The voicemail elicitation task: Functional workplace language assessment for persons with traumatic brain injury

Peter Meulenbroeka, Leora R. Cherney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Politeness markers (PMs) are words that enhance cooperativity in dialogue and are an essential component of professional/work communication. Persons with moderate/ severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) underuse PMs in connected speech and have employment stability issues. The voicemail elicitation task (VET) is a standardized computerized language sampling procedure measuring PM rate in role-play tasks. Our purpose is to provide preliminary data establishing the potential of a screening assessment tool for professional/ work communication. Method: We measured VET performance using spoken PMs per minute (PMpM). We present data from 63 persons. Forty-three participants with TBI (22-65 years old, ≥ 1-year postinjury) worked in midlevel jobs before their injury and attempted work return after injury at the same job level. Twenty participants with TBI did not maintain work > 1 year (unstably employed), and 23 did maintain work for ≥ 1 year (stably employed). Twenty controls without history of neurological impairment working at the same job level also completed the VET protocol. We analyzed the data using between-group comparison with 1-way analysis of variance and post hoc analysis. We used receiver operating characteristic curve analysis to calculate sensitivity and specificity, as well as an optimal cutoff value for a screening measure. Results: Group differences, F(2, 60) = 19.59, p = .0001, n2 = .376, were identified between unstably employed persons with TBI performing with lower PMpM scores than the stably employed TBI group and the control group. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis indicated a cutoff score of 11.55 PMpM. There was acceptable specificity (0.700, 95% CI [0.499, 0.901]) and sensitivity (0.696, 95% CI [0.508, 0.883]) for a screening tool indicating further assessment of social communication. Conclusion: The VET holds promise as a clinical screening tool to identify persons at risk for social communication- related job instability after TBI and the need for a more comprehensive social communication assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3367-3380
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Grant H133P120013/90AR5015 awarded to Cherney, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Mary E. Switzer Merit Research Fellowship 90SF0006 awarded to Meulenbroek, and National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders F31DC011462 awarded to Meulenbroek. The authors would like to thank Phillip Gribble for valuable feedback and input on the methods incorporated in this article, Lyn S. Turkstra for feedback and support with development of this instrument, Sheila MacDonald for feedback on the acceptability during instrument development, and Emma Edgar for transcription and transcription reliability.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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