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Computer therapy can help people with aphasia find lost words: study

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Press Trust of India London
Over 350,000 people in the UK are affected with aphasia - a language disorder caused after a stroke in which people find it difficult to talk, understand, read and write - but computer therapy can help them learn new words, a study by a British university has found.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) found there are a number of significant benefits of using computer therapy for people affected by aphasia, in comparison to usual speech and language therapy alone.
More than 350,000 people, are suffering from aphasia, which is caused by an injury to the brain making it difficult for people to talk, understand, read and write, the study said.
Currently, there is limited speech and language therapy available for patients in the long term after a stroke and a lot of people with aphasia want more therapy than they receive, the university said in a release today.
The pioneering 1.5 million pounds study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), offered people with aphasia the opportunity to take part in self-managed speech and language therapy using a computer at home, in addition to face-to-face therapy.
More than 270 people from 21 National Health Scheme (NHS) Speech and Language departments across the UK took part in the trial - all were between four months and 36 years post-stroke.
Results of the five-year study showed computer therapy enabled patients to increase their speech and language practice 28 hours on average compared with 3.8 hours of usual speech and language therapy over a six month period.
Participants also significantly improved their ability to say the words they chose to practise. This showed that people with aphasia can learn new words even after a long time post-stroke with computer therapy. They could still say the words six months after the computer therapy had finished.
The computer therapy approach tested, which included a combination of tailoring the programme to the individual with aphasia by a speech and language therapist, independent practise at home by the person with aphasia, and volunteer or speech and language therapy assistant support, cost half as much as providing the same amount of extra therapy face-to-face.
Dr Rebecca Palmer, the Chief Investigator of the study, said: "People with aphasia tend to do quite well with therapy but that isn't usually available to them after a few months.
"Our study showed that 61 per cent of people continued to use the computer therapy after the end of the trial intervention period showing that people with aphasia want to continue learning words and can do this independently."

"I hope the results of this study give both speech and language therapists and people with aphasia and their carers hope for further recovery," Palmer said.
Researchers are now hoping to focus on how to encourage the use of new words in everyday communication to further improve quality of life.

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First Published: Jun 29 2018 | 7:25 PM IST

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