Evaluating an innovative Support Centre for people with aphasia in the North East

From February 2006 to October 2007
Project Leader(s): Dr Julie Morris and Dr Anne Whitworth
Sponsors: The Catherine Cookson Foundation
Partners: North East Trust for Aphasia (NETA)

This project aimed to evaluate the recently formed and innovative Aphasia Support Centre (since launched as “Comm-Unity”) which is working with people with aphasia, an acquired long-term communication disability, following stroke. Aphasia can affect an individual’s ability to speak, read, write and understand others. This, in turn, can affect their ability to participate in the range of social and life activities they would wish. Funded by a small local charity, the North East Trust for Aphasia (NETA), the Comm-Unity Centre runs within the North East Aphasia Centre at Newcastle University one day per week, providing people with aphasia and their carers with longer term support via the provision of communication groups and other life interest groups (e.g. photography, accessing the internet). The Centre also provides the students undertaking the Speech and Language Sciences programme at Newcastle University with opportunities to interact with people who have had a stroke as part of their training.

The funded project aimed to continue the development of an assessment tool designed to capture the impact of provision of services for people with aphasia in terms of changes to their perception of their communication and life activities. A tool of this nature would have considerable impact in evaluation of services for this population, both within the Comm-Unity Centre and for the wider community of health professionals working with people who have aphasia. Existing assessment measures allow speech and language therapists (SLT’s) to capture change in specific linguistic function (language measures) but it is more difficult to measure change in real life terms beyond anecdotal report. It is, however, crucial that we do so. Many measures which claim to measure quality of life are available but are usually for stroke (rather than aphasia per se) and are too generic in scope. In this study we aimed to develop and evaluate the use of a questionnaire for people with aphasia which aims to capture perceptions of change in communication, confidence and quality of life.