What is Aphasia?
Aphasia, a language disorder, can disrupt an individual’s communication abilities, manifesting suddenly after events like a stroke or head injury, or gradually due to conditions such as brain tumours or diseases. This condition impairs both expressing and understanding written and spoken language, leading to difficulties in reading, writing, numerical tasks, participating in conversations, and conveying thoughts and emotions.
The severity of aphasia varies depending on the extent of brain damage, ranging from mild to severe, with outcomes ranging from temporary improvement to long-lasting or permanent impairment. Once the underlying cause is determined, the primary treatment often involves speech therapy. Speech pathologists assist individuals in discovering alternative methods to access language or in establishing new neural pathways to aid in assembling words.
The Queensland Aphasia Research Centre (QARC)’s development stemmed from the firsthand experiences of the individuals and communities it supports. Its goals have been collaboratively shaped with input from people with aphasia, their families, and speech pathologists. The QARC team are esteemed for their leadership and innovation in conducting research tailored to address the healthcare and social requirements of individuals living with aphasia.
Delve deeper into the topic of aphasia through this personal perspective offered by Professor David Copland, a speech pathologist at the University of Queensland and Director of QARC.
A First-Person Perspective with Professor David Copland
Aphasia, a prevalent yet often overlooked language and communication impairment, is profoundly devastating. The abrupt loss of language following a stroke not only affects the individual directly but also reverberates through their familial and social circles, challenging the very essence of communication and connections we typically take for granted. The occasional forgetfulness of a name, a linguistic stumble, or the inability to grasp a foreign language offers only fleeting insights into the daily struggles endured by those with aphasia.
In Australia alone, over 140,000 individuals grapple with aphasia, with another 22,000 newly diagnosed each year. Despite its prevalence, aphasia remains eclipsed by better-known conditions like Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy. Regrettably, individuals with aphasia often confront some of the poorest life outcomes among major health conditions, experiencing systematic exclusion from meaningful engagements, social interactions, and the research shaping their care. This isolation frequently culminates in heightened depression risk and the inability to partake in commonplace activities or return to work.
Motivated by the dire circumstances faced by those with aphasia, the Queensland Aphasia Research Centre (QARC) was established in 2019 through initial funding from philanthropists and the University of Queensland, in collaboration with the Metro North Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service in Brisbane. Guided by the first-hand experiences of consumers and communities, QARC endeavours to conduct research that resonates with the needs and desires of individuals with aphasia, their families, and speech pathologists across Queensland.
By embedding consumers and community members at every stage of the research process, QARC ensures that the voices of individuals with aphasia are not just heard but actively incorporated into the development and implementation of interventions. This approach, which extends beyond mere participation to genuine partnership, fosters the meaningful translation of research findings into healthcare practices, as evidenced by ongoing projects focused on communication technology, inspired by insights shared by individuals living with aphasia.
Furthermore, QARC prioritises accessibility in all forms of communication, tailoring activities to ensure inclusivity and empowerment. This commitment to genuine engagement is exemplified by the centre’s contributions to advancing the theory and practice of consumer and community involvement in aphasia research, including the development of training resources for the Australian Stroke Foundation.
Receiving this award is a testament to the collaborative efforts of individuals living with aphasia, their loved ones, researchers, and clinicians at QARC. It is our fervent hope that this recognition will shed light on the needs of those affected by aphasia and underscore the imperative of consumer partnership in driving meaningful solutions and fostering improved outcomes.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. The Australian Seniors Advisory Group is not affiliated with any medical practitioner geared for aphasia treatment, or any organisation mentioned. Please consult your doctor.