Authors: Rayner H, Marshall J
Title: Training volunteers as conversation partners for people with aphasia
Source: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 2003 38(2): 149-164
Year: 2003
Research Design: Case Series

BACKGROUND: One of the most disabling consequences of aphasia is the way it excludes the person from conversation. A number of studies have attempted to tackle this problem by training the conversational partners of aphasic people. This study offers an evaluation of this approach. AIMS: Six volunteers were trained in conversing with people with moderate or severe aphasia. The study aimed to evaluate whether training changed the volunteers' knowledge about aphasia and their interactions with aphasic people. It also explored whether changes in the volunteers were matched by improved participation of the aphasic people in conversation. METHODS and PROCEDURES: Volunteers were recruited from an aphasia group in Milton Keynes. They were trained as a group over three sessions (9 hours in total). The training drew on the techniques of Kagan (1998, 1999). It included presentation of information using different media, group discussions, viewing of videos and role play. The course aimed to improve (1) the volunteers' understanding of the nature of aphasia, (2) the volunteers' knowledge about communication strategies to use with aphasic people and (3) the skills of the volunteers in supporting aphasic people in conversation. An additional aim was to increase the aphasic subjects' participation in conversation. Two evaluation methods were employed. Specially designed questionnaires were administered before and after training to evaluate the volunteers' knowledge and understanding. Volunteers were also videotaped in conversation with aphasic people before and after training. The videos were rated by speech and language therapists, using nine-point rating scales, derived from Kagan (1999). OUTCOMES and RESULTS: Significant improvements were seen on the questionnaire scores and in ratings of the volunteers' videos. The rating gains were attributed to the training course, since baseline scores were stable and improvements only occurred after the training period. There were comparable gains in the participation of the aphasic subjects, which again occurred after training. CONCLUSIONS: The study demonstrates that a short training course can change the knowledge and practice of experienced volunteers. The findings have implications for teaching generic skills to volunteers working with aphasic people.

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