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Abstract

Purpose: Thickened liquids are frequently recommended for patients with dysphagia to minimize aspiration. When discussing the use of thickened liquids with graduate students in Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD), it is beneficial to discuss the potential effect(s) of this dietary recommendation. Graduate level preparation involving first-hand experience with thickened liquids may help future speech-language pathologists (SLPs) develop a more complete understanding of the effects of diet modification. The purpose of the current study was to examine the reactions of graduate students in CSD to a brief period of thickened liquid use as an experiential learning activity. Methods: Sixty-eight graduate students enrolled in an accredited CSD program completed the study. As part of a class assignment, students were instructed to consume only thickened liquids for 24 hours. No further restrictions on food intake were made. Each student wrote a brief summary detailing his/her experience at the conclusion of the thickened liquid intake session. The narratives were examined for key terms that seemed to define the participants’ experiences. Results: Experiential terms were divided into physical symptoms, emotional responses, and behavioral changes. Common symptoms included persistent thirst, dryness, fatigue, perception of the experience as being unpleasant, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Conclusion: Many of the symptoms were associated with dehydration secondary to reduced fluid intake, per the students’ reports. Specific symptoms included craving water, fatigue, and headache. All participants reported a greater understanding of thickened liquid use upon completion.

Author Bio(s)

Mary Gorham-Rowan, PhD, CCC-SLP, is a Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.

Jade H. Coston, PhD, CCC-CSLP, is an Assistant Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Valdosta State University.

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