Authors: Johansson-Malmeling C, Antonsson M, Wengelin Å, Henriksson I
Title: Using a digital spelling aid to improve writing in persons with post-stroke aphasia: An intervention study
Source: International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 2022 57(2): 303-323
Year: 2022
Research Design: Single Case Design

BACKGROUND: Intervention studies aimed to improve the written production of single words by persons with aphasia have yielded promising results and there is growing interest in interventions targeting text writing. The development of technical writing aids offers opportunities for persons with aphasia, and studies have shown that using them can have a positive impact on written output. AIMS: The aim was to investigate what impact training to use a computerised spell checker had on text writing in persons with aphasia. METHODS & PROCEDURES: The study had a multiple-baseline single-case experimental design replicated across six male Swedish participants with mild-to-moderate post-stroke aphasia. The participants received training twice a week during 8 weeks, learning how to use the spell checker. At baseline and before every session, the participants wrote two texts which were logged in a keystroke-logging tool. Dependent variables were continuously measured in the texts, and the participants performed tests of language function and answered questionnaires on reading and writing habits and health-related quality of life before and after the intervention. The participants were also interviewed about how they had experienced the training. The results were evaluated on individual and group level. RESULTS: The study showed that systematic individual training involving a spell checker was experienced as positive by the participants and that they all described their writing ability in more positive terms after the intervention. Evaluation showed statistically significant improvements on group level for the dependent variables of spelling accuracy, rated syntax, writing speed and proportion of unedited text during text writing when using the spell checker. The intervention also had a generalising effect on writing speed and editing during text writing without the spell checker and on spelling accuracy in a dictation test. The participants who had the greatest spelling problems were the ones who showed the most progress, but participants with only minor writing difficulties at baseline also improved. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: The study shows that a digital spelling aid constitutes effective support for people with aphasia and may also affect levels other than spelling. The training had a generalising positive effect on text writing and spelling in a test. Although writing difficulties is a persisting symptom in aphasia, it can be supported and improved through use of digital spelling aids. Hence, treatment of writing ability should always be included in the rehabilitation of people with aphasia.

Access: Open Access