Guide to Transcortical Sensory Aphasia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

This article is a guide to transcortical sensory aphasia. It will help you learn what this type of aphasia is, the main symptoms of transcortical sensory aphasia, and how this type of aphasia is treated. 

​​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 transcortical sensory aphasia.

What is transcortical sensory aphasia?

Transcortical sensory aphasia results from damage to the temporal lobe on the left side of the brain. The assessment profile of a person with transcortical sensory aphasia usually closely resembles the following: 

  • Speech repetition: Good

  • Naming: Moderate to severe

  • Auditory comprehension: Poor

  • Fluency: Fluent 

What does transcortical sensory aphasia sound like?

The hallmark symptom of transcortical sensory aphasia is that of fluent, or smooth, speech, but an inability to understand statements or questions.

A person with transcortical sensory aphasia will produce speech that appears to be of normal length, rate, rhythm, and melody. However, due to the severity of their problems with understanding spoken language, the statements they make may not be truly related to what the other person said or asked them. This can be deceiving because the person’s statement may appear to be agreement, but they’re actually simply repeating what they heard. Here’s an example of what transcortical sensory aphasia might sound like:

Speech therapist: “Hello! Would you like to go for a drive?” 

Person: “Go for a drive.”

It might seem like the person actually wants to go for a drive, but they were merely repeating what they heard.

What are other symptoms of transcortical sensory aphasia?

In addition, while the person may have fluent speaking skills, they may not be able to label more specific items, such as the “lid for the cup” or “tail of the dog.” Therefore, their verbal speech doesn’t reliably communicate their intention. 

How is transcortical sensory aphasia treated?

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

Impairment-based treatment: This treatment is aimed at improving language function to its prior level. Treatment techniques for transcortical sensory aphasia may include graded naming tasks or automatic speech activities.

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 of treatment for transcortical sensory aphasia may include Supported Conversation for Adults with Aphasia or Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPPA).

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

Due to the extensive variation in brain function and damage, transcortical sensory aphasia can have varying degrees of severity.

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 transcortical sensory aphasia

As we’ve explained, aphasia varies in its severity. However, a person’s sense of self can be greatly impacted when they have aphasia. Some people have severe aphasia, but they continue attempting to engage with others. Other people may have mild word-finding problems, but they are much less comfortable socializing than they were before.

We need to recognize that language alone has been impacted, not the person’s intelligence level.

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. Promote a calm and quiet environment.

Allow the person time to speak. Do not finish their sentences.

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

7. Do not correct the way they pronounce words. 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.

Sign up for a consultation
Discuss your communication needs with a speech therapist for free
Get started

More from

Watch learning jump (leap! spring! hop!) from your sessions into the real world.

Get started