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The paradox of helping: contradictory effects of scaffolding people with aphasia to communicate

Gillespie, Alex ORCID: 0000-0002-0162-1269 and Hald, Julie (2017) The paradox of helping: contradictory effects of scaffolding people with aphasia to communicate. PLOS ONE, 12 (8). e0180708. ISSN 1932-6203

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Identification Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180708


When interacting with people with aphasia, communication partners use a range of subtle strategies to scaffold, or facilitate, expression and comprehension. The present article analyses the unintended effects of these ostensibly helpful acts. Twenty people with aphasia and their main communication partners (n = 40) living in the UK were video recorded engaging in a joint task. Three analyses reveal that: (1) scaffolding is widespread and mostly effective, (2) the conversations are dominated by communication partners, and (3) people with aphasia both request and resist help. We propose that scaffolding is inherently paradoxical because it has contradictory effects. While helping facilitates performing an action, and is thus enabling, it simultaneously implies an inability to perform the action independently, and thus it can simultaneously mark the recipient as disabled. Data are in British English.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors © CC BY 4.0
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2017 08:22
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:06
Projects: RES-000-22-2473
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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