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Communication Disorders

Communication Disorders Research at ECU focuses on clinically relevant and translatable investigations related to communication disorders across the lifespan.

The primary areas of research are i) early aphasia intervention following stroke and ii) Aboriginal Australians’ experiences of brain impairment after stroke and traumatic brain injury, with significant research also being undertaken in the areas of autism, early speech and language development, fluency disorders, and teaching and learning strategies within allied health curricula.

The Speech Pathology research team is a group of active researchers with national and international reputations in the field of communication disorders related to brain injury. The group leads projects supported through the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and other national and international grant funding. Strong collaborations underpin all endeavours. Our research networks are academic, government-related, and clinical in nature, with world class collaborators. We are ensuring that we address current clinically relevant issues, with knowledge translation as a key focus. We achieve this within current policy contexts and maintain our research at the forefront of our industry.

The main research themes are:

  • Neuro-rehabilitation
  • Brain injury in Aboriginal populations
  • Clinical education
  • Developmental communication disorders

For more information, contact Professor Beth Armstrong

Current Projects:

  • Healing Right Way: Enhancing rehabilitation services for Aboriginal Australians after brain injury
  • Brain Injury Yarning Circles: Support groups for Aboriginal Australians after brain injury
  • Investigating communication enhanced environments after stroke
  • The development and testing of LUNA for discourse-level work in aphasia
  • Development of a consensus for best practice in Primary Progressive Aphasia
  • Exploration of experiences of assessing and being assessed in aphasia and in Primary Progressive Aphasia
  • Variation in vocal function in normal voices of performers
  • Enhancing the preparation of students for their placements, their learning from placements and supervisor skills in industry
  • Evidence based practice in the treatment of people who stutter: a systematic review and interviews with people who stutter about treatment experiences
  • Effects of statistical-learning based interventions for children who are late to talk
  • Dynamic assessment of multilingual children with language disorder
  • Therapeutic dose in early aphasia recovery
  • Interpersonal factors in early aphasia treatment
  • Communication Environmental enrichment in stroke care
  • Effectiveness of aphasia treatment across the recovery continuum

Recently completed projects:

Research team

  • Ms Meaghan McAllister (Project Manager, Healing Right Way project)
  • Ms Sanita Kratina (Trial Data and Operations Manager, Healing Right Way)
  • Dr Jane White (Process evaluation, Healing Right Way)
  • Mr Justin Kickett (Research Assistant, Healing Right Way)
  • Emily Hunt, PhD
  • Sarah D’Souza, PhD
  • Siobhan Kavanagh, PhD

Postgraduate student project opportunities

  • Brain injury in Aboriginal populations:
    • exploring the experiences of Aboriginal people and their families after stroke and traumatic brain injury;
    • developing multidisciplinary approaches to culturally secure rehabilitation services;
    • the use of clinical yarning in rehabilitation;
    • the role of Aboriginal Coordinators in brain injury care;
    • the role of telehealth in brain injury care with Aboriginal Australians
  • Communication disorders and neurorehabilitation
    • Characteristics of non-responders in early aphasia rehabilitation
    • Investigating the dose of aphasia therapy in early recovery
    • Experiences of people living with aphasia who live alone/longitudinal ethnographic/looking at discharge experiences for those living alone
    • Experiences of advocacy for people and family
    • Experiences of assessment in neurological conditions
    • The nature of therapeutic interactions in conversation-based aphasia therapy
    • Orofacial and speech apraxia in dementia: does it exist?
  • Child language development
    • How to assess children who speak languages other than English
    • What are the most important ingredients in successful speech therapy?
    • Which words should we teach first to late talking toddlers?
    • Can we measure aptitude for language learning in pre-schoolers?
    • How do speech pathologists diagnose language disorder in children that speak more than one language?
  • For more information about postgraduate student project opportunities, visit the HDR student project listing on the SMHS HDR Students webpage.

Key Publications

Brogan, E., Godecke, E., and Ciccone, N., (2020). Behind the therapy door: What is ‘usual care’ aphasia therapy in acute stroke management? Aphasiology doi:10.1080/02687038.2020.1759268

Brogan, E., Ciccone, N., and Godecke, E (2020). An exploration of aphasia therapy dosage in the first six months of stroke recovery. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation doi:10.1080/09602011.2020.1776135

Godecke, E., Armstrong,  E., Rai, T., Rose, M. L., Ciccone, N., Middleton, S., Whitworth, A., Holland, A., Ellery, F., Hankey, G. J., Cadilhac, D. A., & Bernhardt, J. For The VERSE Collaborative Group (2020 online) A randomised controlled trial of intensive aphasia therapy after acute stroke: The Very Early Rehabilitation for SpEech (VERSE) study. International Journal of Stroke. DOI: 10.1177/1747493020961926

Dipper, L., Marshall, J., Boyle, M., Botting, N., & Hersh, D., & Pritchard, M. (2020 online). Treatment for improving discourse in aphasia: a systematic review and synthesis of the evidence base. Aphasiology.

