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Coping with communication difficulties

Understanding communication difficulties and learning new coping strategies can help people living with a brain tumour (and those around them) feel more able to cope and reduce feelings of frustration or isolation.

Tips to improve communication skills

There are some simple changes you can make that may help you if you are experiencing communication problems. 

As communication is a two way process, the way that those around you communicate with you is very important. 

If you are experiencing communication difficulties:

  • try to create a relaxed environment - dysphasia often worsens with stress
  • reduce background noise and distractions
  • consider taking a break if you are tired.

If someone you care for is experiencing communication difficulties:

  • don't rush your speech - speak clearly and at a steady pace
  • give one point at a time rather than all of the information at once
  • don't be tempted to speak more loudly - remember that the person does not have a problem with their hearing
  • if the person has not understood you, try rephrasing what you have said
  • if the person is having difficulty with a particular word, you could ask them to describe it instead
  • use all forms of communication, including mime, gesture, intonation, writing, drawing, and facial expressions. There are also communication boards and other aids that can help
  • make giving answers easy. For example, instead of asking “Would you like tea or coffee?" you could ask, “Would you like tea?"
  • don't pretend to understand what the person has said if you do not. They will probably be aware that you are doing this and you could leave them feeling very frustrated
  • take care not to talk down to the person with the communication difficulty - the problem is not with their intelligence
  • don't interrupt or fill in words for a person unless they ask you to
  • relax and be natural
  • consider taking a break if you are both tired.

One key way others can help is by being supportive, and to adapt to the way they communicate in order to facilitate your understanding and self expression. 

Also, many carers have found that it is important not to do too much for their loved one just because it is easier, and to remember that the person with dysphasia is:

  • still an intelligent person
  • knows what they want to say
  • can still make their own decisions.

There are also many organisations that specialise in equipment, or other forms of support, for people with communication difficulties. These can be found in our full fact sheet.

What help is available to help with speech and communication difficulties?

If you have not been referred to a speech and language therapist (SLT), you can ask your health team to be referred.

The SLT will give you a variety of spoken and written tests to assess which sort of communication difficulties you are having and to what degree. These tests may include naming objects, engaging in conversation, telling a story/joke, or writing a shopping list.

They will use various tools and exercises to work with you towards:

  • relearning lost or damaged communication skills (if possible)
  • making the best use of remaining communication skills
  • finding new ways of communicating.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:

Information and Support line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

support@thebraintumourcharity.org

Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00

You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.