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Training communication partners of people with traumatic brain injury: A randomised controlled trial

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Background: Communication disorders after traumatic brain injury (TBI) are difficult to modify due to the cognitive limitation imposed by frontal lobe damage. As an alternative approach, this paper describes a training programme designed to improve communication partners' responsiveness to people with TBI during routine service inquiries with a community agency.

Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of a training programme aimed at improving the communication of police officers during service encounters with people with TBI.

Methods & Procedures: A total of 20 police officers were randomly assigned to two groups (training or control). Prior to the 6-week training programme, participants with TBI made a routine telephone inquiry to the police officers. Training focused on specific aspects of telephone inquiries previously documented to be aberrant in service encounters of people with TBI. Following the training programme, police subjects received another telephone service inquiry. Service encounters were transcribed and analysed using generic structure potential analysis.

Outcome & Results: Comparison of pre- and post-training measures indicated that trained police had learned strategies to successfully establish the nature of the inquiry, provide a clear answer to the inquiry, and ensure appropriate leave taking, resulting in more efficient, focused interactions in the post-training telephone calls. People with TBI also altered their communication in the post-training calls, with reduced episodes of unrelated utterances and an increased proportion of the interaction devoted to completing the service encounter. This appeared to be in response to the communicative options they were given.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the efficacy of an approach based on training communication partners rather than people with TBI themselves. Training communication partners led to the provision of appropriate feedback, support, and structure of everyday interactions. Service encounters account for a significant amount of everyday communication exchanges, therefore training service providers has the potential to have a significant impact on the communicative effectiveness of people with TBI.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The University of Sydney, Australia 2: University of NSW, Australia 3: The University of Sydney, Australia; University of Exeter, UK; and Hanse Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany

Publication date: January 1, 2004


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