QMYOU Alumni Magazine Issue 78 - Page 9

35 and 86 took part. The diverse group showed the full range of different communication difficulties associated with aphasia. The team used a person-centred approach with participants to increase their confidence in communicating in everyday situations. Tricia Mitchell, Joint Therapy Lead, explained: “The aim was to encourage everyone to feel comfortable in using a range of communication methods – speech, writing, drawing and gesture. Some used low-tech tools such as pen and paper whilst others shared their skills with more high-tech gadgetry such as iPads.” Technology is increasingly being used in clinics to support more traditional speech therapy activities and to encourage self-directed home exercises. To help participants gain experience of using specialist technical programmes, the therapy team offered daily practice on react2.com, an online computer therapy programme. Read more about react2.com in the next story on this page. Participants had the chance to try different activities such as role play – for example, proactively making phone calls – as well as participating in art and music therapy. There was also a talk on exercise after stroke provided by physiotherapy experts in the University. The aim was to help people explore different ways of communicating so that they had more options to help them communicate better. A wide range of individuals took part, including QMU’s reception and catering staff, which gave real-life opportunities for practising and improving communication. An important element of the programme was the involvement of relatives and friends of the participants. Amanda Bennett, Joint Therapy Lead, said: “We do not communicate in isolation. It was essential for the longer term impact of the project that communication partners were an integral part of the programme. We offered opportunities to learn more about aphasia and ways of supporting their partners’ everyday communication whilst encouraging their independence.” Positive feedback from participants confirmed that the team had offered an effective approach to the therapy sessions and there was a demand for further opportunities in the future. Course participants found that the camaraderie developed through the group approach was particularly helpful with one individual saying: “It was liberating – nice to know I’m not in this space alone.” This unique programme also presented an outstanding learning opportunity for QMU speech therapy students. Jocelynne Watson, Principal Investigator on the project from QMU, explained, “In addition to helping improve people’s quality of life, this project gave eight speech and language students an excellent therapy placement directly under the supervision of the two joint therapy leads. This provided students with an interesting and alternative placement to those offered within the NHS. In addition, a new internship, as part of the programme team, gave a newly qualified speech and language therapist much needed experience to support her future career development.” S p e e c h i nter n helps commercial company improve online therapy tool Michelle Brogan, Service Lead Adult Community and Rehabilitation Speech and Language Therapy Services, NHS Lothian, explained: “This model focuses on key fundamentals related to functional communication and self-expression, and encourages peer support and communication partner participation. It is innovative and has potential to address some key gaps within existing speech and language therapy services.” The React2.com website offers 8,000 speech and language therapy exe r c i s e s , s o m e of w h i c h w i l l be designed to help adults with aphasia. Lucy worked with Propeller Multimedia Ltd on sections of the website dedicated to understanding sentences – an area with which people with aphasia often struggle. The pilot evaluation (www.qmu.ac.uk/ icga) demonstrates a strong argument for QMU and partners to hold further communication therapy programmes in the future, thereby extending much needed support to more people affected by aphasia. The programme highlighted fur ther research and development opportunities and future funding is now being sought to expand this important area of work. Dr Fiona Coutts, Dean of School of Health Sciences at QMU, said: “This project highlights some extremely impor tant outcomes. Fir stly, the model was the result of a scoping exercise to ensure that the programme complemented existing services in the NHS and voluntary sector for people with aphasia. This has allowed us to develop our partnership working with current health services. In terms of interdisciplinar y working, this programme has been a triumph. It has brought together specialists from speech and language therapy, music and art therapies, and physiotherapy to provide a lively and stimulating experience for participants. Finally, the project is an outstanding example of how people can be empowered to take more control over their illness and help direct their recovery.” Dr Coutts concluded: “Our sincere thanks go to the Headley Trust for funding this progressive project and to the Forth Valley, Lothian and Borders Health Boards for their support. Their assistance has allowed us to work together to make a positive contribution to people’s quality of life.” ❒ A QMU SPEECH INTERN has helped develop an online interactive speech and language therapy tool for adults who have communication difficulties. Lucy Charrington, a speech and language graduate, worked with a leading provider of specialist software to improve a rehabilitation programme. The software programme called React2.com allows adults to benefit from an online speech and language therapy package that they can use in their own homes. This helpful online tool allows individuals with speech problems to build therapy sessions into their daily lives. Thanks to the suppor t of a Santander Internship, Lucy spent four months meticulously working through sections of the website – analysing data, identifying problems and looking at how the rehabilitation exercises could be made clearer and more effective for the user. Patients using React2.com are able to work through a series of different levels allowing them to become more proficient in key areas such as completing sentences and semantics. Many of the adults, who participated in the intensive communication group for people with aphasia at QMU, were able to try out the React2.com software for the first time. Lucy said: “This unique internship p r ov i d e d m e w i t h c o m m e r c i a l experience, allowed me to work with other researchers, and involved me in the development of an online learning tool that will ultimately help to improve the lives of people with speech and language problems.” ❒ QMYOU / / Health & Rehabilitation / Focus on Speech 9