Guide to Anomic Aphasia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

This article is a guide to anomic aphasia. It will help you learn what aphasia is, the main symptoms of anomic aphasia, and how anomic aphasia is treated. You’ll also learn 10 helpful tips for communicating with a person who has aphasia.

What is aphasia?

First, it’s helpful to understand what aphasia is. Aphasia is a complex neurological condition that affects a person's ability to understand and express language. It often results from brain damage, typically occurring in the left hemisphere, which is responsible for language processing in most right-handed individuals. This damage can be caused by injuries such as stroke, a physical trauma to the brain, or a tumor.

There are several types of aphasia, each with distinct characteristics. Aphasia can be categorized through an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist.

Rather than being a specific condition, aphasia can affect a person’s language function in different ways. People with aphasia  may have varying degrees of difficulty with speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The four primary areas of language where people with aphasia may have problems are:

1 Speech repetition

Repeating words, phrases, and sentences that someone else says

2 Naming

Being able to name objects

3 Auditory comprehension

Understanding words, phrases, or sentences that are spoken by another person

4 Fluency

The smoothness, rhythm, and rate with which a person speaks

Every brain is different. While we can make fairly reliable statements about the parts of the brain and the areas they control, there is variation. But one thing is certain, speech therapy will make a big difference in recovery for every type of aphasia, including anomic aphasia.

What is anomic aphasia?

Anomic aphasia may also be called dysnomia, nominal aphasia, or amnesic aphasia. It is the least severe type of aphasia and affects primarily word finding when speaking and writing. Word-finding difficulty refers to challenges retrieving, or saying, a known word while you’re speaking or writing. 

With anomic aphasia, the area of damage to the left side of the brain is smaller and more localized. Interestingly, there have been cases of anomic aphasia occurring from small damage to the right side of the brain as well.

The assessment profile of a person with anomic aphasia usually closely resembles the following: 

  • Speech repetition: Mild challenges

  • Naming: Mild-severe challenges

  • Auditory comprehension: Mild challenges

  • Fluency: Fluent 

Sometimes, more severe types of aphasia will gradually resolve to become anomic aphasia.

What does anomic aphasia sound like?

With anomic aphasia, the person has fluent, or smooth, speech with preserved grammar, comprehension, and repetition skills. The main symptom is word-finding challenges. The words that are difficult to retrieve are usually nouns and verbs, with verbs being more impaired than nouns. Here’s an example of how a person with anomic aphasia might sound:

Speech therapist: “Did you want me to get something?” 

Person: “Yes. Can you give me the thing, the thing you sit. Not on the floor. It’s with the table.” [gesturing to the legs of a chair]

Because the person’s auditory (listening) and reading comprehension are relatively intact, these strengths can be used during treatment. People with anomic aphasia also benefit from using word-finding strategies. As the person gets better with using strategies to generate words, finding words will become easier. 

How is anomic aphasia treated?

Communication is incredibly complex. When language is impaired, speech therapy can help in two ways:

1 Impairment-based treatment

This treatment is aimed at improving language function to its prior level. Treatment approaches may include Word Finding Strategy Application, Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT), or Verbal Networking Strengthening System (V-NEST).

2 Communication-based treatment

The goal here is to provide the person with some sort of communication abilities in order to improve their quality of life or reduce their frustration. Examples might include a functional word-finding notebook or supplemental communication.  

It’s important to note that a combination of these treatment types may be used. Because of the extensive variation in brain function and damage, anomic aphasia can have varying degrees of severity. One treatment program may be useful for one person, while another program may lead to better outcomes with another.

In addition, a person may begin with one type of treatment and, as they improve, change to another program. Your speech therapist will work with you to determine the specific type that will best support your communication needs.

10 tips for communicating with a person who has anomic aphasia

A person’s sense of self can be greatly impacted when they have aphasia. Even a person who has only mild word-finding problems may be much less comfortable socializing than they were before.

It’s important to support a person with aphasia by maintaining a sense of respect. We need to recognize that language alone has been impacted, not the person’s intelligence level. Here are 10 simple ways to increase success when communicating with a person who has aphasia.

1. Check in and confirm they understand by asking them “yes” or “no” questions.

2. Encourage the person to communicate. Try to avoid talking for them.

3. Use a normal volume when speaking unless the person asks you to speak more loudly or quietly.

4. Pause and allow the person time to speak. Do not finish their sentences.

5. Limit any background noise to promote a calm and quiet environment.

6. Ensure the person is paying attention to you when you’re talking to them.

7. Do not correct their speech. Keep a pleasant facial expression while listening to the person speak.

8. Take advantage of alternate ways to communicate, such as pictures, written words, gestures, and facial expressions.

9. Use a simple form of communication. This doesn’t mean speaking about simple, child-like things, but using the least complex words and sentences  when discussing information.

10. Encourage participation in group conversations. Shift the topic to the person with aphasia: “Dave, what do you think about that game?”

Support from family, friends, and a speech therapist can significantly improve a person's ability to navigate daily interactions and regain confidence in their communication abilities. At Expressable, our speech therapists are knowledgeable in all types of treatment programs. We will work with you to establish a plan of care that gets you back to communicating to your top potential.

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