Interview with Dr. Hsinhuei Sheen Chiou of Minnesota State University, Mankato

Hsinhuei Sheen Chiou is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech, Hearing and Rehabilitation Services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research and clinical areas include language-cognitive communication disorders in adults with neurogenic disorders. Sheen runs Acquired Communicative and Cognitive Rehabilitation Research lab focusing on aphasia and cognitive rehabilitation. She leads an aphasia group following life participation model using supported conversation techniques at Minnesota Connect Aphasia Now in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. She serves on multiple committees including Minnesota Connect Aphasia Now, Mankato/North Mankato Minnesota Act on Alzheimer’s Action Team, and Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences.

Note: You should consult with your doctor or speech pathologist for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr. Chiou and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

What got you interested in researching aphasia?

I love to study the human brain. And I was very fortunate to have excellent mentors who have made a big impact in my aphasia research. I became interested in aphasia when I took Dr. Rosemary Lubinski’s Adult Language class and had my first client with Broca’s aphasia as a first-year graduate student at the University at Buffalo. As a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, I expanded my interest studying aphasia and cognition with my research mentor Dr. Mary Kennedy, whose expertise is in brain injury and cognition. At that time, Dr. Cindy Busch from Minnesota Stroke Association introduced me to her aphasia groups focusing on using the supported conversation techniques for people with aphasia. I cannot thank my mentors enough!

How can outcome measurements for those with aphasia be improved?

Outcome measurements need to be patient-centered, measuring what matters to the person with aphasia. Speech-language pathologists need a way to measure real-life communication difficulties from their clients’ perspectives (e.g., what is their communicative experience? how do they manage their communication difficulties?). Standardized aphasia tests typically measure strengths and weaknesses of language function of the person with aphasia and yield aphasia type and severity rating to help speech-language pathologists plan for treatment. Selecting an aphasia-friendly outcome measure focusing on life events from clients’ perspectives is key in capturing daily communicative difficulties encountered by people with aphasia. Having outcome measures that are “aphasia-friendly” will also ensure the person with aphasia has a way to express themselves.

How can improved measurements affect the effectiveness of treatment itself?

Speech therapy must meet the needs of the clients. Once speech-language pathologists realize what a person with aphasia wants, they can help him/her set up realistic communication goals and practice individualized communicative strategies. The person with aphasia will more likely be motivated to work on these goals and strategies and apply what they learn in everyday communication.

How can partners, family, or caregivers help improve outcomes for those with aphasia?

Training care partners, family and caregivers to communicate with the person with aphasia, called conversational partner training, is crucial in speech therapy. Conversational partner training needs to start early and continue throughout the rehab process. Care partners, family and caregivers need to feel comfortable modifying their communicative behaviors when interacting with the person with aphasia. When these conversational partners start modifying their behaviors, the person with aphasia will be more willing to integrate communicative strategies learned in speech therapy into his/her everyday life.

Which aspect of your aphasia research are you most proud of?

I enjoy mentoring students for aphasia research. The most rewarding feeling for me is to see my students’ passion grow for working with people with aphasia and other neurodegenerative disorders during this research experience. I grew up in Taiwan and received my professional training in speech-language pathology in the United States. I always want to do more for speech-language pathology in Taiwan. I give lectures and seminars on a variety of topics related to aphasia and neurodegenerative disorders during my visits in Taiwan. In the spring of 2018, I was very fortunate to collaborate with Taiwanese speech-language pathologists and university faculty to conduct an aphasia study with a multicultural emphasis to explore life participation, language and cognition perceived by people with aphasia in Taiwan.

How has aphasia treatment advanced over the years?

Aphasia treatment has come a long way going from impairment-based focusing on specific linguistic process to patient-centered care highlighting life participation. For example, in the past, word finding difficulties were treated with drill practice of generic picture cards. Now speech-language pathologists can do so much more with our clients with aphasia on personalized communicative tasks in combination of conversational partner training. The person with aphasia and their conversational partners practice using personalized communicative strategies to help the person with aphasia to express his/her opinions in a conversation. Some aphasia treatment can be delivered on the client’s computer. Currently researchers are investigating the possibility of using electrical stimulation of the brain (e.g., transcranial direct current stimulation!) to augment behavioral intervention (what we typically do) on aphasia rehabilitation.

What is your advice for future SLP graduate students?

  1. Experience as many different types of communicative disorders as you can as an undergraduate student AND when you are in graduate school.
  2. Never stop challenging yourself.
  3. Believe in yourself and dream big.

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