READ-IT research project

This exciting new project is exploring use of assistive technology for reading in both individual and group therapy.

Aphasia is a language impairment caused by brain damage, usually related to stroke. It is common, with a third of stroke survivors being affected, and has profound consequences for wellbeing. People with aphasia often have to give up work and leisure activities, lose friends and experience worse quality of life than other disability groups. Speech and language therapy can remediate aspects of aphasia and help the person to develop coping strategies. However, therapy for reading impairments has been relatively neglected in the research, despite the fact that so much social interaction now takes place online through the written word. Digital technologies are also now available that can support reading, and which used in context of therapy might make reading possible again.

This 2 year feasibility project is trialling a new reading intervention with 20 people who have aphasia. Therapy will run for three months, with one individual and one group session per week. Individuals will be trained in the use of a digital technology, such as an e-reader or tablet, to support their reading. The person will also be given individually tailored reading exercises to promote their use of the technology and enhance their reading comprehension. Group sessions will involve reading practice and discussion about texts, using a book club format.

We hope that the therapy will compensate for the reading impairment and enable participants to re-engage with reading activities that have been abandoned since their stroke.

We will evaluate our intervention using a randomised controlled design.  Participants will be tested on a range of measures before and after their therapy. For example, these will assess reading comprehension, feelings of confidence and emotions associated with reading, and the impact of aphasia. Our experimental design will enable us to compare a group who have received therapy with a group who have not (yet) been treated, using these measures. With half our participants we will also see if any gains made in therapy are still evident 14 weeks after therapy stops. All our participants will be interviewed, to see what they think of the intervention.

The study questions are:

– Is this reading intervention feasible and acceptable to participants?

– Does the intervention improve reading comprehension, reading confidence and enjoyment, and
reduce the negative impacts of aphasia?

The project is funded by the Halley Stewart Trust and through fundraising by the City, University of London Development & Alumni Relations Office.

The project Principle Investigators are Dr Celia Woolf and Professor Jane Marshall, with Dr Madeline Cruice and Professor Stephanie Wilson as Co-Investigators.

For more information, or to discuss a possible referral, please contact aphasiaclinic@city.ac.uk.