Medical Speech Pathology

Curiosity, Dialogue, and Knowledge

Fluent Aphasia

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In My Head...5 (2009) (detail), multimedia by Anne Jones. Click this link to check out more of her cool artwork!

Fluent Aphasia

The Fluent aphasias consist of the following:  Wernicke’s aphasia, Transcortical sensory aphasia, Conduction aphasia, and Anomic aphasia. Fluent here means that the words come tumbling out, but not always the right words.  And for the folks that have Conduction aphasia and/or Anomia, the right words may be very hard to find.

A person with just Anomia will be able to construct sentences well enough, but will find the words hard to access.  A person with Wernicke’s aphasia will usually present with what many people call “word salad”.  Imagine having all the words that you want to make up a sentence, then having some of those words taken away at random, then shake the words into random order, maybe add the twist of misspeaking a few words (paraphasia), and finally just make up some new words (neologisms) and throw those in for the random ones that got taken away.  Now, if you can picture all of that, then you have a pretty good idea of what a person with Wernicke’s aphasia sounds like.

Finally, a person with conduction aphasia will… wait a second. While I could, in good keeping with this informative piece, go on and on about what to expect that is different.  Instead I’ll link the Wikipedia definition here, and I’ll tell you the truth.  I hardly ever see this type of aphasia.  First, I don’t really look terribly hard for this because to me (boots on the ground clinician, not a researcher) this sort of distinction usually isn’t all that helpful in therapy.  Knowing whether or not a patient has Fluent vs. Non-Fluent is essential.  Knowing whether it’s some other type is less essential, though I know there are some who cherish the distinctions.  In a rehabilitation hospital, I usually get from 4-20 some odd days with my patients.  Often the diagnosis is mixed with other problems and disorders.  Rarely is it a pure aphasia of any sort.  Maximizing therapeutic intervention is my goal.  However, if someone reading this has more experience with conduction aphasia and would like to help add to the post, then I’d be glad to edit the post to reflect your different experience with this.


There are several tests that I use and highly recommend: The Western Aphasia Battery (WAB),  Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Exam (BDAE), and the Boston Naming Test (BNT).  I would stress here that there are likely plenty of other great tests, but I don’t use them regularly or have easy access to them (without begging for funds to buy yet another aphasia test).  See the page on Non-Fluent Aphasia for a description of the first two tests.  The last one listed, the Boston Naming Test, is a great test for assessing how well someone can name objects.  My only gripe with this test is that it doesn’t always work well with people who have English as a Second Language.  This is a small gripe considering that it wasn’t designed to be given to non-English speakers (at least not to my knowledge).  I mistakenly assumed that since it was just a series of line drawings, that someone’s primary language wouldn’t really mean that much.  Well, I was wrong.  I’ve given this to Spanish language speakers, Marshallese speakers, Polish speakers, and Laos speakers.  Invariably things get lost in translation with pictures as well as words.  Without digressing too much into translation difficulties and aphasia, I just wanted to bring up the fact that the BNT does not fix all your testing woes as a therapist when you are working with patients that primarily speak a language other than English.


Therapy, in my experience, with fluent aphasias is either a lot easier or a lot harder than the non-fluent aphasias.  For the most part, I would assert that it is harder for certain in the beginning of therapy, and it only gets a lot easier if the patient can move out of the severe range and into the moderate to mild range. The importance of getting down to the mild or moderate severity range is true for both Fluent and Non-fluent aphasia.  Unfortunately, that is usually a variable that we all have little control over.  That is driven primarily by the size of the initial stroke and/or the amount of spontaneous recovery that happens. [Check out this link for a cool article on spontaneous recovery].

Therapy tips include:

