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Is there a way I can help to enrich a survivor’s vocabulary in a fun way?

My friend had a bad accident a couple of years ago. I talk to her a few times a week, but she doesn't remember many words.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Medical Professional

Answer transcribed from Brightway's interview with recreational therapist Allison Huck:


I love this question. I see a lot of my patients in this, so there are so many games that already incorporate communication without even knowing it. There are a lot of games where you come up with a word in a category, games like Five Second Rule Topple that can be really fun, so coming up with a category name. Keep in mind that if your friend gets stuck during these games, maybe ask if they might want clues first and then give clues to words that can be supportive to them. Let's say your category is food. Tell them “I'm thinking of a red fruit” and maybe if that's not helping, offering up that it's something that starts with an “A” so we're giving the initial sound of the word. 

There are a lot of games like Catchphrase and Taboo, where you're describing a specific word, which is actually a strategy that a lot of speech therapists teach to help with word finding. You can incorporate speech into a lot more games than you think. I think even games you don't normally think of, for instance playing Uno and making a new rule that every time you play a card, you have to name the cards. You have to say what color it is and what number. Another really great game is Go Fish. The whole premise of Go Fish is that it's like structure, repetition, and matching. This can be really helpful and supportive to somebody with a brain injury and somebody that's got difficulties with communication. I think no matter what game you choose, trying to start out by removing any parts of the game that might cause extra pressure, like time constraints and buzzers, is always a big helpful tip. I never want to cause pressure in a situation where somebody's having difficulty with their communication. But again, I think you can incorporate it into anything that you want. Just focusing on that aspect of repetition can be really supportive.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Answer transcribed from the Brightway Answers interview with speech-language pathologist Amber Kloess:

Here are a few suggestions based on how I work with my patients.

The first thing to consider is what vocabulary would be most useful for your friend and to relate it to their hobbies, like food they like, music, past job, or experiences that you had together.  Use that as a starting point to develop a list of words throughout the time spent with them.  If it's on a zoom call you can use a whiteboard or a word document to write the words as you go so that this person can refer to them as needed for the rest of the conversation.

You can always have google available - I use google a lot in each session to look up pictures to support the communication. Visuals can help with recall which is really nice.

Some favorite games and activities that I use: Categories is a huge one - you can play it online for free.  I use that a lot for virtual appointments for those who have to work on word finding. There's a game called Anomia, and then Catchphrase as well.  Those are three that I really enjoy.