
It is better to give than to receive. This encompasses the true spirit of the holidays. People with aphasia often find themselves on the receiving end more than they prefer. Depending on others for help takes some getting used to, especially for the independent types. And while most are grateful for the additional support, it is important they find ways to give back and enrich the lives of others. Helping someone with aphasia use their talents, skills, and their voice as a way to make a positive impact is the greatest gift of all. People with aphasia have a lot to contribute.

The Aphasia Center of West Texas wishes you and yours a happy holiday season.

To help friends and family understand aphasia, along with simple techniques that help, consider gifting It’s Still Me!, a 17-minute DVD, completed with the input of Aphasia Center West Texas members and families.