SpeechPathology.com Phone: 800-242-5183

The Stepping Stones Group ASHA - September 2023

Word Retrieval in Persons with Aphasia

Anastasia Raymer, Ph.D,CCC

October 13, 2003



Are there any documented methods to improve word-finding skills? Is there a way to measure progress with word-finding skills short of standardized assessment? Is a goal of ''will exhibit (two) or less instances of word-finding difficulty in (ten minutes


In fact there is quite an extensive literature on treatment of word finding difficulties, drawing upon a number of different treatment techniques (cueing hierarchies, answering questions about semantic and phonologic attributes of target words, semantic feature analysis, pairing gestures with word production). A number of recent references review some of the options.

June 2001 issue of Special Interest Division 2 (Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders) continuing education newsletter: Treatment of Lexical Impairments in Aphasia: Focus on the Evidence.

A.M. Raymer & L.J.G. Rothi (2001). Cognitive Approaches to Impairments of Word Comprehension and Production. In R. Chapey (Ed.), Language Intervention Strategies in Aphasia and Related Communicative Disorders (4th ed., pp. 524-550). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

L. Nickels (Ed.) (2002). Rehabilitation of Spoken Word Production in Aphasia. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.

Your question hits upon some unanswered issues in word retrieval treatment research, however. Numerous studies show that practice with a number of treatment protocols lead to improvement in retrieving specific words that are trained in a picture naming format. It is less common to see generalization of treatment effects to untrained words, and infrequent to see reports of the impact of treatment upon conversational measures, what some would argue is the true measure of the effects of word retrieval treatment. Therefore it may not be an appropriate goal to say that general word retrieval abilities will improve. We might need to tailor the selection of treatment stimuli to the individual needs and interests.

On the other hand, I might suggest that the overall goal should be articulated in terms of improving ability to retrieve words in particular communication activities. Audrey Holland has written about identifying goals that specifically reflect items on the ASHA-FACS, several of which depend upon word retrieval abilities as a component behavior. Improvement would be measured in the changes in assistance needed to accomplish each communication activity. Mayer and Murray (in press, Aphasiology) discuss a new method for measuring word retrieval at the conversational level, considering proportions of word retrieval failures relative to overall proportions of words spoken.

Although I use word retrieval treatments all the time, I think we still need better research to support the contention that treatments for word retrieval are effective and valuable.

Anastasia Raymer, Ph.D., CCC/SLP, is an associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Speech-Language Pathology, and Special Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She is the Coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Division 2: Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders for 2003-2005. With colleagues at the Brain Rehabilitation Research Center in Gainesville, Florida, she is involved in research investigating the effects of treatments for word retrieval, sentence production, and spelling in individuals with stroke. Their research is supported by an NIH (NICDC) Program Project Grant (P50 DC03888). Dr. Raymer has published her work in numerous scholarly journals (Aphasiology, Journal of Medical Speech-Language Pathology, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) and several review chapters.

Anastasia Raymer, Ph.D,CCC

Related Courses

Best Practice for Assessment and Treatment of Bilingual Aphasia
Presented by Maria Muñoz, PhD, CCC-SLP


Maria Muñoz, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9759Level: Intermediate1.5 Hours
  'I enjoyed this presentation because of all the examples provided'   Read Reviews
This course focuses on best practice in the assessment and treatment of bilingual aphasia by speech-language pathologists. Recommended practices are contrasted against common mistakes made by clinicians working with bilingual patients with aphasia. Implementation of best practices are modeled through case studies.

20Q: Goal and Treatment Selection in Aphasia in 20 Sessions or Less
Presented by Jackie Hinckley, PhD, CCC-SLP


Jackie Hinckley, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9281Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Set up was easy to follow and information was entertaining'   Read Reviews
Have you ever wondered how to focus aphasia therapy and set reasonable goals when treatment time is limited? This course will provide evidence-based guidance on goal-setting and treatment selection for aphasia with examples from time-limited situations.

20Q: Mental Health, Aphasia, and the SLP’s Role
Presented by Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD


Rebecca Hunting Pompon, PhD
Course: #10306Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Even though I'm not currently working with clients with aphasia, I found the information easy to understand, and therefore I'll retain it more easily so that if/when I do work with clients with aphasia, it will be a memorable resource'   Read Reviews
Depression and other mental health challenges are prevalent in individuals with aphasia. Recent research on the mental health status of individuals with aphasia, along with mental health and well-being screening options and basic counseling approaches that can be used by SLPs, are discussed in this 20Q.

Where Do I Start with My Client with Aphasia?
Presented by Jacqueline Hinckley, PhD, CCC-SLP


Jacqueline Hinckley, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9320Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Great course'   Read Reviews
This course is for clinicians who don’t often see people with aphasia in their settings, but need a quick update on best practices. Evidence-based guidelines and resources will be provided to enable SLPs to provide high quality services to someone with aphasia, even with limited materials.

C.A.P.E: 4 Essential, Evidence-Based Categories for Aphasia Assessment and Treatment
Presented by Roberta Elman, PhD, CCC-SLP, BC-ANCDS, ASHA Fellow


Roberta Elman, PhD, CCC-SLP, BC-ANCDS, ASHA Fellow
Course: #8825Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Great Informaation'   Read Reviews
This is Part 1 of the five-part series, Five Fresh Perspectives on Applying LPAA Principles to Treatment for Neurogenic Communication Disorders. This course will discuss the rationale that supports the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA), and application of LPAA across a variety of clinical settings utilizing the C.A.P.E. categories (Connecting people; Augmentative/Alternative communication (AAC); Partner training; Education and resources). Examples will be chosen to reflect real-world situations that clinicians can apply to their own clinical practice. (Part 2: Course 8887, Part 3: Course 8891, Part 4: Course 8894, Part 5: Course 8895)

Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.