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Background: Around 70% of people who develop Parkinson's disease (PD) experience speech and voice changes. Clinicians often find that when asked about their primary communication concerns, PD clients will talk about the difficulties they have 'getting into' conversations. This is an important area for clients and it has implications for quality of life and clinical management. Aims: To review the extant literature on PD and communication impairments in order to reveal key topic areas, the range of methodologies applied, and any gaps in knowledge relating to PD and social interaction and how these might be usefully addressed. Methods & Procedures: A systematic search of a number of key databases and available grey literatures regarding PD and communication impairment was conducted (including motor speech changes, intelligibility, cognitive/language changes) to obtain a sense of key areas and methodologies applied. Research applying conversation analysis in the field of communication disability was also reviewed to illustrate the value of this methodology in uncovering common interactional difficulties, and in revealing the use of strategic collaborative competencies in naturally occurring conversation. In addition, available speech and language therapy assessment and intervention approaches to PD were examined with a view to their effectiveness in promoting individualized intervention planning and advice-giving for everyday interaction. Main Contribution: A great deal has been written about the deficits underpinning communication changes in PD and the impact of communication disability on the self and others as measured in a clinical setting. Less is known about what happens for this client group in everyday conversations outside of the clinic. Current speech and language therapy assessments and interventions focus on the individual and are largely impairment based or focused on compensatory speaker-oriented techniques. A conversation analysis approach would complement basic research on what actually happens in everyday conversation for people with PD and their co-participants. Conclusions & Implications: The potential benefits of a conversation analysis approach to communication disability in PD include enabling a shift in clinical focus from individual impairment onto strategic collaborative competencies. This would have implications for client-centred intervention planning and the development of new and complementary clinical resources addressing participation. The impact would be new and improved support for those living with the condition as well as their families and carers. © 2011 Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders

Publication Date





497 - 509