Language disorder, aphasia, affects more than 350,000 people in the United Kingdom. Caused by an injury to the brain or a stroke, this disorder can make it difficult for people to talk, understand, read and write. A £1.5 million study funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has found beneficial effects of computer therapy vs usual speech and language therapy alone in patients with aphasia. Computer therapy can help these patients to learn new words even years after stroke.
More than 270 patients between 4 months and 36 years post stroke, across 21 NHS Speech and Language departments in the United Kingdom, participated in the trial. This computer therapy-based approach included combination of patient-specific tailored programme by a speech and language therapist, independent practice at home and speech and a language therapy assistant support.
After a 6-month therapy period, computer therapy vs usual speech and language therapy enabled patients to increase their speech and language practice on average of 28 vs 3.8 hours. Significant improvement was observed in participant’s ability to say the words they chose to practice. Participants could still say the words 6 months after the computer therapy had finished.
Dr. Rebecca Palmer, from University’s School of Health and Related Research commented: “People with aphasia tend to do quite well with therapy and 61% patients continued to use the computer therapy after the end of the trial, showing that people with aphasia wanted to continue learning words and could do this independently.” Dr. Palmer suggested the need to help patients to practice more words they learnt in everyday communication.