Participant Story: Fatima and Max

Placeholder for audio testimonial.


(spoken as a facilitator)

In a recent program, I had two participants whose language abilities had been affected by dementia. We had a great time together, but I had to make some adjustments to the way I conversed with them.

Fatima cannot speak. I learned from her husband that she has aphasia that affects her speaking but not her understanding of what she hears.  I noticed that she smiles and nods as I talk, so we tried using gestures to communicate together – thumbs up for ‘yes’ and thumbs down for ‘no’. We also used a tilting hand to mean ‘maybe’ or ‘a little bit’. Once I adjusted my questions to be answered like this, everything went really well.  We even got to compare a painting that she liked a lot but her husband did not.

Max took a bit more time to figure out. He seems to listen intently and will respond enthusiastically and often at length when given the opportunity. He uses lots of words but I can’t really understand most of what he says. I make sure to listen and make eye contact while Max is speaking, and I nod to encourage him. I pay attention to where he points and listen for words that I can understand to try to draw out what he is saying and respond. I am not sure how much of what I say he understands – he nods a lot when I ask him questions. I will usually try yes or no questions to help him communicate.

In each case, as I talk I try to watch everyone closely to help me know how well I am doing.