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LUNA: A novel biographical narrative intervention in aphasia

LUNA therapy focuses on helping people with aphasia develop their capacity to tell their story

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Therapy supporting personal narratives can improve speech in people with aphasia, according to seminar given at City University London.

Known as LUNA (Linguistics Underpins Narrative in Aphasia), the event discussed how the novel pilot study resulted in significant improvements in storytelling and coherence, as well as improving communication confidence, mood and social networks.

Aphasia is a communication disability which commonly occurs as the result of a stroke. It affects language skills, conversation, relationships, identity and wellbeing, although treatment often selectively addresses one aspect.

Speaking about the work, Drs Madeline Cruice and Lucy Dipper from the Division of Language and Communication Science in the School of Health Sciences spoke in particular about two case studies from the seven person pilot.

“We chose to focus on personal narratives and stories as we think they’re really important,” said Dr Cruice at the event. “After all, no one talks in single words as in real life as we need to string together words to tell the stories which are such big parts of our lives.”

The intervention programme ran as a pilot in 2014-15 with students in the final year speech and language therapy/science programmes who carried out assessment and treatment under qualified supervision.

In the current literature there are a lot of treatments aimed at the word and sentence level, but very few which target narrative and discourse. As a result LUNA focuses on helping people with aphasia develop their capacity to tell their story over a series of sessions totalling 10 hours of therapy. Firstly the person with aphasia and the student and speech and language therapist deconstructed the story into different elements, work on the individual elements, such as verbs, connectives, linking sentences and story structures, and the repackage the story as a whole.

One of the participants, known as Steve, a 59 year old former sales director for a large company who was four years post stroke, spoke about his experience of LUNA.

“The story is much better ... I think it was sentences, things like that ... sentences. That was good. I thought I was doing ok but then I realised lots of stuff ... but now it’s much better, much better. I'm happy with that ... it’s great,” said Steve. “If it was just fiction it would be a fiction story, but this is proper, so I was pleased about that... it was good.”

The team have just embarked on a 2nd round of the therapy programme (LUNA II) with final year honours students in LCS, where the theoretical underpinning behind the positive findings will be further investigated, and implications for future work considered.

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