One of the greatest challenges of research on rehabilitation of communication disorders is bridging the gap between basic science and clinical practice. There is a wealth of information from cognitive and neural studies of communication disorders that is relevant to approaches to clinical practice, and it is incumbent upon clinical speech-language pathologists and neuropsychologists to keep current with this research. In addition, there are treatment protocols developed and tested in the context of a research laboratory that need to be translated to the clinic. For more than a decade, the Eleanor M. Saffran Cognitive Neuroscience Conference (hereafter, the Saffran Conference) has aimed to provide a forum in which researchers and clinicians with a common interest in language and other cognitive disorders can begin to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical practice. Numerous practical differences between clinicians and researchers impede the translation of theories and rehabilitation research and the implementation of laboratory-developed diagnostic and treatment protocols in clinical practice. There are two important stages to the implementation process that can be achieved in the context of this conference: (1) Providing education about current theories and practices that are emerging from rehabilitation research and (2) Providing a forum for clinicians and researchers to address the practical considerations involved in translating laboratory developed diagnostic and treatment protocols to clinical practice. The educational component of this two stage process has been and will continue to be an important contribution of the Saffran conference.
In addition, we have strived to insure that the conference includes time for discussion of the translation of the rehabilitation research to clinical practice. This includes discussion among audience and speakers about obstacles to translation and possible ways of adapting research treatment protocols to clinical use. These post-talk discussions, however, are only a first step. The conference is typically divided into two sessions, one devoted to the theoretical research on a particular topic (e.g., the cognitive and neural foundations of sentence processing) and the other devoted to current rehabilitation approaches that are in various stages of development. (e.g., verb-network strengthening treatment, Edmonds, Nadeau & Kiran, 2009). The audience is comprised primarily of four groups: clinicians, researchers and educators in disciplines related to the study of communication disorders (e.g., speech/language pathologists, neuropsychologists, neurologists, linguists) and students from these disciplines, many of whom will be the future researchers and/or clinical practitioners.
Feedback from conference attendees in the last few years has indicated a need for more time devoted to direct instruction on implementation of the rehabilitation protocols presented in the conference. To establish this component of the translational model, we will add a one day workshop following the Saffran conference in which two of the speakers from the program on Day 1 will provide a more clinically oriented workshop on specific treatment protocols and how they can be adapted to the clinic. This workshop will include time for specific instruction, but also significant time for open discussion between researchers and clinicians and students about practical ways to implement theoretically-based and empirically-supported treatments to clinical and school settings