Reading and Aphasia

Reading and Aphasia

Reading in aphasia can be one of the more difficult skills to rehabilitate. It's also the skill most of the clients we see want to regain. Although reading is usually more preserved than writing, it can still takes a long time to improve. People with all types and all levels of aphasia have reading issues. While someone with anomia or high-level aphasia may have difficulty with reading books, the person with severe aphasia may only recognize a few simple words. Many clients were avid readers before their aphasia and the loss of reading ability is devastating.

Common problems with reading:

  • Can understand nouns or content words
  • Can recognize some single words if given very different choices ('couch' is very different from 'football"), later closer choices ('table' versus 'tablet')
  • May "read" a newspaper and seem to pick up certain words
  • Reading is slow and effortful
  • Can read maps and highway signs
  • Cannot read functor words (articles, prepositions, etc)
  • Cannot access phonological pathways for reading (sounding out words)
  • Can't remember story events after a few paragraphs
  • Alphabet identification is largely gone (naming letters)
  • Cannot answer in-depth questions about the story (who, what, where, why, etc)
  • Difficulty using an index or finding things using categories (where to look to find 'salt' in the grocery store)
  • Difficulty reading aloud
  • Difficulty summarizing what they've read

People who loved to read before their strokes should continue to work on it. It can take a lot of time, but constant work pays off. Unless you are doing an intensive alexia course with an expert, don't waste time with trying to re-teach reading as if your family member was a child—there's no need to start at square one with alphabet letter identification or "what sound does 'f' make". Very few people with aphasia can use this route for reading; most people use their "whole word" reading ability. This means that they recognize the word as a whole, not through sounding out each letter.

Some people with aphasia can use books read aloud to follow along with a paper copy, but this is usually too difficult and frustrating. There are many different levels of reading, so even if you think your loved one "has no reading", you might be surprised!

Our center frequently helps people with all types and severities of aphasia with reading. Want specific ideas about how you can help your loved one with reading? Schedule a consultation or call us to find out if you qualify for one of our intensive aphasia programs.

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About Dr. Bartels

Dr. Bartels is a published aphasia researcher, presenter, author, and founder of The Aphasia Center Intensive Aphasia Program. She is an aphasia diagnostic and treatment expert with over 11 years of daily experience. She helps families with aphasia all over the world plan their recovery and exceed their goals.

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