Why is this research needed?
Around one-third of stroke survivors have aphasia, a problem with language and communication. Aphasia happens when a stroke damages the parts of the brain responsible for language. People with aphasia can have difficulty speaking, reading, writing or understanding language.
But aphasia also has wider consequences. Losing the ability to communicate makes it difficult to maintain friendships, and families may find it hard to cope. Depression is also more common in stroke survivors with aphasia compared to stroke survivors without. Many stroke survivors with aphasia don’t get the amount of speech and language therapy they need, and families often don’t receive enough support.
This research will focus on a type of aphasia treatment called an Intensive Comprehensive Aphasia Programme (ICAP). This type of treatment delivers lots of speech and language therapy in a short space of time, at least three hours a day for two weeks. It also addresses the wider consequences that aphasia can have on the lives of stroke survivors and their families, such as depression.
Researchers in the United States, Canada and Australia have investigated ICAPs. They’ve found that people’s language improves after they’ve had this treatment, and it also helps them to re-engage in society. But we know that people may be more likely to drop out of this type of therapy, and there are questions over whether the benefits of the therapy out weight the challenges for those affected by stroke receiving the treatment, and for healthcare professionals giving the treatment.
What are the researchers aiming to do?
The researchers want to understand if ICAPs might work in the UK. To do this they will:
- Gather and understand the ICAP research from other countries that has already been done.
- Speak to speech and language therapists in the UK to find out what helps and hinders them in providing aphasia services.
- Speak to people with aphasia and their families in the UK to find out whether they want ICAPs and what they’d like to get out of taking part in one.
Work with people that would take part and run ICAPs in the UK, like people with aphasia, their families, and speech and language therapists to create an ICAP, which address the issues ICAPS in other countries have had and can be tested in a future research study.
What benefits could this have for people affected by stroke?
At the end of this project, the researchers will have created an ICAP, designed in partnership with the people who will be providing and receiving the treatment. They can then go on to test this in a future research project to find out if it helps to improve the lives of people with aphasia.
If they find that the ICAP does help people with aphasia, the researchers hope that eventually the treatment can be offered at specialist centres across the UK.
About the researcher
Katie Monnelly is a speech and language therapist and studied for her degree at Trinity College Dublin. She has worked as a speech and language therapist in the UK and Ireland. Most recently she worked at City University of London as a lecturer in speech and language therapy, and a research assistant on another Stroke Association-funded study investigating whether peer befriending can support the well-being of stroke survivors with aphasia.
Katie wants her research to improve the lives of stroke survivors with aphasia and their families. She told us: “I’d like my research to have a positive impact on the quality and quantity of therapy received by stroke survivors and their families. I work at City where people with aphasia are at the heart of our research projects and that ethos has inspired me to be patient-focused and patient-led.”