Tool 2: Conversations tips  

People with ABI often have difficulty with communication and language. Here are come conversation tips.

To help the person's expression

  • Give the person plenty of time to respond
  • Encourage all attempts to communicate
  • Do not interrupt or answer for the person
  • Give questions or choices to clarify what the person means, for example:
    o "Do you mean … ?"
    o Ask what their topic is
    o Give a choice of two options ("Do you want to watch TV or go outside?")
  • The most important thing is the meaning behind the communication, not how well the person can put a sentence together

To help the person's understanding

  • Avoid background noise
  • Speak naturally but clearly
  • Ensure eye contact
  • Speak in short, simple sentences
  • Try rephrasing what you said if the person does not understand
  • Talk about events, objects and people in the here and now
  • Clearly identify people and topics
  • Do not change topic quickly
  • Be aware that the person will understand better when they are not tired

Tips to help manage difficult social situations

Problem: Poor conversational turn-taking

  • Give feedback about the need for people to take turns in conversation.
  • Say "It's ____'s turn now. Let them finish and then you can say what you want to say".

Problem: Talking about the same topic for too long.

  • Give feedback that the topic is finished.
  • Have an agreed upon non-verbal signal to prompt the person to move on (e.g. tapping your watch discreetly).
  • Say "We've talked about _______, and now we're talking about _______".

Problem: Talking about inappropriate topics/giving too much personal information.

  • Give feedback that this is inappropriate.
  • Say "It's not appropriate to talk about _________ in this situation/with this person".

Problem: Invading people's personal space.

  • Give feedback that the person is too close, direct them where to stand./sit.
  • Change the environment (e.g. have a table between you and the person, position the chairs in the room before the person arrives).

Problem: Inappropriate eye contact (staring or avoiding eye contact during conversation).

  • Position yourself in the person's line of sight.
  • Give verbal prompts to make eye contact and give praise when it is done.
  • Look away and don't engage someone in conversation if they are staring.

 

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