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Two-way conversation about life after stroke


Jessica Nelson
4 February 2020
Dr Kirstine Shrubsole
Dr Kirstine Shrubsole

A new research project aimed at improving conversation quality between stroke survivors and their community is set to be rolled out in hospitals on the Gold Coast and Northern NSW.

Southern Cross University researcher and clinical supervisor Dr Kirstine Shrubsole will train dozens of speech pathologists to use Communication Partner Training (CPT) in their professional practice. The project will begin this month after being awarded a $50,000 Stroke Foundation grant.

Dr Shrubsole said aphasia was a devastating condition affecting up to 38 percent of stroke survivors that impacts all aspects of communication including speech, comprehension, reading and writing and often the inability to communicate effectively can lead to depression and isolation.

Dr Shrubsole says more than 20 years of evidence shows Communication Partner Training is one of the most successful methods for improves quality of life and communication for stroke survivors who suffer the communication disorder aphasia and their loved ones. Yet despite the method being listed in the Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management, less than half of Australian Speech Pathologist currently use it.

“Instead of focussing solely on the person who has the communication disorder, Communication Partner Training acknowledges communication is a two-way exchange. Family members and carers can greatly assist communication using simple techniques such as acknowledging attempts to communicate, not interrupting, and validating alternative methods of communication such as body language,” Dr Shrubsole said.

“Proactive communication strategies include using gestures, writing, drawing and visual aids such as pictures and communication boards to assist conversation. Best practice speech pathology includes involving family and carers in Communication Partner Training in individual or group settings.”

“We will work closely with speech pathology teams in rehabilitation and community settings to identify and overcome any barriers they face in rolling out this training.”

One in four people will have a stroke in their lifetime and more than 475,000 people are living with the effects of stroke in Australia.

Stroke Foundation Research Advisory Committee Chair Professor Amanda Thrift congratulated Dr Shrubsole for recognising the importance of connection between survivor and carer.

“High-quality effective research is crucial to drive improvements in stroke care and understanding for everyone impacted by stroke,’’ Professor Thrift said.

Dr Kirstine Shrubsole is one of four researchers to be awarded a share of $200,000 through the Stroke Foundation 2020 research grants round.