Home > Communication, Strategies, Types of dementia > Huntington’s Disease — Communication Strategies

Huntington’s Disease — Communication Strategies

Being a speech pathologist by trade, I’m always on the lookout for things that I can use to help my patients.  Here are some tips that I found on the website for my professional organization, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Most persons with Huntington’s disease, as the disorder becomes more severe, will eventually lose the ability to communicate verbally.  And there are some wonderful strategies out there, as well as some amazing technology, that will allow these persons to express themselves, even when their abilities to speak have become limited.  But, even so, it is important to most of these individuals that they be able to use what powers of communication they still have, for as long as possible.  Here are some strategies that the person with Huntington’s can use to help his/her speech be more easily understood.

—  Speak at a slower rate of speed, carefully articulating one word at a time.  Use short sentences.

—  Repeat the word or sentence as needed, or rephrase it.

—  Exaggerate pronunciation of the words.

—  Speak louder, and take a deep breath before beginning to speak.

—  If he is having trouble thinking of the word he wants to say, he should try describing the object.  Or, perhaps, think of the first letter of the word.

—  Use gestures to add meaning to words.

There are also things that the listener can do, when communicating with a person who has Huntington’s.  These include:

—  Eliminate distractions (television, large groups of people, etc.)

—  Keep questions and statements short and simple.  Ask only one question at a time.

—  Consider using yes/no questions if the person is having trouble making himself understood.

—  Pay attention to gestures and facial expressions.

—  Don’t pretend that you understand the person if you don’t.  This will be seen as demeaning, and does not help the person communicate.  Ask for clarification, if you’re not sure what was said, or repeat what you think was said in the form of a question.  (“Did you say, ———–?”)

—  Try to keep to familiar topics.

—  Allow the person time to get out what he is trying to say.  Don’t act impatient, or try to finish his sentence for him.

This list is not all-inclusive.  There are many more things that can be done to help the person with Huntington’s communicate, and a speech pathologist will be able to prescribe more than what’s listed here.  I would encourage the person to consider consulting such a professional when problems first start to become evident, to learn compensatory strategies as well as exercises to maintain skills for as long as possible.

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