Variables associated with communicative participation in people with multiple sclerosis: a regression analysis.

PURPOSE: To explore variables associated with self-reported communicative participation in a sample (n = 498) of community-dwelling adults with multiple sclerosis (MS).

METHOD: A battery of questionnaires was administered online or on paper per participant preference. Data were analyzed using multiple linear backward stepwise regression. The dependent variable was an item response theory score of communicative participation measured by a subset of items from the Communicative Participation Item Bank asking respondents to rate how much their health condition interfered with participation in real-life speech communication situations. Thirteen independent variables were included in the model as self-reported symptoms: problems thinking, slurred speech, vision loss, pain, mobility, depression, fatigue, perceived social support, age, education level, employment status, gender, and MS duration.

RESULTS: Fatigue, slurred speech, depression, problems thinking, employment status, and social support were significantly associated with communicative participation, accounting for 48.7% of the variance.

CONCLUSIONS: Communicative participation is significantly associated with multiple variables, only some of which reflect communication disorders. If the goal of intervention is to improve communicative participation, intervention may need to extend beyond traditional speech-language pathology boundaries to include other health symptoms as well as personal, social, and physical environments.