Treating Aphasia with Word Retrieval Cuing Strategies

Nearly everyone with aphasia has difficulty thinking of the right word. They often have the feeling that the word is “on the tip of the tongue.” One treatment strategy that aims to help people recall words are word retrieval cuing strategies.

Word retrieval cuing strategies can refer to any cue, or hint, to help someone think of a word. The two primary types of cues are:

Semantic: providing information about the meaning of a word or its associations. For instance, for the word “strawberry,” semantic cues might include that it is a red fruit that can be eaten with shortcake.

Phonological Cues: providing information about the sound of the word. Most often, this is providing the first letter/sound of the word. For “strawberry,” phonetic cues could be that it starts with an “s,” that it starts with the sound “str” or that it has three syllables. A related type of cue is a visual phonological cue. This means positioning your mouth as if you are making the first sound of the word. This is often enough for people with mild impairments to come up with the word. Visual phonological cues have the benefit of being discreet and not interrupting the conversation.

Providing these cues to the person with aphasia can help them think of the word on their own. This enables a feeling of success. Associating the cues with the word also helps to build the brain’s network of associations and improve recall in the future.

One great benefit of providing these types of cues is that it does not take a lot of special training. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) can teach family and other communication partners how to provide these cues.

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