While the incidence of stroke in Indigenous Australians is more than twice as high as in non-Indigenous Australians, little is known about how Aboriginal people deal with communication difficulties that can result from stroke. They are rarely seen by outpatient Speech Pathology services, they don’t typically attend stroke support groups that exist in the general community, and they don’t constitute a significant client group accessing Aboriginal Medical Services.
A pilot project exploring Indigenous Australians’ experience of communication difficulties after stroke is underway at ECU, funded by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. The project commenced in June 2010 and the Chief Investigators are Professor Beth Armstrong, Dr Deborah Hersh and Professor Colleen Hayward. The project aims to explore issues and attitudes of people with aphasia in particular (a language disorder occurring as a result of damage to the language areas of the brain) and their families. It examines both barriers and facilitators to communication, and attitudes to having a communication disorder. Indigenous Project Officer Joan Fraser is interviewing Indigenous people in the Perth metropolitan area and has obtained valuable stories of individuals and families dealing with the longer-term effects of communication difficulties. Professor Armstrong says that several of these stories demonstrate an attitude of ‘getting on with life’ in the presence of sometimes severe disability, many coping with stroke at a younger age than in non-Indigenous populations.
Professor Armstrong and Dr Hersh recently presented preliminary findings from the study at the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference in Darwin in June.
Ms Joan Fraser