Aphasia is the name given to a condition where speaking, understanding, reading and writing are damaged. If you experience aphasia, it can be devastating. Speaking is a bit like blinking – it is something you take for granted until that bit of grit lands in your eye, then you realise just how much you rely on it. In the UK around 152,000 people have a stroke each year, and one third of them will be left with aphasia.
Living well with long-term aphasia has been linked to an ability to maintain close friendships and relationships as well as a sense of control and independence over one’s life (Brown, Davidson, Worrall, & Howe, 2013; Cruice, Worrall, & Hickson, 2006). The ability to have a conversation is central to this. Just think about how many conversations you have with different people every day. Whether it’s having a good gossip with neighbours, chatting to our children about their day at school or speaking with friends and colleagues, we need to be able to speak and understand to have those conversations. Aphasia can make conversation almost impossible, devastating the quality of people’s lives, and the lives of those nearest and dearest to them.
For this reason I applied to the Stroke Association to do a PhD to further explore how we, as speech and language therapists, help people with aphasia develop skills and strategies to have more enjoyable conversations.
Prior to my PhD I was part of a UCL based research group that developed the ‘Better Conversations with Aphasia’ (BCA) therapy (Beeke et al., 2013). BCA helps people with aphasia and a regular conversation partner of their choice learn about how conversations work in general, and then explore how their conversations are working. The aim being for them to then make informed decisions about how they may (or may not) want to change the ways they currently accommodate aphasia within their conversations. Watching videos of their own conversations, and the conversations of others is key to this approach. However, some clinical settings access and permission to use video with clients is not always easy. For this reason, I am keen to find out how speech and language therapists working clinically work on communication strategies with people with aphasia and their partners. My end goal is to then compare ‘typical’ clinical practices to the BCA approach, to better understand how different therapy techniques might change peoples’ communication strategy use.
If you would like to find out more, or you have aphasia and are interested in taking part in my PhD project, please visit my blog http://www.firleb.wordpress.com. You can also follow me on twitter @firleb.
There is also a free, aphasia friendly, e-learning tool for people with aphasia, their family and speech and language therapists, which can be accessed via this link: https://extendstore.ucl.ac.uk/product?catalog=UCLXBCA
All you need to do is register and then you can access it.
PhD Student University College London/Stroke Association Junior Research Fellow
Beeke, S., Sirman, N., Beckley, F., Maxim, J., Edwards, S., Swinburn, K., & Best, W. (2013). Better Conversations with Aphasia: an e-learning resource. UCLeXtend.
Brown, K., Davidson, B., Worrall, L. E., & Howe, T. (2013). “Making a good time”: the role of friendship in living successfully with aphasia. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15(2), 165–75. doi:10.3109/17549507.2012.692814
Cruice, M., Worrall, L., & Hickson, L. (2006). Perspectives of Quality of Life by People with Aphasia and Their family: Suggestions for Successful Living. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation, 13(1), 14–24. Retrieved from http://thomasland.metapress.com/index/4jw57vg8g6x31qvj.pdf