  • Establish a sign that lets the person with fluent aphasia know that they need to be quiet and listen.  (Do this quickly or therapy will be out of control).
  • If reading skills are intact (or partially intact) make sure and use this to your advantage.  Many times the patient will have auditory processing problems, but will be able to read text fairly well.  Pair listening exercises (1,2, or 3 step directions; Basic and Complex Yes and No questions; Item identification or picture identification) with text to help with scaffolding.
  • Item identification drills involve placing between 2 and 6 or more objects within the field of view of the person with aphasia.  Then, you name the item you want the person to find (e.g.- “Show me the __________”).  To make this same drill harder, you can add prepositions into the mix (e.g.-“Before you point to _________, point to ____________”; “Put the ____________ on top of the ______________”; “Place the ___________ under the ____________ then point to the ___________________”; etc.).
  • Automatic speech drills are often good to improve correct fluency or allow more voluntary control by tapping into long-term procedural memory.  Examples include:  counting 1-20, naming the days of the week, naming the months of the year, the pledge of allegiance, and some highly familiar nursery rhymes.
  • Group aphasia therapy may also prove helpful, as it can reinforce listening, turn-taking, and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Communication Boards may also be of benefit.  These are usually very patient specific and you will likely need the help of an SLP to set this up initially and train you on the best use of it.

While this list above is in no way comprehensive or applicable to every patient out there, I do hope that it helps give people a nudge in the right direction.  Best of luck with your therapy out there! Please post your questions or comments; they will help me and others.  If you have specific questions feel free to send them to

Specific Therapy techniques and ideas for Anomia will appear in a new page under aphasia in the future!

11 comments on “Fluent Aphasia

  1. Gayle Pulliam
    August 4, 2013

    can someone have a word anomia problem
    and not have had a stroke or an infection.
    My 28 year old daughter has problems finding
    words at times. She frustrates her siblings
    to the point everyone is yelling at her for
    not listening to the questions they ask
    and then how she answers them. I have hurt
    for my daughter and was told she has a learning
    disability when she was younger which we had
    tutors and outside help throughout her education.
    She graduated from college but still struggles
    with life. do you have any suggestions.

    • Admin
      August 6, 2013


      Thanks for commenting and asking such good, yet tough, questions. My short answer to your first question is, yes. People can have word finding problems without having a stroke or infection. All of us experience some degree of word finding problems from time to time, especially when nervous or stressed. What you describe sounds like a developmental delay of some sort that your daughter has overcome in many ways (e.g.- graduating from college), but still struggles with other aspects. It might be worth her while to seek help from a neuropsychologist or other healthcare professional that could help with either behavioral strategies or medication if indicated. Finally, keep positive and try and convince the rest of your family to be as well. Communication breakdowns are frustrating, but working at it is worth it. I hope this advice is helpful. Take care and thanks for reading and commenting!


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  3. Brenda
    July 14, 2016

    My daughter is 38 years old and during a conversation, the wrong word will pop out of her mouth. A word that makes no sense. She realizes it, laughs and immediately comes up with the right word. This seems very strange to me and I am concerned. Any thoughts?

    Thank you for your time,

    • Admin
      July 14, 2016

      My immediate thought is to take her to the doctor to have her checked out. I would go to your PCP, and ask for a neurology referral if they don’t find anything. If there is nothing wrong, great, but I would be thorough in checking this out with your doctor(s).

  4. Lainey
    October 12, 2016

    Hi, I have a similar question to Brenda, except the people involved are my mother (aged 70), myself (44) and my sister (32). We all experience symptoms similar to those Brenda observed; with me it typically occurs several times a day and has been present for decades without any definite progression with time. We are all health professionals and seem to be generally fine in our routine work environment. None of my 3 male siblings seem to be affected and nor is my half sister (with a different mother). Is there any possible explanation for this?


    • Lainey
      October 12, 2016

      Just to clarify: we have trouble coming up with the right word (one that should be familiar) and occasionally substitute an incorrect but related word. We usually promptly recognise that the word is incorrect.

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    November 1, 2018

    My father had a stroke approximately 2 years ago and has been diagnosed with fluent aphasia. He understands what we say to him, though sometimes we must repeat information or provide additional information. He can say some words & phrases and he finds ways to communicate information. His reading is quite limited, which is unfortunate because he loved to read prior to the stroke. He had therapy after the stroke, but hasn’t had any significant speech therapy since the stroke. He has recently let us know that he wants to try therapy again to see if he can improve. What is the best way to find qualified legitimate programs?

    • Admin
      November 1, 2018

      It depends on where you live.
      If you are in a rural area, good care is often a scarce resource. In larger urban areas, I would seek out well known hospitals and rehab hospitals in the area. Universities may also have free or reduced costs for sessions as well as information on other options in the area.

      Hope that helps. Good luck with your therapy. I hope your dad keeps after it. That’s one of the most important aspects of recovery!

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