Blogging about research: Confidence of speech-language pathology students regarding communicating with people with aphasia

Admittedly, I was running short of ideas on what to review this month as I haven’t been reading much while I’ve been trying to make headway on my own projects. So I was grateful to come across Tricia McCabe’s (@tricmc) tweet linking to the following paper presenting results of a questionnaire of speech pathology students on their confidence in communicating with people with aphasia.  While the content of the paper may be fairly niche, I think it’s a topic that many clinicians will empathise with.

A review of:

Finch, E., Fleming, J., Brown, K., et al. (2013). The confidence of speech-language pathology students regarding communicating with people with aphasia. BMC Medical Education, 13:92.

Premise of the article

Communicating with people with aphasiaThe article begins by outlining the familiar sentiments that aphasia is a condition that has limited public awareness and that people with aphasia encounter participation restrictions as a result of difficulties in communicating with people who are generally unable to communicate effectively with people with aphasia. It There is then evidence cited that has suggested that practicing speech pathologists are not always able to effectively communicate with people with aphasia. The article then leads quite naturally to its main question of investigating how confident speech pathology students are in their ability to communicate effectively with people with aphasia. Read more of this post

Blogging about research: Functionally relevant items in the treatment of aphasia

Selecting the right words for therapyIt is possible to draw an analogy between interventions in speech therapy/pathology and interventions in pharmacology (i.e. drug-based interventions). Both interventions require a ‘substance’ and both interventions require a delivery method. In pharmacological interventions, the substance would naturally be the drug and the delivery method would be the syringe, canula, tablet etc, i.e. the method by which the drug is introduced to the body. As would be expected, in pharmacology, the effects of both the delivery mechanism and the substance need to be fully understood and researched before the intervention is rolled out for use with the general public. If you then extend this to the field of speech therapy/pathology and in particular interventions for people with aphasia that attempt to improve spoken word-retrieval abilities, you can similarly identify a substance and a delivery mechanism. However, in this area, research has had a strong focus on identifying the effectiveness of various delivery methods to the relative neglect of investigating the effects of the ‘substance’. In this analogy that I am making, the delivery mechanisms are the intervention tasks (e.g. phonological therapy, semantic therapy, semantic-phonological therapy, and the various ‘branded’ tasks that fall under these general banners, such as semantic feature analysis therapy and phonological components analysis therapy). The ‘substance’, in this analogy, represents the words/vocabulary that are used in order to exemplify the tasks, i.e. the words that the person with aphasia is practicing as part of therapy. Essentially, the lack of attention paid to the ‘substance’ in interventions for people with aphasia has left clinicians with little concrete guidance about how to go about selecting words to use within their interventions in order to increase the chances of positive outcomes. Read more of this post

Blogging about research: What makes a successful peer-led aphasia support group?

A brief review of:

Tregea, S., & Brown, K. (2013). What makes a successful peer-led aphasia support group? Aphasiology, 27(5), 581-598.


Peer-led aphasia groupFirstly, the reasons I opted to review this article as my inaugural Blog about research were principally: a) my primary interest in speech pathology is working with people with aphasia; b) I’ve had a reasonable amount of direct experience planning and delivering group therapy for adults with aphasia in clinician-delivered groups; and c) I’m currently delivering clinical education for undergraduate students taking placements within as a community rehabilitation service and there has been some discussions about extending the ‘group-type’ approach outside of the clinical situation. Read more of this post

Blogging about research


Obviously it’s been a while since my last blog post. This has not been deliberate as such, it’s just that things have been a little hectic over the last 12 months while I’ve been making the transition from superstar PhD student who was ready to take over the world to lowly full-time academic (in a new country no less). So having time to think about interesting things to blog about has been challenging to say the least, let alone actually fingers to the keys, or should I say to the touch sensitive screen as I have now joined the ranks of speech therapists/pathologists with a tablet device (not of the “i” variety I hasten to add).

Anyway, recognising that this blog has been lying a bit dormant recently (although surprisingly still receiving a decent number of views all considering), I’m taking the opportunity to revive my blog by “Blogging about research”. This follows an initiative proposed by Rachel Wynn in her blog “Talks just fine” Tales of a “speech” therapist ( The basic premise is that speech therapists/pathologists who blog and who are interested in research, especially in spreading the word about research, combine these interests and post regular blog posts reviewing and appraising recent research – simple.

More detailed information can be found in this specific post at Rachel’s blog and Rachel will also be collating all posts regarding Blogging about research and presenting these in a separate post in her blog.

So, all being well I’ll be posting posts more regularly again and hopefully this will inspire me to once again be inspired to post more broadly than just in relation to the Blogging about research theme – but who knows, lets start walking again before we start running.

Wikipedia and EBP in academia and speech and language therapy/pathology

When you tell your students that they should not be citing Wikipedia in their essays, or even just using Wikipedia as a search tool, are the reasons you give evidence based?

Wikipedia = Reliable?After completing my first week of teaching at my new University I was led to do some research into ‘accuracy of Wikipedia’ after it has become clear that the students here seem to make use of technology within classes to a greater extent that I had previously experienced back in the UK. In one particular session where the students were working in groups it was not long before I heard reference made to Wikipedia as a source of information and then not long after this I saw another student actively scrolling through some information on the web-based “anyone can edit” encyclopaedia. Now, students (the vast majority anyway) so appear to be aware that their lecturers don’t like them to be citing Wikipedia in essays and such – I have explicitly dissuaded students from doing so myself. The reason I, and I’m sure many others give is generally along the lines of ‘you can’t trust the information to be reliable as it’s not written by ‘experts’ – anyone who wishes to do so can write anything about anything and so how can it be accurate to the level required at University?’

