Attention training for aphasia: here and now!

The treatment of aphasia has a rich and beautiful history with documented treatments as early as the 1960s. For the most part, the treatment of aphasia at the impairment level has been guided by representational treatment approaches or processing approaches. Both have substantial evidence for their efficacy, but of course, we are always looking for ways to better improve the communication of our clients with aphasia.

Recently, there has been some attention *future pun intended* in the literature about resource theory and aphasia treatment. From this angle, language impairment in aphasia stems from difficulty using cognitive resources like attention and memory.  

Since around 2000, researchers have been studying whether or not directly treating attention and related cognitive processes improve language outcomes for people with aphasia. Results of multiple studies have been mixed, but overall it seemed that treating attention for aphasia could be promising.  

Most studies for attention training and aphasia outcomes thus far have largely been relegated to a “domain general” approach—this means that a variety of cognitive processes are targeted. These approaches have used nonlinguistic, paper and pencil and/or computer-based tasks to directly train attention in a more general way.  

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In this study, a specific approach to attention training in aphasia rehab was studied—Language-Specific Attention Training (LSAT). L-SAT is a specific attention training program because it is designed to focus attention to increasingly difficult language tasks.

Researchers in the study compared L-SAT to direct attention training (DAT), as delivered by computer-based tasks, in four participants with aphasia. L-SAT was superior to DAT across the treatment tasks themselves, a standardized language test and a measure of functional communication. Patient reported outcome measures were better with L-SAT as well. As you well know, research with this heterogenous population is complex, and it’s important to check out the original article for more context for the results.

The ENTIRE manual of the L-SAT is FREE! The program is laid out step by step with specific procedures, discontinuing rules, and again FREE. The article also states that audio-visual stimuli for the program are available from the first author, Dr. Peach.

Although more research on L-SAT is needed, there’s a clear, evidence-based, FREE, guide as to how to implement this treatment with your clients with aphasia, so pay attention, specifically!

 

Peach, R.K., Beck, K.M., Gorman, M., & Fisher, C. (2019). Clinical outcomes following language-specific attention treatment versus direct attention training for aphasia: A comparative effectiveness study. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-18-0504.