My three main research interests:
1. Quantitative measure of functional communication: (non-)verbal effectiveness and efficiency
The ultimate goal of therapy is to improve the communicatively disabled speaker’s functional communication skills. Thus, the skills to convey a message effectively and efficiently in either a verbal or non-verbal mode when engaged in daily-life conversation. An important Dutch test for verbal functional communication, (in English) called the Amsterdam-Nijmegen Everyday Language Test (ANELT; Blomert et al., 1995), does not measure verbal efficiency; only verbal effectiveness is scored qualitatively in the ANELT.
In collaboration with my co-authors, I improved the construct validity of the ANELT. We developed a quantitative measure for this test which not only allows an objective measure of verbal efficiency, but is also more sensitive (than the original score procedure) in decting change in verbal effectiveness over time (Ruiter et al., 2011). We are currently seeking to further improve the Dutch quatitative measure of the ANELT.
2. Effectiveness of compensation therapy for chronic aphasia: in-person therapy and teletherapy
My dissertation research focused on the development and evaluation of a compensation therapy (in-person) for aphasic speakers of Dutch who are chronically hampered in the production of full sentences: the Dutch and adapted Reduced Syntax Therapy (REST; Ruiter, 2008). REST enhances a normal – but previously infrequently used – linguistic operation: the production of ellipses (e.g., problem solved). Since REST was found to be effective in improving functional communication, this therapy programme has made a contribution to the field of evidence-based language therapy (Ruiter et al., 2010, 2013).
In 2010 REST was implemented into clinical practice my means of a telerehabilitation system, called eREST, which also seems to enhance elliptical style in chronic aphasic speakers of Dutch (Ruiter et al., 2016). Recently, and extended and improved version of this web application called SimpTell (Semi-independent Interactive Multimodal Production Training of ELLipses (in Broca’s aphasia)) has been developed within the Language in Interaction consortium.
3. Mechanisms underlying language improvement in aphasia
As it is important to set attainable goals for aphasia therapy and to treat persons with aphasia time efficiently, thereby limiting frustration for both client and therapist, I (co-)investigate the mechanisms underlying behavioural plasticity in stroke-related aphasia. Firstly, I participate in a research project of Dr. Vitória Piai on language reorganisation in chronic aphasia through right hemisphere recruitment.
Secondly, I am a co-investigator in the ‘REhabilitation and recovery of peopLE with Aphasia after Stroke’ project (RELEASE; chief investigator: Prof Marian Brady, Glasgow Caledonian University). RELEASE seeks to explore (1) the natural history of language recovery, (2) the patient, aphasia and stroke characteristics which are linked to language recovery outcomes and (3) the components of effective aphasia rehabilitation interventions.
Thirdly, together with drs. Judith Feiken and Professor Patrick Santens, I wrote a (Dutch) article on the underlying mechanisms of speech and language therapy (Feiken, Santens, & Ruiter, 2015). An English version, concentrating on stroke-induced aphasia, is currently under revision.
Lastly, under Professor Rob Schoonen’s and my supervision, Saskia Mooijman (PhD-candidate) recently started a research project aimed to explicate the relationship between executive functioning and language performance, and its role in the recovery of mono- and bilingual persons with aphasia.