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How we're revolutionising Aphasia testing

By Newcastle University
A doctor and patient sit at a table with a notebook in front of them. They are both smiling

In our latest blog, we're exploring Aphasia, a debilitating condition that recently made headlines. Read the full story, and how we've revolutionised Aphasia assessment, below. 

Aphasia, an isolating condition that impacts the sufferer's ability to communicate, has made headlines recently after it was revealed that Hollywood star, Bruce Willis, has retired from acting due to the debilitating condition. 

Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences has worked with the NHS to develop more robust testing. 

Read on to find out more. 


What is Aphasia? 

Aphasia is usually caused by stroke or other brain injury and affects people’s ability to communicate.

According to The Stroke Association, in the UK, around 100,000 people each year will have a stroke and of these, a third will experience aphasia.


Aphasia and Newcastle University

Emeritus Professor David Howard, in Newcastle University’s School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, worked with colleagues in the NHS to develop the Comprehensive Aphasia Test (CAT).

The CAT was an innovation in aphasia assessment, uniquely combining assessment of language and wider cognitive skills, whilst also considering the impact aphasia had on a person’s everyday life.

The test has transformed the assessment practice of Speech and Language Therapists nationally and internationally, equipping them with a guided approach to assessment, promoting accurate diagnoses, and enabling them to plan effective treatment.


Hearing from Professor Howard

“Aphasia is incredibly debilitating,” explains Professor Howard.

“It affects the way you communicate, but can also cause problems understanding communication from others. For example, you may no longer be able to understand the written word.

This means it can be very isolating for the person who has aphasia. It not only affects them, it affects their loved ones too and it can completely transform relationships.

“That’s why developing a test that was relatively quick and easy to use which could accurately assess them so therapists could understand the support they needed was so important.”


Making a difference

The CAT has now been translated into 24 different languages, including Arabic, Dutch and Danish.

No other aphasia assessment tool is used in so many languages.

“Developing the test took a long time and a lot of work went into it,” says Professor Howard. “It is gratifying to see it translated into so many other languages and being used in other countries."

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