Adult Language Processing & Disorders Lab

Jeff Small, Ph.D., Professor

Acquired communication disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, aphasia, hearing loss; memory and communication strategies and interventions; older adult language processing

Research in the ALPD lab is centered in three thematic domains: 1) memory training for persons with Alzheimer’s disease, 2) communication strategies and training for care partners, 3) promoting effective communication for older individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Note: for full references to presentations and publications cited below, see

  1. The first theme investigates the use of a memory training program called “Spaced Retrieval” (SR) for persons with Alzheimer’s disease. The goals of this research are to a) advance our understanding of how different memory systems interact in Alzheimer’s disease, and b) provide persons with Alzheimer’s disease with a memory strategy that has the potential to improve their recall of details from recent events and thereby facilitate their everyday communication. (Small & Cochrane, 2020; Oren, Willerton & Small, 2014; Small, 2012, 2013)
  2. The second ALPD research theme involves a) identifying factors that influence the quality of communication between persons with dementia and those who provide them with care, and b) developing interventions to enhance communication with and for persons who have dementia.
    1. One arm of this collaborative research focuses on the use and effectiveness of communication strategies in everyday contexts (Small, Gutman, Makela, & Hillhouse, 2003; Small & Perry, 2005; Small & Cochrane, under review). Our findings led to the development of a communication intervention program (TRACED) for family care partners of persons with dementia (Small & Perry, 2013).
    2. Another avenue of this research investigates the nature and outcomes of communication between staff and residents in long-term care settings when there is a match or mismatch in their language and/or cultural backgrounds (Small, Chan, Drance, Globerman, Hulko, Jones, O’Connor, Stern, 2012; Small, Chan, Drance, Globerman, Hulko, O’Connor, & Ho, 2015).
    3. A third stream in this domain is research carried out in collaboration with Dr. Rozanne Wilson and Diana Cochrane. This research examines the impact of using communication strategies by long-term care staff when interacting with residents during activities of daily living. A recent study explored how the use of communication apps on mobile devices may facilitate communication between long-term care staff and residents who have cognitive and/or linguistic challenges (Wilson & Small, 2020; Wilson, Cochrane, Mihailidis, & Small, 2020, in preparation).
  3. An emerging third area of research Investigates barriers to and strategies for effective communication for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. One current study is examining younger and older adults’ perceptions of hearing and aging, and the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids (Beadle, Jenstad, Cochrane, & Small, 2021, under review). We are also conducting an environmental scan that documents barriers to effective communication for long-term care residents who are deaf or hard of hearing and identifies communication, behavioural, environmental, and technological strategies to overcome those barriers.

Research conducted in the ALPD lab is made possible by funding support from:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Alzheimer Society of Canada
  • Canadian Frailty Network
  • Vancouver Foundation (B.C. Medical Services Foundation)
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
  • Centre for Research on Personhood in Dementia (UBC)
  • Faculty of Medicine (UBC)