Fellow: Marcella Carragher
Caused by stroke or other head injury, aphasia is a language disorder which can affect a person’s understanding, spoken language, reading and/or writing. The result can be devastating, affecting the individual’s ability to continue in work, their role within the family and, more broadly, their quality of life. People with aphasia and their families often report that everyday conversations are difficult after a stroke, with the person with aphasia struggling to think of the words they want to say, struggling to put words into sentences, or having difficulty in understanding what someone else is saying.
Conversation is an important part of daily life for most people. However, it is a complex activity and there is a gap in our knowledge about how speech and language therapy can affect conversation. The aim of my PhD is to investigate the impact of language therapies on the everyday conversations of people with non-fluent aphasia (a specific type of aphasia where speech is broken and sentences are limited or very simplified).
Nine participants with non-fluent aphasia took part in our research studies. We designed three different studies, each focusing on a different type of therapy. The first therapy aimed to help the participants to produce action words (verbs). In the second therapy, participants were helped to use these action words to make brief sentences. Finally, in the third therapy, we worked with each participant and husband/wife to practice and improve story-telling. After each therapy study, participants were assessed in conversation and on a range of tests to evaluate if therapy made a difference.
The project is based in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester and will be completed in October 2012. We hope the research will contribute towards helping therapists in their clinical decision-making regarding the types of therapies to offer to individuals with aphasia.