Do Speech-Language Pathologists Use Life Participation Strategies in People With Aphasia?

Doctor Holding Brain Imaging

Some people who suffer a brain injury (such as a stroke or a physical trauma) experience aphasia, the loss of ability to express and comprehend speech. Aphasia can impair patients’ participation in the exchange of knowledge, emotions, and thoughts, which often leads to a decrease in quality of life. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) allows speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to identify this kind of communicative impairment and to form intervention strategies for those whose life participation is diminished by aphasia.

To better understand how these clinicians interact with life participation therapy, a group of researchers conducted an online survey of 66 SLPs. They were given aphasia-related scenarios and asked to describe goals and therapy activities, and at the end of the questionnaire they explained the obstacles that currently exist in participation-based intervention programs. After analyzing the results of the questionnaire, researchers found that:

  • About half of the SLPs did address participation intervention in their therapy goals.
  • However, only 8% of the total goals explicitly mentioned life participation strategies.
  • Most of the SLPs’ responses were oriented toward skills-based activities and performance.
  • Life participation intervention is often impeded by time constraints and clinical limitations.

Although SLPs do include some participation-based strategies in their therapy plans, they typically focus more on performance and skills-related tasks. This is not for lack of interest in life participation therapy: SLPs are limited by the barriers involved in participation intervention, including administrative constraints and limited resources. Overcoming these difficulties and integrating participation-based approaches into aphasia therapy may be the key to increasing quality of life for these patients.

Source: Torrence JM, Baylor CR, Yorkston KM, et al. Addressing communicative participation in treatment planning for adults: A survey of U.S. speech-language pathologists. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. (August 2016.)

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