Communication is an important skill for the human being, and it can be harmed on different levels in people with aphasia. People with aphasia, in fact, can have difficulties in speaking, writing, reading and understanding any type of language. Research has mainly focused on speech recovery, and it is no wonder given the importance of this skill in everyday life. A little more neglected, however, is the area of ​​acquired reading disorders. This despite reading is an important skill in the life of each of us, and even more so in that of those who, for work or entertainment reasons, were used to reading numerous pages every day. Knollman-Porter, in 2019, pointed out how reading difficulties can lead to a considerable deterioration in the quality of life (lower self-esteem, less social participation, greater frustration) even in non-avid readers.

there several projects in the US and Europe that rely on natural language processing (NLP), such as the Simplext project, which aims to automatically simplify the texts in favor of people with aphasia, or the FIRST (meant for people with autism) which tracks and replaces elements in the text that could be an obstacle to understanding.

A review by Cistola and colleagues (2020) [2] focused on the tools used in the past to compensate for reading difficulties in people with aphasia by reviewing 13 articles found from different databases. The researchers tried to answer the following questions:


  1. What are the tools developed to help aphasic people with reading difficulties
  2. What are the accessibility features of widely used technological tools that could help decode the written material?

As for the first question, unfortunately the study found one lack of specific tools. In most cases, several tools were used together (such as speech synthesis or text highlighting). These tools have been developed, it should be emphasized, they were not designed for people with aphasia, but for dyslexic children and teenagers. These are tools that can still be useful to aphasic people, but often do not allow to solve the problem related to reading.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop specific tools for aphasic patients. The key aspect will be that of Customization to meet auditory-perceptive and movement difficulties.

Some important factors will be:

  • The quality of speech synthesis
  • The speed of speech synthesis
  • The ability to change the size of the text and the spacing between words
  • The ability to automatically convert complex words or phrases into simpler forms

To conclude, there is still a long way to go. Powerful and customizable tools will be needed. However, it is something that can reduce frustration, low self-esteem and dependence on caregivers in people with aphasia.

Aphasia has not only an emotional but also an economic cost for the patient and his family. Some people, for economic reasons, limit their rehabilitation possibilities, despite the evidence supporting the need for intensive and constant work. For this reason, since September 2020, all our apps can be used for free online in GameCenter Aphasia and our activity sheets are all available here: https://www.trainingcognitivo.it/le-nostre-schede-in-pdf-gratuite/

References

[1] Knollman-Porter, K., Wallace, SE, Brown, JA, Hux, K., Hoagland, BL and Ruff, DR, 2019, Effects of written, auditory, and combined modalities on comprehension by people with aphasia. American Journal of Speech – Language Pathology, 28, 1206–1221.

[2] G. Cistola, M. Farrús, I. van der Meulen (2020). "Aphasia and acquired reading impairments. What are the high-tech alternatives to compensate for reading deficits? " International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders.

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The use of the script in aphasia