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.

Motivations

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

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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 (http://talksjustfine.wordpress.com/). 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.

http://talksjustfine.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/clarification-order-blogging-about-research/

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.

My thoughts on: Reading TherAppy from Tactus Therapy

Key details (taken from http://www.tactustherapy.com/reading.html)

Reading TherAppy – Phrase and Sentence-Level Reading Comprehension

From Tactus Therapy Solutions (website includes a video demonstration)

Cost:£10.49 / $14.99 (at time of writing) at the iTunes App store

Goal areas

Targets reading comprehension, attention, problem solving

For who?

Aphasia, Alexia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Cognitive-Communication Impairment, Brain Injury, Early Language Learners, Language Learning Disability, Autism, English as a Second Language Learners

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Review

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Appraising apps in SLT/P (1) – Outcome measures and building the evidence base

I’ve resisted the cliché of calling this post “App”raisal / APPraisal / app-raisal

Well I’d probably over-estimated myself at the end of my last blog post when I suggested I’d present a structured approach to appraising apps. The more I thought about it, the more there seemed to be to think about and naturally there would always be things that I’d miss out on. So in the interests of getting a post up and making the topic of appraising apps more manageable and not restricting it to just a single blog post, I’m now proposing to present questions and things to think about, more or less as they occur to me. I’ll probably aim to introduce one or two into any one blog post. This means that I can always add to my list of thoughts later, and it also gives people the opportunity to comment and make suggestions (if they are so inclined).

Results are much easier to digest in graphsSo without any further excuses and delays I’ll go directly into some of my considerations on the issue. These will not necessarily be in any particular order as I’ll aim to make things more structured (i.e. so they could fit on a couple of sides of A4) as my list becomes more well-rounded and refined.

1) How can outcomes be measured?

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Get with the times – Speech and Language Therapists need to be informed about apps!

Apps are here whether we like it or not. SLTs can't keep their head in the sandConsidering my previous post highlighting some of my thoughts on the availability of apps in SLT I thought I’d attempt to follow this up relatively quickly with some of my thoughts on the SLT’s responsibility in being aware of and appraising apps. Both of the comments on the previous post (at the time of writing this) alluded to the same point in one way or another: as SLTs we have to accept that parents/clients/family will not be passive when it comes to speech and language impairment. It is only natural to want to help when your child or partner has difficulties with communication. Therefore, in the current climate, an app may make for an obvious choice as a possible way to help. This may be especially the case when SLTs’ caseloads are growing and it may be a considerable amount of time before the client has the chance to receive ‘professional’ intervention.

Therefore, to ally my apprehensions, I do propose that it is the SLTs responsibility to:

1) accept that apps are going to be increasingly relevant in the field of SLT. Even if apps are not an individual SLT’s preferred method of delivering intervention, we still have a responsibility to have an awareness of apps because there will more than likely be a time when a new client says something along the lines of “I’m thinking about buying this app because it says it can help with X”.

When faced with such a statement, we are the expert so we should be able to offer an opinion, or at least we should know how we can find out more information.

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Some positives and possible warnings about ‘apps’ in speech and language therapy

It appears as though apps are the future of speech and language therapy.In theory I do not have a problem with this as it does make sense to keep up with technology and exploit it wherever there is the potential for it to make our (speech and language therapists’) lives easier, and more importantly, to make a positive contribution to our clients’ development/recovery/rehabilitation.As an illustration of the increasing popularity of ‘apps’, I arrived home today to find the latest edition of the RCSLT’s Bulletin through my door and inside there was an article giving an overview of some of the apps that are currently available for adults with speech and/or language and/or swallowing needs.

Therapy AppsFrom the SLT’s perspective, apps, or more generally tablet computers, would appear to be a sensible investment: they are small yet can store a huge number of different files and applications (i.e. therapy materials); they are touch screen, hence making it an interactive tool which is presumably engaging for clients; they are customisable; if clients see them as being useful, they may then purchase their own hardware and continue therapy independently (which may therefore give the SLT more time to see other clients/patients). Although the hardware itself may be a bit pricey, hard copies of published therapy materials aren’t exactly cheap, so in terms of budgeting, it may be a case or re-directing the flow of cash from buying expensive hard copies of materials which take up valuable shelf space to buying an expensive piece of hardware plus relatively cheap electronic materials which altogether would take up the same amount of space as a single book on a shelf (and a thin book at that). Read more of this post

Blast from the past – Mills (1904). Treatment of aphasia by training

"Whisky": Highly familiar and easily recogniseable

“In testing him for powers of word-seeing, letter-seeing and number-seeing, it was evident that he recognised some letters and some words much better than others. This was especially true with regard to words.He could always pick out words which had evidently been unusually familiar to him before his seizure; for example, the words whisky, brandy and beer in the hospital diet list were at once recognised, although most other words he could not tell, except in a few cases with difficulty”

A look at: Mills, C. K. (1904). Treatment of aphasia by training. Journal of the American Medical Association, 43, 1940-1949.

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