Aphasia Therapy: Abstract Semantic Associative Network Training (AbSANT)
“Why is my speech therapist asking me to talk about these words? I thought we were supposed to be doing ‘functional’ language exercises.”
Welllll, I promise- we actually are. It’s called AbSANT- Abstract Semantic Associative Network Training. Phew, that is a mouthful. Sounds fancy and all, but why should you care about this?
First let’s talk about the term ‘generalization’. You may have heard your speech therapist use this term but what does it mean? Generalization just means a transfer of benefit from ‘trained items’ to ‘untrained items.’ Why is this concept important? Because the average adult vocabulary is too large to realistically target in therapy. So what we want is therapy that will give us the most bang for the buck. We want whatever gives us the best generalization because that means that your brain will generalize what you learn in therapy to things that we haven’t even worked on. What gives us the best generalization according to research?
Research shows training on abstract words promotes generalization to concrete words. But the opposite is not true (training for concrete words does not generalize to abstract words). Training for atypical items in a category promotes generalization to more typical items (for example, training on ostrich may generalize to using robin spontaneously) and training more complex syntactic structures promotes generalization to less complex syntactic targets. And this is exactly what you want- for your brain to be doing more work on it’s own and to require less work in therapy.
In addition, research shows that abstract words are actually more frequently used than concrete words. And many people with aphasia have a tough time expressing their opinions, feelings, and attitudes. Guess what, that requires the ability to access and use abstract language.
So if your SLP asks you to talk about unusual or abstract words and topics, now you know why it makes perfect sense.