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Australian-first cognitive screening to benefit Deaf community

19 December 2022

The ability to detect dementia in the Deaf community could soon be transformed thanks to an Australian-first research project led by Queensland  Health.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said providing appropriate and accessible mental health services to the Deaf community was a priority for the Queensland Government. 
“This project will ensure the Deaf community has access to services which reflect the cultural or linguistic needs of Australian Deaf people,” Minister D’Ath said. 
“This is a ground-breaking project, adapted from a similar program designed in the United Kingdom to reflect Australian Deaf culture, and will ensure Deaf people feel confident taking the test because it is in their own language.
“I am excited to watch this project develop, improve health outcomes and support equity of access to cognitive screening for the Deaf community.”
The project is being led by Psychiatrist A/Prof Frances Dark in her role as Director at the Deafness and Mental Health Statewide Consultation and Liaison Service. 
A/Prof Dark said the project would provide general practitioners and psychologists with an Australian Sign Language (Auslan) version of the existing screening test for suspected cognitive impairment and dementia.
“The current Cognitive Screening Test (CST) is based on the English language and does not reflect the cultural or linguistic needs of Australian Deaf people,” Dr Dark said.
“Like any language, English doesn’t always translate accurately into other languages, including Auslan, and this can result in Deaf people being inaccurately assessed.
“Developing an Auslan version of the test will allow us to detect dementia more accurately in older Deaf Australians who use sign language, improving health outcomes.”
Project Officer Jennifer D’Ath said the CST project had reached the trial stage and urged eligible Deaf participants across the nation to come forward to assist with this important research. 
“We’re looking for Deaf participants from across Australia to help us test this new tool – you need to be over 50 years of age, with normal cognitive ability, and fluent in Auslan,” she said. 
“The trial will evaluate the effectiveness of the CST tool to determine if it could be used as a valid, inclusive tool by GPs and psychologists across Australia.”
Eligible Deaf participants can register for the trial here. Participants are asked to allow 60 minutes for the trial and will receive a $25 Coles gift card for their time.

Watch the Nine News story here (via our Facebook):

A British Sign Language CST was designed in the United Kingdom by Psychologist Dr Joanna Atkinson, whose research called for international adaptation of the resource as a vital step in clinical accuracy and for profiling patterns of cognition and impairment in deaf people that would be overlooked or mis-measured using spoken language framework. 

Last updated 19 December 2022
Last reviewed 19 December 2022

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