Applying the Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System to Functional Communication Treatment Approaches for Aphasia

Published:November 03, 2021DOI:


      There are many different approaches to the rehabilitation of patients with aphasia, a communication disorder that affects a person's understanding and expression of spoken and written language. One approach called “functional communication interventions” aims to enhance communication success as opposed to solely improving linguistic abilities. This approach encompasses many skills (eg, gesturing) and factors (eg, access to communication supports) that support sending and receiving messages in “real-world” daily activities and environments. Functional communication treatments are highly diverse and not always well described. A framework that may provide structure to the description of functional communication interventions for aphasia is the Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System (RTSS). The RTSS was developed by an interdisciplinary research team to describe interventions across any rehabilitation discipline and in any setting or format. The RTSS uses a common language and a systematic approach to describing treatment and includes 3 connected elements—a single target, 1 or more ingredients, and a mechanism of action—that, taken together, attempt to explain how and why a treatment works. Although the RTTS has been described previously within the field of speech-language pathology, it has not yet been applied to the field of aphasiology. We applied the RTSS framework to a sample of peer-reviewed studies that represent functional communication treatments, including Promoting Aphasics’ Communicative Effectiveness (PACE), modified Response Elaboration Training (M-RET), script training, conversation treatment, and communication partner training. We discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of using the RTSS framework to better understand the important elements of functional communication treatment approaches for aphasia.

      List of abbreviations:

      CPT (communication partner training), ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health), MOA (mechanism of action), M-RET (modified Response Elaboration Training), PACE (Promoting Aphasics’ Communicative Effectiveness), PWA (person with aphasia), RTSS (Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System), TIDieR (Template for Intervention Description and Replication)


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