Developing Neurological Tests for Deaf BSL Users

This project is funded by a small grant from Deafness Research UK. It will create a range of cognitive tests for British Sign Language users that will help clinicians make more informed decisions that will improve the health of deaf people. It will for the first time, allow us to undertake detailed and accurate diagnosis of neurological conditions in deaf signers.

Current tests to diagnose dementia and other neurological conditions rely on verbal tests and are failing deaf people. As a result, deaf sign language users are often not diagnosed with dementia and other conditions until long after the disease has taken effect. This means that they do not receive treatment and other services early enough.

The project follows on from the work of the Deaf with Dementia project, funded by the Alzheimer's Society. This project developed a cognitive screening for deaf people aged 50 to 89 years. This screening allows professionals to find out whether or not a deaf BSL user is likely to have cognitive impairment and is in need of further assessment. But tools for a more detailed assessment do not yet exist. This project aims to fill this gap.

The project will collect data from BSL users to create a range of detailed cognitive tests. We need to develop tests of memory, executive function and language. This will allow clinicians to make informed decisions about diagnosis, therapies, medical treatments and care planning.

Once this research has been accomplished, further work will need to be done to collect data from clinical groups before the tests can be rolled out to clinicians who work with deaf people across the UK.

Deaf users of BSL will then benefit from proper diagnosis of neurological conditions. This will inform rehabilitation and therapies for a range of conditions, including degenerative brain disorders, strokes, brain tumours and head injuries. This will help to improve the health experienced by deaf people using BSL.