Clinician perspectives on the assessment of short-term memory in aphasia

Wendy Greenspan, Jessica Obermeyer, Carole A. Tucker, Heidi Grunwald, Laura Reinert, Nadine Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Verbal short-term memory (STM) and the related ability, working memory (WM), are widely understood to be integral components of language production and comprehension. However, assessment of these abilities in people with aphasia is hampered by a lack of valid, standardized measures that are clinically appropriate. Focusing primarily on verbal STM, we held a series of five focus groups with speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to understand better their current clinical practices and their beliefs and attitudes regarding assessment of verbal STM in aphasia. Aims: The purpose of this study was to explore the attitudes, beliefs and preferences of clinical SLPs to determine: (1) current practices related to verbal STM assessment; (2) the extent to which practices reflect current theories of aphasia and the role of verbal STM in language processing; and (3) practical considerations regarding aphasia assessment in clinical practice. Methods & Procedures: Five focus groups were conducted using a semi-structured interview protocol with a total of 44 SLPs. Grounded theory methodology was used to collect, code and analyse the data. Codes were reviewed to identify emerging themes. Themes were compared to explore meta-themes, connections and potential theoretical frameworks. Outcomes & Results: Five main themes were identified: (1) The theoretical understanding that clinical SLPs have regarding the role of verbal STM in aphasia is not always consistent with clinical practice; (2) Clinical SLPs highly value functionally relevant assessments; (3) The intense time constraints in clinical practice affect all aspects of assessment; (4) Clinical SLPs feel that there is a lack of appropriate tests for assessment of STM in aphasia; and (5) Clinical SLPs prefer tests that are comprehensive, easy to administer and psychometrically sound. Conclusions: Clinical SLPs report a lack of standardized measures to assess STM in individuals with aphasia. Researchers are met with several challenges in the development of these tests including effective communication with clinicians regarding the benefit of verbal STM assessments, especially as it relates to functional skills, and the creation of a test that is comprehensive yet simple, quick and easy to administer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-356
Number of pages23
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Aphasia
  • assessment
  • implementation science
  • short-term memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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