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Benefits of time for self-repair in aphasia (Leaman & Archer, 2022)

journal contribution
posted on 2022-03-30, 20:26 authored by Marion C. Leaman, Brent Archer
Purpose: This study investigated the communicative benefits of self-repair during conversation for persons with aphasia (PWAs). Self-repair of trouble sources is an interactional priority that emphasizes autonomy and competence. Of equal importance, conversationalists desire to minimize silences and work together to ensure forward movement (progressivity) of conversation. Simultaneously achieving progressivity and self-repair is challenging in aphasia, and PWAs and their partners often make trade-off decisions between these two activities. Conversation-level aphasia interventions usually focus on supportive techniques that promote participation while maintaining progressivity, effectively favoring progressivity over self-repair. This study evaluates the benefits of an alternative approach that shifts the emphasis to self-repair, thereby highlighting potential trade-off costs of routinely forgoing self-repair to achieve progressivity.
Method: Ten people with mild-to-moderate aphasia each held two conversations with two different partners. When trouble sources characterized by silent and/or filled pauses occurred, partners maintained a supportive and engaged stance, allowing PWAs time to self-repair. We analyzed language produced during these “edited turns” using three paradigms considering form, content, and use.
Results: The data yielded 311 edited turns. For form, on average, each edited turn resulted in 3.72 words; for content, most edited turns contained autobiographical information; for use, approximately 40% of edited turns introduced new information, and 40% added to the ongoing topic. The remainder were either ambiguous or comments such as, “I can’t think of it.”
Conclusions: When given engaged support and time to self-repair, PWAs contributed meaningful personal information to conversations for approximately 80% of edited turns. Importantly, self-repair often resulted in self-expression that directed the conversation, which is a communicative role critical for empowering agency and identity. This research opens a dialogue about benefits and limitations of approaches that prioritize either progressivity or self-repair and how to balance the two to optimize therapeutic benefits for each individual.

Supplemental Material S1. Collecting conversations post-training quiz for speech-language pathologist partners.

Supplemental Material S2. Partner session fidelity rating form.

Leaman, M. C., & Archer, B. (2022). “If you just stay with me and wait. . .you’ll get an idea of what I’m saying”: The communicative benefits of time for conversational self-repair for people with aphasia. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication.


Research reported in this publication was supported by National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant F31DC017882, awarded to the first author.