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How It Works: Semantic Feature Analysis

Semantic Feature Analysis is an evidence-based treatment for naming

Aphasia can affect speaking, comprehension, reading and writing to varying degrees. While there are different types of aphasia, word-finding difficulties tend to be common across all types. Let’s take a look at one of the tried and tested treatment approaches for word-finding problems.

Semantic Feature Analysis

Semantic Feature Analysis is an evidence-based treatment approach designed to improve retrieval of words by accessing semantic networks. It is most suitable for people with mild to moderate aphasia.The person with aphasia is asked set questions about the target item. By answering the questions, the person may then be able to name the item. If the person does quickly name the item, ensure they still continue with the rest of the questions so that they are working on accessing semantic networks and can also practice describing the word. 

Being able to describe a word or object is in itself a very useful strategy to use when having difficulty retrieving a word as it often enables the listener to realise the word the person with aphasia is trying to say.

The questions can vary but they typically are as follows.

  • Appearance: What does it look like?/ What colour is it? / How big is it?

  • Group: What type of thing is it? / What group does it belong to?

  • Function: What is it used for?

  • Action: What does it do? / What do you do with it?

  • Location: Where do you find it? / Where do you keep it?

  • Association: What does it remind you of?

  • Material: What is it made of?

Semantic Feature Analysis has traditionally been done using picture cards and a grid such as the one above.  This works well in clinic but when it comes to home practice, clients are automatically restricted unless you allow them to borrow your picture cards.  Using an app such as Naming Toolbox provides a solution to this problem. Naming Toolbox includes over 500 high-quality pictures and a semantic feature analysis activity. No searching for pictures and questions. They’re all in the app, ready to use at the touch of a finger.

Semantic Feature Analysis Games & Activities

Barrier Game: Encourage the person with aphasia to work with a family member/conversation partner. Ask the family member to describe the word using the helpful semantic feature analysis questions. Ensure the iPad is facing away from the person with aphasia. Ask them to guess what the word is.

If the person with aphasia indicates that they know what the object is but cannot name it, help them by giving the first sound of the word. Take this activity in turns. Ask the person with aphasia to describe the word using the helpful questions. The family member then has to guess what the object is.

Group Activity: One person is asked to listen to the clues given by others and guess what the object is (they cannot see what it is). Each group member is asked to describe the item by answering one helpful question each. The person with the winning clue gets a point.

Step-down activity: If the person with aphasia is having difficulty describing the word, give them a choice of possible answers e.g. What colour is it? Is it red or blue?

Semantic Feature Analysis in Everyday Situations

Encourage family members to ask some of the helpful semantic feature analysis questions in everyday conversation if the person with aphasia is having difficulty retrieving a word. Using the ‘describe the word’ strategy can be very effective but it takes practice.

Please share this blog post with colleagues, students and family members so that they understand how to use Semantic Feature Analysis and how it can be of benefit to individuals with aphasia. 



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