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The Use of Drawing as a Therapeutic Technique in Aphasia Therapy

Sarah E Wallace, Ph.D.

March 19, 2012



How can drawing be considered compensatory and restorative in aphasia therapy?


Drawing therapies can help people with aphasia learn to use drawing to communicate specific messages. That is, drawings can be used to replace or augment verbal output during conversation. One example of drawing therapy is Back to the Drawing Board described by Morgan and Helm-Estabrooks in 1987. Many examples have followed (see references listed below). A 2005 article by Farias, Davis, and Harrington examined brain activity during drawing tasks and found some initial evidence that the act of drawing facilitates naming in people without brain damage. Clinically, this could potentially be interpreted such that the act of drawing various features of a given item would activate semantic networks in a similar manner to other traditional treatments like semantic feature analysis. The result of semantic activation could be improved verbal productions of targeted items. Therefore, drawing could potentially be both compensatory and restorative.

Farias, D., Davis, C., & Harrington, G. (2006): Drawing: its contribution to naming in aphasia. Brain and Language, 97, 53– 63.

Morgan, A. L. R., & Helm-Estabrooks, N. (1987). Back to the drawing board: A treatment program for nonverbal aphasic patients. Clinical Aphasiology, 17, 64–72.

Lyon, J. G. (1995). Drawing: Its value as a communication aid for adults with aphasia. Aphasiology, 9, 33–94.

Lyon, J. G., & Helm-Estabrooks, N. (1987). Drawing: Its communicative significance for expressively restricted aphasic adults. Topics in Language Disorders, 8, 61–71.

Lyon, J. G., & Sims, E. (1989). Drawing: Its use as a communicative aid with aphasic and normal adults. Clinical Aphasiology, 18, 339–368.

Sarah E. Wallace, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Duquesne University. Her teaching and research interests include cognitive and language challenges of adults with acquired disorders and their use of AAC.

sarah e wallace

Sarah E Wallace, Ph.D.

Sarah E. Wallace, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Duquesne University. She teaches courses on aphasia, cognitive-communication disorders, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Her current research interests include semantic treatments to improve word retrieval of people with aphasia as well as development of appropriate AAC strategies for people with aphasia and traumatic brain injury. She has a particular interest in methods to support navigation of high technology AAC devices and generalization of the use of AAC strategies. 

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