Many aphasia treatments focus on improving language abilities through speaking, reading, and writing. However, for some people with more severe aphasia, these therapies can be too advanced. For instance, someone with global aphasia might not be able to participate in more advanced therapy techniques.
Visual Action Therapy (VAT) is a resource in cases where nonverbal therapy is more appropriate. Nonverbal means that the instructions do not use words, but rather use demonstration. It also does not require the participant to use any words. The goal of VAT is to learn to use gestures to represent items that are not present.
The training uses 12 different levels that increase in complexity to reach this goal. The program starts out at a very basic level – using a finger to trace a drawing. It then works its way through steps like picture matching and understanding a gesture for an item that is present. The final step is to produce a gesture for an item that the participant cannot see.
VAT can improve a person’s ability to gesture in order to communicate about common items. It can also improve someone’s comprehension abilities, even though comprehension is not a direct target of this therapy.
VAT is most often used for people with impaired language abilities in all modalities, such as global aphasia. VAT is unique in that it does not use language — not even to give instructions. By removing the verbal component, people with severe impairments are better able to participate.