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IT course offers tech training for people with aphasia

Series of workshops highlight importance of technology in everyday life


Students, staff and community Speech and Language Therapists have been helping people with aphasia to improve their IT skills and gain access to much of the technology society takes for granted in a series of classes at City University London.

Led by Dr Madeline Cruice, Tess Lancashire and Peter Hill, during the SPLIT course people with aphasia worked one-on-one with City speech and language therapy students for up to two hours a week on how to engage with technology. Grants from the British Aphasiology Society Initiatives in Aphasia Seed Fund, and The Tavistock Trust for Aphasia Small Grants, provided funding to for the speech therapist class instructor and for supervision for the speech and language therapy students

Participants learned basic skills on computers such as using Word, writing emails, browsing the web, watching videos on YouTube, exploring Facebook and also talking to relatives on Skype. The team also ran drop-in sessions over the 10-week course to trouble-shoot and provide more learning time.

The most recent session, which focused on social media, saw people with aphasia partner one-on-one with student speech and language therapists. Acting as support workers, the students helped six participants from the local community learn about how to setup accounts for Facebook, and also how to add and speak to friends.

Aphasia is a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems using language correctly. Most commonly caused by a stroke - and often affecting older people - aphasia can result in difficulty remembering words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write.

Speaking about the project, Dr Madeline Cruice, Senior Lecturer in Language and Communication Science at City, said: "The project was a fantastic success as it enabled us to get to know a lot of people with aphasia in the local community, while also highlighting the importance of a good quality of life and the services that Universities can provide to the local community.

"IT is such an important part of everyday life, it was great to be able to provide a platform for learning at City University London that could benefit the community and people with aphasia."

Speaking about the idea behind SPLIT, Tess Lancashire said: “As a person with aphasia the concept came to me years ago. With Madeline’s tenacity and my determination SPLIT became a reality. IT aids recovery, classes can be personalised, improve communication skills, greater self-confidence and more self-reliance and independence.

“For SPLIT 2 I had the opportunity to be the aphasia student giving me more insight into the extreme importance of a support worker and their relationship with their aphasia student. SPLIT provides the support worker and their student with not only a practical placement but also a dynamic and very supportive setting.”

Speaking about the course, Peter Hill, a community speech and language therapist who works in Lambeth, said: “Technology can be intimidating for people with aphasia, as a result these sessions enable them to work through often complicated technology with a support worker and a clear pictorial guide book. Once signed up for the relevant services such as email and social media participants can then adapt what they’ve learnt to their phones and tablets so they can carry on using the technology at home once the course ends.”

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