By Courtney Bethel | Posted - May 11th, 2020





ALS Communication Tools

Communicating with ALS Without Technology

Although the progression of ALS symptoms is different in each patient, most patients will need some type of communication assistance. The good news is, there are several tools to help not only the patient but the caregivers and loved ones as well. 

Losing communication abilities isn’t easy for anyone, we are hopeful the following tools will be an encouragement during this time in assisting the ALS community in continuing to communicate and creating memories as long as possible.

Understanding Communication Symptoms

Dysarthria is a condition in which the part of your brain that controls your lips, tongue, vocal cords, and diaphragm doesn't work well. It's hard for you to move those muscles the right way. It’s often brought on by a disease. Some people with dysarthria have only minor speech problems. Others have so much trouble getting their words out that other people may not be able to understand them very well. A speech-language therapist can help.

Anarthria is a severe form of dysarthria. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that occurs when someone cannot coordinate or control the muscles used for speaking. People with dysarthria usually have slurred or slowed speech. People with Anarthria, however, can't articulate speech at all. 

Early Speech Reduction Communication Strategies

  1. Compensatory Strategies are environmental modifications or behavioral strategies designed to bypass persistent impairment in attention, memory, executive-function, and/or other cognitive skills as a means to achieve desired rehabilitation goals.
    1. It sounds like common sense, but it truly is crucial to slow down and articulate. Slowing down the rate of muscle movement in the tongue and lips will allow speech to come out more clearly.
    2. The amount of distractions around the room can play a large role in interrupting communication in general. Try to limit the distractions while you are trying to communicate. 
    3. As the listener, repeat the words the patient is saying. This will help their muscles work less by not having to repeat the first portions of their sentences or conversations.

More Severe Speech Reduction Communication Strategies

  1. (AAC) Augmentative and Alternative Communication encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.
    1. Use gestures. These may include hand signals, head nods, facial expressions, etc. 
    2. Use eye blinking. For example, one blink means yes. Two blinks mean no. Three blinks mean maybe, and so on. Another option is looking one left for one signal, and right for another signal. 
    3.  Use a communication board with everyday responses
      1. Yes
      2. No
      3. Maybe
      4. Repeat
      5. I am hungry
      6. I am thirsty 
      7. I need to use the restroom
      8. I would like to take a nap

These strategies are all without the use of technology and have been useful tools in helping the ALS community communicate. 

Check out more articles on ALS here:

Connect with ALS Crowd on Social Media: Together We're Stronger

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Courtney Bethel
About the Author

Courtney Bethel - Courtney is an ALS patient and caregiver supporter and writer for ALS Crowd.