Interactions between the environment, physical demands, and social engagement at an Aphasia Camp


  • Jerry K. Hoepner University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  • Heather Buhr ChildServe, Des Moines
  • Marquell Johnson University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  • Thomas Sather University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
  • Mary Beth Clark Mayo Clinic Health Systems, Eau Claire



aphasia camp, environment, social engagement, physical factors, ICF


Individuals with aphasia experience impairments in communication that can be exacerbated by environmental and task demands. This investigation examined the interaction between physical-demands, social-engagement, and environment. An interdisciplinary team, including speech language pathologists and a kinesiologist measured the activities of individuals with aphasia at the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp. Accelerometers were used to measure degree of physical exertion as an indication of physical demands. The Clinical Discourse Assessment (Damico, 1991), Measure of Participation in Conversation and Measure of Skill in Supported Conversation (Kagan et al., 2004), qualitative analyses, and investigator field notes served as indicators of social engagement. The International Classification of Disease Functioning (ICF) was used to code environmental factors, which either served as a facilitator or barrier to participation. Qualitative analyses indicate that the presence of physical environmental barriers and more strenuous physical exertion sometimes serve to decrease social engagement and exchange. However, partners who served as facilitators enabled participants to overcome high environmental and/or physical task demands to support successful social engagement and exchange. These analyses suggest that participants with aphasia can overcome physical environmental barriers and/or high physical task demands, given effective partner supports. This investigation contributes to a small body of research regarding the interaction between environmental demands and social communication among individuals with aphasia. Further, the investigation contributes empirical information about the environment and social communication context of a rustic Aphasia Camp.

Author Biographies

Jerry K. Hoepner, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

Dr. Jerry Hoepner is an associate professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. He teaches undergraduate foundational coursework, including anatomy and physiology, neuroanatomy and physiology, and undergraduate research. His graduate courses include aphasia and related disorders, acquired cognitive disorders, dysphagia, and counseling. He continues to work clinically with persons with acquired neurological disorders. He is a co-facilitator of the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp (staff since its inception in 2004), Chippewa Valley Aphasia Group (staff since its inception in 1998) and founder of the Blugold Brain Injury Group. His research addresses student learning outcomes, as well as outcomes at aphasia camp, video self-modeling, partner training, and related topics. He is a founding editor of the Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences and Disorders journal.

Heather Buhr, ChildServe, Des Moines

Heather Buhr is a speech language pathologist at a pediatric rehabilitation facility in Des Moines, IA. She received her BS from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and MS from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Since graduation, she has worked in outpatient and inpatient settings, serving both pediatric and geriatric populations. Starting from research while in school, Ms. Buhr continues to be interested in the relationship between neurocognitive disorders and communication. Her research has examined the development and implementation of social networking applications with individuals with aphasia.

Marquell Johnson, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

Dr. Marquell Johnson is an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. He is also the director of the Physical activity and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities in Eau Claire area (P.R.I.D.E.) and P.R.I.D.E.4Adults programs. He is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and an American College of Sports Medicine/National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer. His research interests include physical activity and health behaviors of individuals with disabilities across the lifespan; Health promotion for individuals with disabilities across the lifespan.

Thomas Sather, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire

Dr. Tom Sather is an assistant professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, and a speechlanguage pathologist on staff at Mayo Clinic Health System - Eau Claire. He teaches and works clinically in the areas of adult neurogenics, acute care speechlanguage pathology service delivery, aphasia, motor speech and dysphagia. He received his PhD at Western Michigan University in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program, and studied flow experiences among individuals with aphasia for his dissertation. He is currently serving as chair of the Wisconsin Hearing and Speech Board. Tom has been a staff member of the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Group since 1998, and currently serves on their board of directors. He has been a staff member of the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp since its inception in 2004. Tom also serves on the Aphasia Access board of directors.

Mary Beth Clark, Mayo Clinic Health Systems, Eau Claire

Mary Beth Clark is a speech-language pathologist at Mayo Clinic Health Systems Eau Claire in the Neurosciences unit, where she is the Clinical Manager of Rehabilitation Services. She is a co-founder of the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Group and the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp. Further, she is the camp director and creator. She works clinically in the areas of adult neurogenics and acute care speech-language pathology. Her research has examined outcomes of individuals with aphasia at the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Group and the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp, along with measuring student and volunteer outcomes in those contexts.


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How to Cite

Hoepner, J., Buhr, H., Johnson, M., Sather, T., & Clark, M. (2019). Interactions between the environment, physical demands, and social engagement at an Aphasia Camp. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 9(1), 44-75.




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