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Reading Strategies for Students With Aphasia

written by: Michelle McFarland-McDaniels • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

This article provides a variety of reading strategies designed to help students with aphasia make maximum progress in minimum time. The purpose of this article is to provide a framework for teaching aphasia reading strategies that will positively impact aphasia patients.

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    Utilizing specific reading strategies for students with aphasia can be especially effective since the disorder impacts the ability to read, write, listen and speak. For this reason, understanding aphasia and its symptoms for the purpose of implementing targeted interventions should be a top priority for teachers of students who have been diagnosed with the disorder.

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    Aphasia and Its Effects

    Aphasia is a neurological disorder that is caused by damage or trauma to the parts of the brain that control language. Aphasia can be caused by stroke, brain tumors, brain injuries, infections, dementia or other conditions that cause damage to the brain.

    Aphasia may range from mild to severe and may be classified as fluent or non-fluent. There are four main types of aphasia: expressive aphasia, receptive aphasia, anomic aphasia and global aphasia. People who suffer from expressive aphasia have difficulty saying or writing what they mean. Patients who suffer from receptive aphasia have difficulty making sense of the words they see and hear. Individuals who are impacted by anomic aphasia have difficulty labeling objects, places and events correctly. Global aphasia makes it impossible for individuals affected by it to understand speech, speak, read or write.

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    Reading Strategies for Students with Aphasia

    Teaching aphasia reading strategies can help students with aphasia optimize their reading fluency and comprehension. The following reading strategies for students with aphasia will help your students with aphasia make maximum progress:

    • Learn everything you can about the student as a learner. Read his IEP and cumulative folder. Examine previous classroom and standardized assessments. Analyze previous writing samples. If possible, speak with teachers and other professionals who have worked with the student in the past. Administer learning inventories and interview the student to develop a profile of the student's strengths, deficits, needs and preferences as a learner.

    • Administer a comprehensive battery of assessments to determine the student's current level of functioning.

    • Structure the learning environment to minimize distractions for your students with aphasia.

    • Use simple language and uncomplicated sentences when communicating with students with aphasia.

    • Repeat words as necessary when speaking with students with aphasia.

    • Present information using multiple modalities (e.g., orally, visually, kinesthetically).

    • When teaching vocabulary, provide written words, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, examples of usage and pictorial representations.

    • Explicitly teach semantics and syntax concepts. Simplify them as much as possible.

    • Break concepts down into small steps and repeat them as often as necessary to ensure your student comprehends them.

    • Allow students with aphasia as much time as necessary, without interruption, to express themselves verbally.

    • Create word choice boards.

    • Use flashcards to build vocabulary.

    • Encourage your students with aphasia to use any type of communication they are comfortable with (e.g., writing, drawing, pointing, gesturing, picture systems, sign language, augmentative communication devices).

    • Have your student repeat and explain concepts, directions and expectations to you after you've presented them to her.

    • Partner with your school's speech therapist and special education case manager to identify possible augmentative communication and assistive technology devices for your students with aphasia.
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    American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, "Aphasia",

    National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, "Aphasia",

    Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health, "Aphasia",

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, "Aphasia",