Treatment of Writing in Aphasia

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Treatment of Writing in Aphasia

When an individual has aphasia, verbal output is often no longer sufficient for communication. Because of this, other modalities of communication are often explored. "Speech" therapy for aphasic patients often does not include speech activities at all, but rather focuses on a modality with which they will experience more success, and which will facilitate their communication in functional situations. Promoting Aphasic Communicative Effectiveness (PACE) is a multi-modality approach to therapy that encourages aphasics to use any means available to express themselves. One communication modality that can be included in this therapy approach is writing.

Writing can pose some problems for aphasics, however. Often following a left hemisphere stroke, a patient is forced to write with the non-dominant left hand due to right sided weakness or paralysis. For this reason, aphasic patients are sometimes reluctant to try writing as a form of communication. A way to compensate for this is to have the patient write in block letters rather than attempting to write in cursive, as block letters are much easier to produce and decipher. Another complication that can get in the way of writing therapy is the possibility of agraphia or alexia, or a combination of the two. These disorders can sometimes be seen in addition to aphasia. Also, sometimes a patient with aphasia will make some of the same errors in writing as they make in speaking, (i.e. telegraphic speech, jargon, paraphasias) and so their writing will not be any easier to understand than their speech. Depending on where the lesion is located, spelling can also be a major stumbling block to success with a writing treatment. In some cases it may be necessary to work on sound to letter correspondences before working on writing words or sentences. If spelling problems persist, a possible solution to be explored is a keyboarding device either that accepts spelling errors, or that provides a word prediction function. Word prediction could be a great help to a person with aphasia, as the words with difficult spellings would appear as choices and the aphasic would only have to recognize it rather than having to generate it independently.

Two treatments for writing abilities are Anagram and Copy Treatment (ACT) and Copy and Recall Treatment (CART.) Each of these treatments has been used with aphasic patients and produced some success in their abilities to communicate.

ACT consists of providing the patient with the letters of the target word in the form of an anagram and allowing them to put the letters in the correct order before attempting to write the word. This allows the patient to rearrange letters in the word and independently find the correct spelling. Once they have arranged the anagram to spell the target word, they copy the word several times to practice the correct spelling. After the word has been copied, the patient is asked to write it from memory. The eventual goal is for the patient to be able to write single words to facilitate communication with conversation partners. This technique can be modified to accommodate different patients. In some cases, unnecessary letters can be added to the anagram to make the task more challenging, so that the patient has to decide not only what order to write the letters in, but which letters to include. For some more severely impaired patients, there are no extra letters in the anagram, and a cueing hierarchy can be followed to help them get through the rearranging of the anagram. The cues would consist of providing one letter at a time until the word is arranged correctly, and then gradually fading out the cues so that the patient constructs the word more independently.

CART is a variation of ACT that relies only on copying the words, rather than having to unscramble them first. CART includes daily homework assignments, and can be used either alone or in addition to ACT. A...
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