Supported Communication Intervention (SCI)
Supported Communication Intervention (SCI) is a treatment for aphasia that works well when family and friends want to help. SCI relies heavily on the person with aphasia’s communication partner. SCI makes the communication partner responsible for supporting the communication attempts of the person with aphasia.
Using this approach, the communication partner is taught how to support their loved one’s communication. Family and friends can use a multimodal approach to facilitate successful communication. A multimodal approach to communication means that any type of communication is acceptable. This includes speaking, pointing, gesturing, drawing, writing, or using an AAC device.
A person with aphasia might use many methods of communication within the same conversation. Communication partners are trained to recognize these different communication behaviors. They can then rate how they positively or negatively influence the communication of the person with aphasia.
There are many strategies that the communication partner can use to support the person with aphasia. These include:
- Waiting rather than guessing
- Asking open-ended questions (instead of yes/no questions)
- Offering another mode of communication (e.g., “I’m not understanding you. Do you want to try writing it down?”
- Letting the person with aphasia know if the message was understood or not
These strategies let the communication partners provide cues to their loved ones. These cues help the person with aphasia communicate more clearly.
The Role of SLPs and Communication Partners in SCI
The speech-language pathologist (SLP) takes the primary role of teacher and coach. The SLP assists the communication partner by teaching supportive strategies to improve communication. The SLP also works with the person with aphasia to identify modes of communication that are available, and when to use them. For instance, many people with aphasia speak at times but use an AAC device at other times. The SLP can also observe a conversation and provide suggestions to improve the support.
One benefit of Supported Communication Intervention is the increased opportunities for interaction. The person with aphasia and the communication partner must work together. This takes the pressure off of the person with aphasia. At the same time, it creates the opportunity for additional social connection.
SCI can be appropriate for people with many types of aphasia. It does not require any special equipment, but it does require at least one committed communication partner. The more communication partners who learn the strategies, the more successful the person with aphasia can be.