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Experience of word-finding difficulties in aphasia (Fama et al., 2021)

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posted on 26.07.2021, 17:53 authored by Mackenzie E. Fama, Erin Lemonds, Galya Levinson
Purpose: Anomia, or difficulty with naming and word finding, is a pervasive deficit among individuals with aphasia. There is an extensive literature on the mechanisms underlying anomia and on approaches to treatment, but very little is known about the subjective experience of anomia during day-to-day life.
Method: As part of a larger testing battery, 53 adults with poststroke aphasia took part in a novel, structured interview that included an open-ended question about the general experience of anomia: “Do you ever know what you want to say, but you can’t say it out loud? Please describe that feeling.” Video-recorded interview responses were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis, an iterative, data-driven process that categorizes interview data into common themes.
Results: Five main themes emerged among the data from 37 participants who produced adequate responses for use in thematic analysis: strategies to cope with or compensate for anomia, comments on awareness of the level of breakdown (e.g., "I have an idea, but can’t get the right words"), negative emotions, impact on relationships, and changes in frequency over time.
Conclusions: Participants showed strong awareness of anomia and its implications, demonstrating an ability to describe their language breakdown, identify relevant strategies to compensate and/or cope, and acknowledge the impact of anomia on their emotions and social interactions. This patient perspective may serve as a valuable supplement to information typically gained via objective language assessments. Clinicians and researchers may wish to consider incorporating similar subjective measures during assessment and treatment planning.

Supplemental Material S1. Complete list of participant responses. Responses are shown in full, separated into those that were included in the analysis (n = 37) and those that were excluded due to limited content (n = 16). Comments by the interviewer are included in brackets and begin with “MEF.” Any names used have been replaced with a single initial in brackets for anonymity, e.g., [D].

Fama, M. E., Lemonds, E., & Levinson, G. (2021). The subjective experience of word-finding difficulties in people with aphasia: A thematic analysis of interview data. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2021_AJSLP-20-00265

Publisher Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: Select Papers From the 50th Clinical Aphasiology Conference.


Data collection for this work was supported by NIH National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grants (F31 DC014875, to author Mackenzie E. Fama, and R03 DC014310, to Peter Turkeltaub). Data analysis was supported in part by a Towson University Faculty Research and Development Committee grant to author Mackenzie E. Fama.