On-Line Training in Treating Dementia: Spaced Retrieval

Period of Performance: 08/01/2008 - 06/30/2009


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Northern Speech Services/nat'l Rehab SRV
Gaylord, MI 49735
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with dementia related to Alzheimer's disease is expected to exceed 15 million by 2050, out of a total of 80 million worldwide. Market potential is expanding for the creation of computer-based learning materials involving effective interventions for persons with cognitive disabilities associated with dementia. In particular, students in masters-level speech-language pathology (SLP) programs need to acquire such clinical job skills before beginning their professional careers. One example of an effective intervention for persons with dementia is Spaced-Retrieval (SR). SR is a method of learning and retaining information by recalling that information over increasingly longer periods of time. It is, in essence, a shaping paradigm applied to memory (Bjork, 1988; Camp & McKitrick, 1992; Landauer & Bjork, 1978). Another area in which SLPs are designated to provide therapy is the diagnosis and treatment of swallowing disorders (dysphagia), which is commonly seen in persons with dementia. In addition, students generally do not learn how to effectively communicate with persons with dementia in their standard coursework. This Phase II SBIR project will capitalize on the expertise of National Rehabilitation Services (NRS), which has created and successfully marketed products for the education of rehabilitation professionals. NRS also successfully concluded the Phase I SBIR on which this proposal is based, involving creation of a web-housed, text-based course on the use of SR. For Phase II, we wish to adopt the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) as our specification standard to develop an initial product line of SCORM-based courses for SLP students in masters-level programs, using the concepts drawn from the SCORM model in a self-contact Rich Internet Application (RIA) product. These courses will involve: the use of SR, diagnosis and treatment of dysphagia, and communicating with persons with dementia. In this 2-year project, 200 SLP students at four universities will participate in alpha and beta version creation and testing of the three proposed courses, in addition to 150 older adult clients with dementia in university affiliated clinics. Our objectives are to: 1) Create alpha and beta versions of three SCORM-based courses for SLP masters- level students focusing on skills necessary to work effectively with clients with dementia; 2) Document that these SCORM-based courses can produce comparable results to traditional, face-to-face delivery versions of the courses in terms of knowledge acquisition; 3) Determine whether knowledge acquired in these SCORM-based courses can be effectively implemented by students when working with older adult clients with dementia; 4) Determine whether implementation of knowledge acquired by students in these SCORM- based courses results in corresponding health-related improvements in clients with dementia; and 5) Create the necessary final modifications to the courses so that they will be market ready by the end of the project. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The number of people in the U.S. diagnosed with dementia related to Alzheimer's disease is expected to exceed 15 million by 2050, out of a total of 80 million worldwide. Other forms of dementia also will become more prevalent as the number of older adults increases in the future. Educational material designed to train therapists to facilitate higher levels of independence in people with dementia is beneficial to all members of society. National Rehabilitation Services (NRS), with a history of developing and presenting such materials, will use this Phase 2 SBIR project to create state-of-the-art, computer-based content for training students about to enter the field of Speech-Language Pathology. This will serve to enhance the skills of these future professionals, as well as to encourage more of them to work with geriatric clients with dementia.