Paul, Nancy Ann; Ph.D.
Program of Human Development, Gerontology;
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
Exploring the Experiences of Communication Partners of Aphasic Individuals
Major Professor: Dr. Gregory F. Sanders
A qualitative research design was utilized to explore the lived experiences of communication partners of individuals with aphasia. In-depth, one-on-one interviews were conducted with nine participants who were primary communication partners of aphasic individuals with onset of two years or less. Analysis of the data was conducted from two perspectives: (a) experiences pertaining to the education received by the communication partners and (b) communication strategies that the communication partners identified as particularly effective. Experiences pertaining to the education received were explored through the framework of Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model. Barriers and facilitators to effective education were identified at the microsystem, mesosystem, and the exosystem levels. Unique themes included the perception that it was important to remain positive and to demonstrate love and acceptance; education on transitions was a crucial need; and the current state of healthcare was implicated as the underlying cause of a number of barriers to effective education. Communication partners provided valuable insights into communication strategies they found effective when interacting with the individual who had aphasia. One of the most compelling insights was that the way a communication partner interacted with the aphasic person was just as important as the degree of aphasia and communicative abilities of the person with the altered communication. Active listening, patience, perseverance, and a genuine desire to perceive the message were judged important. Results were consistent with a social model of aphasia intervention that focuses on the effect that the environment surrounding a communicatively impaired person has on how effectively a person can interact with others (Simmons-Mackie, 2000). Effective strategies employed by the communication partners and the individuals with aphasia were identified as well as more comprehensive strategies, such as encouraging interaction with the social circle and educating others on aphasia.
The qualitative research pertaining to communication partners of aphasic individuals expanded the knowledge base of the experiences and needs of this population. Valuable practice implications and research avenues were identified, which moved beyond the interaction between the dyads to include the surrounding social environment, healthcare professionals, system-level entities, as well as cultural beliefs and practices of society as a whole.