Better Conversations Conference- let us wet your appetite (and perhaps provide enough advance notice so your manager can approve your attendance in time!)

One of the best ways to learn is to bring together as many experts as possible in a room and ask them to share their experiences, knowledge and work with an audience. And so a conference is born. Yet all too often a piece of research that you hear about at a conference may have little relevance to the reality of your clinical practice. As clinicians we need to provide evidence based care- yet I question how can we achieve this when there seems to be this rather large gap between the optimal research setting and the complex clinical setting. And how can we apply an intervention if we aren’t give the actual tools and resources to do so? We end up cobbling together some make shift version of what we think the therapy is that we read or heard about and deliver a modified (often shorter) version.


The aim of the Better Conversations Conference is to break down these barriers. We are inviting clinicians to tell clinicians about how they are delivering these interventions, planning these interventions, measuring these interventions and developing these interventions to meet the needs of their clients in clinical practice. This could be a particularly interesting case you worked with, a novel group you ran, a complex issue you want to discuss, a new idea you want to suggest.


The Better Conversations Conference will bring together work on communication partner training on stroke led aphasia, primary progressive aphasia, dysarthria, brain injury, children and any other client group where this approach is used. Many of the principles of communication partner training share areas of practice such as:

– making a video of a conversation,

– viewing the video,

– identifying barriers (things that stop the flow of conversation) and facilitators (things that enhance the flow of conversation) in conversations,

– and supporting clients and/or their communication partners to do less of the first and more of the second.


We propose that part of the conference include workshops where we show videos of these things in action in speech and language therapy sessions. We aim to provide a forum to learn the basics of how to deliver communication partner training but also to refine and grow existing skills for example how to identify barriers and facilitators, how to explain conversation, how to set goals and what activities to plan.


That said we would also like to share some of the new developments in Better Conversations and communication partner training. We are therefore planning to invite some keynote speakers who will present some of the work going on in this area.


We are spreading the word about this conference now- it is likely to take place at the end on 2019, but we would like speech and language therapy clinicians to know well in advance. We know you need to tell your managers and plan your training for the year. Equally we would like the first ever Better Conversations Conference to meet your needs. With this in mind we want to hear from you:


Do you use Better Conversations?

Would you like to come to a Better Conversation Conference?

Would you be interested in presenting?

Who would you like to hear about and from whom?

Tell us what you think via email or twitter @BCAphasia or @BCPPAphasia!


The new Better Conversations website will be online early next year and we will start to advertise the conference as we know more! So keep an eye on the website here!



The student voice: “Everyone has the right to communicate”

We are fast approaching the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus it seems timely that one of the speech and language therapy students working on BCPPA has been considering the right to communicate for people in our study. It is good to  hear from students as they describe these clinical encounters and really reminds us of the importance of communication.

So here is the blog from our next star contributor Alice Stanes describing some of her experiences @astanes


The man stands up to greet us as his partner welcomes us in, we sit at the table. Throughout the course of the conversation his speech appears halting and difficult, at times he closes his eyes to speak and touches his head as he searches for the words. He uses hand gestures and points at things inside and outside the house to aid our understanding. He is animated and excited about something, he starts to hum a tune softly and speaks using single words and short, conversational phrases; ‘you know? ‘you see?’.


This would be my very first encounter with someone with Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). Along with fellow student Oli, we made the journey to visit this man with PPA and his partner to conduct a series of post-intervention outcome measures as part of the BCPPA project. Each visit involves a language assessment for the individual with PPA and a series of quality of life measures in the form of questionnaires; different questionnaires are used for the individual with PPA and their respective partners or carers. These measures, albeit incredibly useful for collecting data about their lives and experiences, and in documenting the challenges faced by those living with PPA, are long and can be emotionally challenging in nature. Some of the questions aim to measure the burden that carers experience whilst living with and caring for someone with PPA. This can be a really tricky thing to talk about.


In conversation with the partners I have met so far it strikes me that they are incredibly resilient; they accept change, sometimes loss, but with no apparent regret for their new role as carers. For them, life as they know it has also changed but the relationship with their loved one remains intact, as does the identity of their partner. It has really reminded me that as in all cases of dementia, it is so important to remember the person behind the disease.


This first visit is testament to this. This man’s story wasn’t clear at first, but a second time around with repeated gesture and the help of his partner who showed us a video she has taken on his phone, suddenly it makes more sense. The tune that he is humming is the tune he played on the piano, in a small church that he and his partner came across on a recent walk in the surrounding countryside. Of course! Because he is not foremost a man with PPA, but a musician, and an incredibly talented and successful one at that. Whilst PPA has stripped him of his abilities to construct full sentences, recognise words or communicate using language in the way he once could, in his case, where words fail, music speaks. This experience was important enough for him to share, whilst his partner helped to create a supportive and facilitative space within which he could communicate and tell his story.


When people ask what brought me to speech and language therapy, my somewhat non-linear career trajectory can make it difficult to explain (at least succinctly!). However, as I progress through my training I realise that simply put my passion is for communication and for supporting those who have lost their ability to have a voice, in whatever form that takes, and in supporting those around them to become experts in listening.


Since starting the BCPPA project my passion for the field has only strengthened and I find myself feeling increasingly at home. Despite crippling self-doubt, a LOT of the time, these real-life clinical encounters amidst a sea of academic challenges remind me exactly why speech and language therapy is so important, because everyone has a right to communicate and to be understood.