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Rhyming: It’s not just for poetry – how it can help those with aphasia recover naming skills

Constant Therapy | Aphasia

The Identify picture rhymes task within Constant Therapy is an effective way to work on naming skills. This exercise helps people with cognitive, speech, or language disorders – especially semantic paraphasias and phonological paraphasias – improve reading and word retrieval by determining if the displayed image rhymes with a written word. Below, we explain why and how it works.

How the ‘Identify picture rhymes’ task helps semantic paraphasias and phonological paraphasias

When clinicians think about naming errors in aphasia (which we call “paraphasias”), we think about two types: semantic paraphasias and phonological paraphasias.

Semantic paraphasias occur when someone provides a word that is related to the target word (the word they were looking for) in meaning. For example, people often provide words that are in the same category as the word they were looking for, like saying “couch” instead of “table” (both of these are furniture).

The other type of naming error we see is phonological paraphasia. This occurs when someone produces a word that is similar to the target word in the way it sounds, so they might say “prefect” instead of “perfect”, or “towel” instead of “toast”. Luckily, rhyming tasks can help!

In the Identify pictures rhymes task in Constant Therapy, you are shown a picture and asked whether the name of that picture rhymes with a spoken word (it’s also written). If you’re stuck and can’t think of the name of the image in the picture, you can click a cue button to hear it. By answering these yes/no questions, you’re not only working on naming by trying to think of the name of the picture, but also helping to solidify what both words sound like and whether they rhyme or not.


The other cool thing about rhyming is that it’s actually a really important pre-literacy skill for children learning to read. If there are kids or grandkids around while doing the rhyming tasks, have them do it with you! Or, if you’re a clinician in a school, you can use this task to work on rhyming as a pre-literacy skill! Hard to say no to such a versatile task!

The science behind rhyming as an effective way for those with aphasia to work on naming skills

As usual, don’t just take our word for it. Here are a few studies that prove just how effective rhyming can be for patients with aphasia working on their naming skills:

  • Renvall, K., et al., Treatment of anomia with contextual priming: Exploration of a modified procedure with additional semantic and phonological tasks. Aphasiology, 2007. 21(5): p. 499-527.
    • Subjects: 2 aphasia patients with anomia
    • The Big Picture: in this study, the authors took a treatment approach and added two things to it: picture to word matching and phonological rhyming syllable identification. They found that by doing that, their patients actually had longer-term improvement in naming!
  • Doesborgh, S.J., et al., Effects of semantic treatment on verbal communication and linguistic processing in aphasia after stroke: a randomized controlled trial. Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation, 2004. 35(1): p. 141-6.
    • Subjects: 58 patients with aphasia resulting in semantic deficits (trouble remembering the meaning of words) and phonological deficits (trouble thinking of the right sounds included in a specific word)
    • The Big Picture: Patients received semantic treatment that targeted word meanings, and phonological treatment, including rhyming, that addressed the sounds in words. Both groups improved, and in the areas that their treatment was focused on! The phonological group decreased their difficulty with word sounds, and the semantic group decreased their difficulty with meaning! The interesting thing here is that both groups improved to a similar degree. This really drives home the fact that treating patients using a phonological, sound-based treatment approach (including rhyming) is just as effective as using a semantic, meaning, oriented approach.
  • Rochon, E., et al., Neural changes after phonological treatment for anomia: An fMRI study. Brain and Language, 2010. 114(3): p. 164-79.
    • Subjects: Patients with aphasia
    • The Big Picture: The patients in this study completed phonological components analysis (PCA) therapy, in which they named a target word and then provided words that were related phonologically (by sound) – they provided a word that rhymed, the first sound of the word, another word that started with the same sound, the last sound, and the number of syllables. The patients showed improvement in naming, and there were some interesting fMRI results that showed that, based on activation, it’s possible that by doing PCA treatment, the relationship between semantics and phonological representations of words is strengthened, and that this might help to improve naming skills.

As always, thank you to all of the phenomenal researchers out there who enable us to provide Constant Therapy users with research-based, effective tasks that will put you on your road to improvement.

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