CommuniCATE research project

The research strand of the CommmuniCATE research project investigated the potential of computer technologies to enhance therapy for people with aphasia. The focus was on whether therapy enhanced by technology can improve language skills in aphasia and whether there are benefits for communication, mood and quality of life.

This was investigated through three therapy interventions:

1. Therapy for speaking
This therapy targeted everyday speech activities such as holding conversations, making requests or giving instructions. The therapy used software called Aphasia Scripts (Cherney et al, 2008). Aphasia Scripts enables each individual to practise personally relevant speech exchanges with an avatar on the computer.

2. Therapy for reading
This therapy aimed to improve reading of a variety of different types of text. Therapy was supported by assistive reading technologies: ClaroRead text-to-speech software or Kindle Fire e-readers. Participants learnt how to use the technology and explored strategies to improve their reading comprehension.

3. Therapy for writing
This therapy aimed to improve writing activities, such as composing letters and emails, writing a story or making notes. Writing was supported by Dragon voice recognition software (speech-to-text) or WriteOnline assistive writing software

Participants were assessed on a number of measures before and after therapy. Some measures explored the treated language skill, e.g. those who received reading therapy were tested on reading comprehension. Other measures assessed general language skills, functional communication, mood and quality of life. The results will show whether these therapy programmes improve the target skills, and whether there are more general gains in language, communication, mood and quality of life. We also observed and interviewed participants, to explore their experience of the therapies.

So far we have published results of the writing therapy strand, which you can read about here.

Remote Conversation Investigation
The CommuniCATE project also aimed to find out whether a programme of supported conversation, delivered over the internet, could increase social participation and reduce feelings of isolation in people with aphasia. Participants engaged in supported conversation using Skype internet video conferencing technology. The intervention aimed to develop participants’ ability to use Skype and to use different communication strategies to get their message across. They also discussed social opportunities that might be of interest to the participant, e.g. calling a family member on Skype or finding out about local community groups.

Participants were assessed before and after the programme of supported conversation. The measures explored their experience of living with aphasia, their social contacts, communication confidence and mood. We are interested in whether these measures change as a result of the conversation programme.

Current CommuniCATE research projects

One current project is exploring the use of portable smart camera technologies such as ORCAM that can read text aloud when people are away from their computers.  This work is being carried out in collaboration with the Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences at City, University of London.

Another CommuniCATE research project that is starting during 2019 will investigate technology enhanced therapies for reading difficulties in aphasia, by combining individual technology training sessions with ‘book club’ style group therapy.  This project is in collaboration with the Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design at City, University of London.