What do untrained conversation partners know about communicating with people with aphasia?




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title




Peer reviewed


Background This study was undertaken as part of the final year undergraduate degree programme at De Montfort University. In 2006 Turner & Whitworth identified that teaching conversational partners about supportive communication strategies was a key theme of the three main approaches to conversational therapy; the conversational analysis approach, the supported conversation approach and the conversational coaching approach. This research project was designed to investigate whether potential conversation partners who had not received conversational partner training could identify ways to support conversations with people with aphasia. The results of this investigation may help to inform speech and language therapists about what prospective untrained conversational partners may know about supporting communication with people with aphasia.

Method 30 people participated in this small scale study. Participants were asked to look at a DVD clip (Kagan, Winckel, & Shumway (1996)) of a doctor interacting unsuccessfully with a person with aphasia. After seeing this unsuccessful interaction the participants were asked to complete two measures designed to assess knowledge of supportive conversational strategies. For the first knowledge measure participants were asked to think of ways to support conversations with people with aphasia and write these onto a blank mind map. For the second knowledge measure participants were asked to complete the Rayner & Marshall (2003) communication strategy identification questionnaire.

Results The mind map knowledge measure elicited 17 communication strategies that participants thought might support a conversation with a person with aphasia. Some strategies were thought to be less helpful than others. The responses to the second measure, the Rayner & Marshall (2003) strategic questionnaire, showed that participants were able to differentiate between supportive and unsupportive strategies with 75% accuracy.

Discussion The results of this small scale undergraduate study suggest that people who volunteer for conversational partner training may have quite detailed knowledge about how to support conversations with people with a aphasia before undergoing training. The responses elicited in the study suggest that the blank mind map technique and the Rayner & Marshall (2003) strategic questionnaire may be used to gauge the prior knowledge of conversational therapy trainees before conversational therapy begins..

References Kagan, A., Winckel, J. & Shumway, E. (1996). Supported conversation for aphasic adults: Increasing communicative access. DVD. Toronto: Aphasia Centre, North York. Rayner, H. & Marshall, J. (2003) Training volunteers as conversation partners for people with aphasia. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 38, 2, 149-164. Turner, S. & Whitworth, A. (2006) Conversational partner training programmes in aphasia: A review of key themes and participant roles. Aphasiology, 20, 6, 483-510.



Conversation partners, aphasia, knowledge


Mallender, T. and Bixley, M. (2009) What do untrained conversation partners know about communicating with people with aphasia? British Aphasiology Society Biennial International Conference Book of Abstracts.


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research