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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Providing Augmentative and Alternative Communication Treatment to Persons With Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia

Melanie Fried-Oken, Charity Rowland, and Chris Gibbons
Oregon Health & Science University
Portland, OR
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention offers people diagnosed with progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA) an opportunity to continue to communicate even as verbal expression declines. To date, there are no well-controlled studies reporting the effectiveness of AAC intervention with people who present with PNFA. Further, there is a pressing need for evidence about specific AAC intervention tools, techniques, and training protocols for persons with PNFA and their communication partners. We have engaged in research studies at the Oregon Health & Science University to quantify low-tech AAC supports for people with PNFA in highly controlled, as well as naturalistic, dyadic conversations. Preliminary results suggest that AAC provides strong lexical support for people with PNFA during conversation. We predict that training participants and their partners how to use personalized, low-tech communication boards will lead to reduced conversational scaffolding by partners and prolonged effective communication as the disease course progresses. Clinical implications and future directions of our research are discussed.

An augmentative (abbreviated aug) is a morphological form of a word which expresses greater intensity, often in size, but also in other attributes.

Morphology is the identification, analysis and description of the structure of words (words as units in the lexicon are the subject matter of lexicology). While words are generally accepted as being (with clitics) the smallest units of syntax, it is clear that in most (if not all) languages, words can be related to other words by rules. For example, English speakers recognize that the words dog, dogs, and dog catcher are closely related. English speakers recognize these relations from their tacit knowledge of the rules of word formation in English. They infer intuitively that dog is to dogs as cat is to cats; similarly, dog is to dog catcher as dish is to dishwasher (in one sense). The rules understood by the speaker reflect specific patterns (or regularities) in the way words are formed from smaller units and how those smaller units interact in speech. In this way, morphology is the branch of linguistics that studies patterns of word formation within and across languages, and attempts to formulate rules that model the knowledge of the speakers of those languages.
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