American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Therapy for Everyday Functional Reading

Treatment Tip 

There are many things that clinicians and student clinicians can do to promote functional reading skills in their patients/clients rather than always getting obscure paragraphs from a commerically available source. Use what is available in the patient's room, at the nurses' station, or in the hospital or facility. One of the items in the cognitive-linguistic sensory kit that my students have to make in their aphasia class is a newspaper. Provide the client/patient with a newspaper and ask them to read (aloud or silently, depending on which you are testing), the headlines, obituary, TV guide, a predetermined section, or the comics. Then ask them to tell you what they understood about the passage they read (reading comprehension).

Another item for functional reading is the hospital or facility menu. As part of therapy, you can get them to choose what they want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also use a prescription label that I get from the pharmacist. Ask the patient to read it and then ask questions concerning the type of medication, the dosage, when they are supposed to take the medication, and if there are any side effects from the medicaton.

Something so personal as one's book of religious preference can also be utilized in therapy. Instead of asking the patient to choose a passage (they may have it memorized), choose a passage for them to read. This not only shows function but is personally relevant to the patient. After all therapy is about providing personally relevant treatment to enhance our patients' skills. If patients are not able to read, I use survival signs to see if they are able to recognize these signs and know their meaning in the environment. Examples of survival signs include:

  • Stop 
  • Hospital
  • One Way
  • Library
  • Exit
  • Do not enter
  • Restrooms
  • Danger
  • Yield

They may not be able to read the signs but they will recognize the signs and understand their meanings.

As part of everyday functional reading, clinicians and student clinicians can also use empty food containers as part of your IADL treatment to find out if patients/clients are able to read food labels for grocery shopping. Another item that can be used is appointment cards that we all receive from the doctor. Have patient read the card and then tell you the day and time of the appointment. Lastly, bring in examples of bills: telephone, cable, or doctor bills. Have patient read the bill for the minimum amount due, full amount, account number, and address where to send the bill to.

All of the above are everyday things that we do. It is sensible to provide our patients with therapy that is functional and personally relevant that they are able to use everyday while we also focus on other things that they may require.

Submitted by Ruth Renee Hannibal, PhD, CCC-SLP,  Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia

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