Read more of this post

Back to school / The reach and impact of Twitter and Blogging

First day at new school is comingAs a number of my regular readers and Twitter contacts already know I’ve started a new lecturing job at a University in Australia. Having taken the last 3 weeks or so to get familiar with new surroundings, work out how things are done in my new workplace, and prepare for my teaching responsibilities, tomorrow is the first day of the new teaching semester. For anyone back in the UK this is going to sound a bit weird as they are now firmly in the middle of summer vacation. But yes, in Australia the teaching semesters are ‘the wrong way around’ – so I’ve started in July ready to begin teaching for the second semester (i.e. in the middle of the calendar AND academic years). So this is all very exciting and of course a little nerve-racking given that this is my first full-time teaching position. In addition to the lecturing, I will also be picking up some clinical education responsibilities as the semester progresses, which at this moment in time is probably my stronger area simply because this is where the bulk of my teaching experience lies.

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Tempus fugit, and, My own little service evaluation/improvement exercise

So, it’s obviously been a while since the last post. Two months does go by quite quickly when it’s semester time and there are many things going on at the same time. That’s not to say there hasn’t been the time to blog but when I did have spare time (i.e. my own time) I chose to do things that were a little less productive and probably less useful.

But anyway, in the meantime I had opened a poll to see what the readers of this blog are interested in reading about and therefore what I should attempt to focus my writing on – my attempt to be evidence based (!). The leading topic in this poll was posts around Evidence Based Practice, which I was pleased with for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my previous 3 posts were on this topic so I assume they were well received especially as they attracted some comments and some Twitter interactions. Secondly, I think it demonstrates a desire for SLTs working in both clinical and research settings to attempt to improve their own application of EBP. Now we all know that we should be applying EBP in everything we do but naturally this is sometimes easier said than done so I will be attempting to offer what I can by way of resources and discussion.

Nice graph

Twitpoll results

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Building research capacity in speech and language therapy – Part 3 (Resources for EBP)

I almost forgot I was going to do what I’m about to do as I was originally intending to include this information in Part 2.But as that got a bit too long it probably works out quite well as a post on its own.

Tis truly a plentiful bounty of EBP resourcesI’ll also just preface the main point of this post with a pertinent account of a brief exchange I had with two students in my clinical education tutorial group today while we were waiting for the remaining members of the group to join us.We got to talking about despite it being the first day of term following the 4 week Easter vacation, Mondays just have this habit of making you feel like you’ve not had a break for ages – especially when you’ve just come out of a two-hour class on Research Methods (the students, not myself).This led one student to comment something along the lines of “and I’m not really sure what we’re ever going to use research methods for anyway” to which the other paused then replied something like “well probably for our dissertation but after that I don’t really know“. So, resisting the temptation to let my head drop to the table, as after all they are only in the second year of their four-year course (and they will get more modules which draw out aspects of this later on), I took the opportunity to suggest how such skills should be useful in carrying out Evidence Based Practice, which, is also what I am attempting to instill in them at this stage by asking them to develop therapy tasks based on evidence and citing this evidence in their written therapy plans. I don’t want to go into this in any more detail but I think it raises an interesting issue from a clinical education point of view in that we may be thinking we are instilling principles of evidence based practice but do students appreciate this at the time in that particular stage of their development in becoming SLTs?

And with that:

I’m just basically going to provide a list of resources that SLTs (and other Allied Health Professionals) may find helpful in their quest to implement Evidence Based Practice, or dare I say it, have a go at some research.Some will probably only be relevant/accessible by UK SLTs but most should be useful for others too.

If you are reading this and know of something else to add to the list, please feel free to add a comment so it can be shared with everyone :D Read more of this post

Building research capacity in speech and language therapy – Part 2

Research Facilitators to make the research process a little less daunting and overwhelmingSo as a Research Facilitator for SLT my remit was to increase research capacity in local NHS SLT services.The ultimate aim of this was to improve SLT services’ potential of taking part and leading large research projects which would be eligible for inclusion on the National Institute of Health Research’s Research Portfolio. This portfolio being a list of ‘high-quality’ clinical research within the UK which is funded directly through NHS funding streams or through streams that are open on a nationally competitive basis (i.e. where the researchers have applied for funding and where these applications have been judged alongside other competing bids). The long and short of this being that the more involvement in Portfolio research a particular NHS Trust has, the more money they will subsequently be alloted for research purposes in future cycles – so NHS Research and Development (R & D) offices are very keen on this!

However, not all SLTs have the personal desire to do such ‘high-quality research’ (which is fair enough) or the time allowed within their job description to do so even if it is an appealing proposition.Therefore, I saw my role as two-fold:1) to identify and support those who have the desire and committment to engage actively in research; and 2) to help develop core research skills with those, who while not considering research (at this stage), were still interested in developing their ability to conduct evidence based practice. Read more of this post

Building research capacity in speech and language therapy – Part 1

Looking for questions and looking for answersResearch skills are integral to any working position as a speech and language therapist (SLT).This is because SLT is (or at least strives to be) an evidence based profession.This means that the things we do, as SLTs, when providing care to real people/patients/clients have been researched and shown to be effective.To make an analogy, if you are in the unfortunate position of needing to take medication or of undergoing a surgical procedure, your doctor should be giving you information on success rates of the intervention in question (e.g. “this drug/procedure has a 60% chance of success, there is a 20% chance of no effect, and a 20% chance of negative side-effects”).Such figures are not just plucked out of the air or based on the particular doctor’s prior experiences – these figures are generally based on the outcomes of thorough and controlled research which has been peer-reviewed and published.

As with all science and healthcare-based fields, knowledge is not stationary.Therefore, it is the speech and language therapist’s responsibility to keep up to date with new developments that are relevant to their working practices in order to ensure they are capable of providing the best possible care. Read more of this post