Below you will find links to blogs posts written by people involved in the Better Conversation project.
Blogs by Dr Anna Volkmer
One of our BC team, Dr Anna Volkmer started blogging at the start of her PhD in 2015. These blogs provide an account of her experience of developing the Better Conversations with Primary Progressive Aphasia programme (BCPPA). She shares her experiences of moving from a clinical career as a speech and language therapist and embarking on a clinical academic path. There are blogs on her experience of working with people living with PPA and their families during her research (PPI), on writing up a thesis. There are also blogs from the student speech and language therapists and people with PPA who have worked with her on the development of BCPPA. The blogs from Anna’s PhD journey are available at the following site:
Since Dr Volkmer finished her PhD in 2020 she has set up a new blog. Not everyone has access to peer reviewed journal articles and Anna feels blogging about them is a helpful way of sharing information. Additionally, she dispels some of the mystery around research and encourages others to embark on research in dementia. She blogs on her experience of exploring implementation science methods, applying for grant funding and delivering Better Conversations remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog can be accessed here:
Dr Volkmer also regularly contributes guest blogs to the NIHR Dementia researcher blog. You can find her contributions here:
- One-off blog posts
- Blog post by Suzanne Beeke for Aptus Speech Therapy - Aphasia Treatment Approaches: Better Conversations in Aphasia
- Blog post from Science of Aphasia 2018
Science of Aphasia conference 2018
Author: Christine Versluis
This blogpost is a short version of my conference report for the Dutch platform Afasienet (it is in Dutch, but please feel welcome to celebrate our fellowship as European aphasiateers). Last september I was at SoA as an SLT/researcher presenting a poster on my thesis about interaction with aphasia (free download here).
This fall Suzanne Beeke and Wendy Best of Better Conversations with Aphasia were at the Science of Aphasia (SoA) conference in Venice, Italy. The venue was held at the San Camillo rehabilitation centre at Lido di Venzia. Read below an impression of their talks, find a link to the book of abstracts, listen to an interview with Suzanne and find out about a secret therapeutic garden at the conference location.
SoA is a small international conference which has the special purpose of bringing together young researchers and senior ones. This year’s theme was ‘action and interaction’ which had attracted a broad variety of scholars: neuroscientists, linguists, and psychologists, a few of them aphasia therapists too. They discussed actions, movement, language, gesture, conversation and pragmatics in people with linguistic difficulties due to stroke, trauma, ALS or Parkinson’s disease. Find here open access to the book of abstracts and discover the broad scope of presentations that made SoA such an interesting conference.
At SoA, Wendy Best held a keynote lecture on Better Conversations with Aphasia. She stressed how communication problems are shared problems which both conversational partners carry responsibility for. Better Conversations with Aphasia trains people to become more aware of their actions during conversations in which one of the participants is aphasic.
Actions could facilitate the conversation, for example putting a pen and paper at the table. However, they could also block the interaction, for example when asking so-called ‘test questions.’ These are questions of which the answers are obvious or already known, for example inquiring “what do we have for dinner?” standing next to your aphasic partner who is cooking it. Becoming more aware of what you do is one thing, but actually changing your behaviour is another. Research indicates that after BC-training, many participants still use their common ‘conversation barriers’ but, importantly, their use of facilitators tends to increase significantly. A point of interest here is that people – analysts of the Better Conversations project included – may not agree on whether some actions are barriers or facilitators. Conversational partners may enjoy asking and answering test questions now and then. It may be nice to share some talk on an accessible level of information.
SoA-participants could check their own conversational judgements at Suzanne Beeke’s workshop. We were presented with video recordings of conversations with aphasia and asked to identify any barriers and facilitators. Important requirement of the true conversation analyst: she never asks ‘why’? but only focusses on the ‘what’ of the observed interaction. An interesting discussion followed of what we actually did see. We indeed saw the test question played and we saw repair sequences for sure. We watched how an aphasic participant seemed to give an useful but unnoticed cue in the beginning of a conversation. After a long and patient repair sequence the participants finally circled back to that initial cue. Now that their mutual actions had built more context, the cue was received better. We all agreed on one thing: we were very impressed. Words may not be the key ingredient of these conversations, but there was a lot of positive, intense and subtle communicative action going on in them. They are a special genre of human interaction that is not easy to capture. You need time together to find new ways and you got to get training.
At the last day of the conference, I interviewed Suzanne on her work and the Better Conversations project. Listen here to Suzanne:We had this conversation on a special location kindly pointed out to us by Francesca Meneghello. As a neurologist and managing director she is the binding force between the scientific and the therapeutic staff at the rehabilitation centre of San Camillo. The building itself is a concrete colossus but Francesca walked us through the backdoor into a miracle called ‘the therapeutic garden,’ designed by a landscape architect together with San Camillo’s specialists and therapists and maintained by its inpatients. It is hard to describe the sensation of this place, but it was incredibly beautiful. The garden was a metaphor for the process of illness and recovery. A place for sensory experience, action and interaction in an ecological system that breathed diversity and tolerance. Where what was attended to flourished but where plants as well could just be ill or pass away.
To all SLTs, young and senior researchers studying aphasia and working with aphasic people: I recommend you to visit this annual conference sometime. It is really worthwhile and also: next time in Rome!