A LANGUAGE disorder caused by brain damage is the subject of a free lecture at ECU Joondalup tomorrow.
More than 100,000 Australians suffer from aphasia, and speech pathology expert Beth Armstrong will speak on the latest research aimed at restoring their ability to communicate.
“The most common causes of aphasia are strokes and traumatic brain injuries,” she said.
“More than 1000 Australians suffer a stroke each week and we know that about one third of them will go on to develop aphasia, so it is a huge issue.
“We use language in so many different ways that we take it for granted. From casual conversations with friends, to conducting a job interview, as well as the huge variety of ways we now use written words, texting, tweeting and emailing, language is all around us.
“Now imagine one day losing your ability to use language. Not only do you lose the ability to communicate with the people around you, but in many ways people can feel as though they have lost their identity.”
Prof Armstrong said one of the most exciting advancements in the treatment of aphasia was benefits of patients working with speech pathologists within just days of their stroke or injuries.
“The Very Early Rehabilitation in Speech – or VERSE – project that we have been running at ECU is investigating the right timing for a patient to receive aphasia therapy after a stroke or brain injury,” she said.
“Previous stroke research suggests the time immediately following a stroke is when the brain is best able to develop new circuits to achieve the best recovery, however, this is yet to be proven in aphasia recovery. VERSE will help to address this question.”
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke or traumatic brain injury that can lead to aphasia.
Despite this, they are often less likely to be diagnosed with Acquired Communication Disorder (ACD) and have less access to treatment and support services in the time after discharge from hospital.
ECU’s Missing Voices project, funded by a $630,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant, is aiming to change these facts.
“Communication is essential for a sense of identity as it allows people to engage and remain connected with their family, community, culture and history,” Professor Armstrong said.
“It is incredibly important to find out the prevalence of ACD in Aboriginal communities in order to look for new ways to improve rehabilitation services and to assist the person and their family in adjusting to life after stroke or a traumatic brain injury.
“It will also be important to find out ways in which Aboriginal communities are currently supporting people with ACD so that the broader population can learn from such practices.”
ECU Professorial Lecture Series
Date: Friday, June 17
Venue: Building 32, ECU Joondalup