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Delivering word retrieval therapies for people with aphasia in a virtual communication environment

Marshall, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-6589-221X, Devane, N., Edmonds, L. , Talbot, R., Wilson, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-6445-654X, Woolf, C. & Zwart, N. (2018). Delivering word retrieval therapies for people with aphasia in a virtual communication environment. Aphasiology, 32(9), pp. 1054-1074. doi: 10.1080/02687038.2018.1488237


Background: Delivering therapy remotely, via digital technology, can enhance provision for people with aphasia. EVA Park is a multi-user virtual island that can be used for such delivery. The first EVA Park study showed that daily language stimulation delivered via the platform improved functional communication and was positively received by users (Marshall et al, 2016; Amaya et al, 2018). This paper reports two single case studies, evaluating its capacity to deliver targeted language interventions. The first employed therapy for noun retrieval, using cued picture naming and modified Sematic Feature Analysis. The second employed modified Verb Network Strengthening Treatment (VNeST).

Aims: This study aimed to determine if treatment delivery was feasible in EVA Park, as assessed by participant compliance, treatment fidelity and participants’ views. It explored the impact of the therapies on treated and untreated word production, connected speech and functional communication.

Methods & Procedures: Two participants with aphasia each received 20 sessions of individual therapy in EVA Park, delivered over 5 weeks. Feasibility was assessed by measuring compliance with the therapy regime, recording and checking the fidelity of 20% of treatment sessions, and using post therapy interviews to explore participant views. Treatment outcomes were evaluated via repeated measures single case designs, in which assessments were administered twice before therapy, immediately post therapy and five weeks later. Outcome measures included Object Picture Naming (study 1), Sentence Elicitation Pictures (study 2), Naming 84 items from the Object and Action Naming Battery (study 2), Narrative Production (Study 2), the Northwestern Assessment of Verb and Sentences: Argument Structure Production Test (Study 2) and Communication Activities of Daily Living – 2 (Study 1 & 2).

Outcomes & Results: Feasibility results were excellent. Both participants were fully compliant with the therapy regime. There was at least 90% fidelity with the treatment protocols and participant views were positive. Outcomes varied across the studies. The noun therapy significantly improved the naming of treated words, with good maintenance. Lexical gains were less evident on the Sentence Elicitation Pictures used in the VNeST study. Neither study demonstrated generalisation to untreated words, connected speech or functional communication.

Conclusions: Two treatment approaches, designed for face to face delivery, could be delivered remotely in EVA Park. Outcomes for the noun treatment were comparable to previous evaluations. Comparisons with previous research were more challenging for VNeST, owing to differences in methodology. Further evaluations of other treatment approaches are warranted.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Aphasiology , available online:
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Science & Technology > Computer Science > Human Computer Interaction Design
Text - Accepted Version
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