Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA) is a therapy technique for aphasia that is used to improve naming abilities. Aphasia often impairs a person’s ability to think of words easily. SFA has been shown to improve naming of items that are addressed in therapy. After treatment, people with aphasia have also shown improvement in naming other items not specifically addressed in therapy. SFA also teaches the individual with aphasia a process for accessing semantic networks and for self-cueing.

There are two goals of treatment:

  • To enhance semantic mapping, or the connection of words in the brain. This is achieved by providing verbal and visual cues of the features of a specific word.
  • To reinforce the process of talking about the features of that specific word. This teaches the individual to use these same strategies to self-cue and help themselves think of words in everyday life.

SFA is usually used by showing picture cards of common objects to the person with aphasia. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) might ask the patient and family to bring in pictures of items from home. If using an AAC device, pictures can be taken of objects in different rooms of the house.

The SLP and person with aphasia will work together to talk about features and associations of the word in the picture. These features include:

  • What does it make you think of?
  • What is it?
  • Descriptions (shape, size, color, etc.)
  • Where would you find it?
  • What do you use it for?

These questions or prompts all work together to create a “semantic map” of the word. By doing this, it helps the person with aphasia produce the word and reinforces the connections in the brain. It can also be helpful to write the word for additional reinforcement.

Sometimes the person with aphasia will not be able to produce the word even after identifying all the features. In this case, the SLP will provide the word and encourage the person with aphasia to repeat it and/or write it.

Once the person with aphasia is familiar with this technique, they can use it in their day-to-day lives when they have trouble thinking of a word.

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