Mills, B., Hansen, S., Nang, C., McDonald, H., Lyons-Wall, P., Hunt, J., O'Sullivan, T., (2020), A pilot evaluation of simulation-based interprofessional education for occupational therapy, speech pathology and dietetic students: improvements in attitudes and confidence. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 34(4), 472-480, DOI: 10.1080/13561820.2019.1659759.

Meldrum, S., Heaton, AE., Foster, J., Prescott, SL., Simmer, K., (2020), Do infants of breast-feeding mothers benefit from additional long-chain PUFA from fish oil? A 6-year follow-up. The British Journal of Nutrition: an international journal of nutritional science, 124(7), 701-708, Cambridge University Press, DOI: 10.1017/S000711452000135X.

Brewer, K., Lewis, T., Bond, C., Armstrong, E., Hill, A. E., Nelson, A., & Coffin, J. (2019). Maintaining cultural integrity in Aboriginal and Māori qualitative research. In L. McAllister & R. Lyons (Eds.), Qualitative Research in Communication Disorders: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians. UK: J & R Press.

Armstrong, E., Coffin, C., Hersh, D., Katzenellenbogen, J. M., Thompson, S. C., Ciccone, N., Flicker, L.,Woods, D.,Hayward, C., Dowell, C., & McAllister, M. (2019, online). “You felt like a prisoner in your own self, trapped”: The experiences of Aboriginal people with acquired communication disorders. Disability & Rehabilitation. DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1686073

Armstrong, E., Ciccone, N., Hersh, D., Katzenellenbogen, J., Thompson, S., Flicker, L., Coffin, J., Hayward, C., Woods, D., McAllister, M. (2019, online). A screening tool for acquired communication disorders in Aboriginal Australians after brain injury: lessons learned from the pilot phase. Aphasiology. DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2019.1678107

Ciccone, N., Armstrong, E., Hersh, D., Adams, M., & McAllister, M. (2019). The Wangi (talking) project: a feasibility study of a rehabilitation model for Aboriginal people with acquired communication disorders after stroke. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 21, 305-316. DOI: 10.1080/17549507.2019.1595146

Armstrong, E.,  Coffin, J., McAllister, M., Hersh,D., Katzenellenbogen,J. M., Thompson,S. C., Ciccone, N., Flicker, L., Cross, N., Arabi, L., Woods D., &Hayward, C. (2019). “I've got to row the boat on my own, more or less”: Aboriginal Australian experiences of traumatic brain injury. Brain Impairment, 20(2), 120-136. doi:10.1017/BrImp.2019.19

Nang, C., Reynolds, V., Hersh, D., Andrews, C., Humphries, O., (2019), The experiences of migrants to Australia who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 62(December 2019), Article number: 105723, DOI: 10.1016/j.jfludis.2019.105723.

Lewis, A., Kirkman, A. & Holmes, L. (2019). Wellness in Allied Health students: the case for change. Health Education in Practice: Journal of Research for Professional Learning 2(1).

Lewis, A., Rudd, C. & Mills, B. (2018). Working with children with autism: an interprofessional simulation-based tutorial for speech pathology and occupational therapy students. Journal of Interprofessional Care 32(2), 242-244.

Katzenellenbogen, J., Atkins, E., Hersh, D., Coffin, J., Thompson, S. C., Flicker, L., Hayward, C., Ciccone, N., Woods, D., Greenland, M. E., McAllister, M., & Armstrong, E. M. (2018). Missing Voices: Profile, extent and 12-month outcomes of non-fatal traumatic brain injury in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults in Western Australia using linked administrative records. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 33(6), 412-423. DOI: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000371

Nang, C., Hersh, D., Milton, K., Lau, SR., (2018), The Impact of Stuttering on Development of Self-Identity, Relationships, and Quality of Life in Women Who Stutter. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27(3S), 1244-1258, United States, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, DOI: 10.1044/2018_AJSLP-ODC11-17-0201.

Godecke, E., Armstrong, E., Rai, T., Middleton, S., Ciccone, N., Whitworth, A., Rose, M., Holland, A., Ellery, F., Hankey, G. J., Cadilhac, D., & Bernhardt, J. (2016).  A randomized controlled trial of very early rehabilitation in speech after stroke. International Journal of Stroke, 11(5),586-592. DOI: 10.1177/1747493016641116

Katzenellenbogen, J., Atkins, E., Thompson, S., Hersh, D., Coffin, J., Flicker, L., Hayward, C., Ciccone, N., Woods, D., McAllister, M., & Armstrong, E. (2016). Missing Voices: Profile and extent of acquired communication disorders in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adult stroke survivors in Western Australia. International Journal of Stroke, 11(1),103-116.

Armstrong, E., Hersh, D., Katzenellenbogen, J., Coffin, J., Thompson, S., Ciccone, N., Hayward, C., Flicker, L., & Woods, D. (2015). Study Protocol: Missing Voices- Communication difficulties after stroke and traumatic brain injury in Aboriginal Australians. Brain Impairment, 16(2),145 - 156.

Hersh, D., Armstrong, E., McAllister, M., Ciccone, N., Katzenellenbogen, J., Coffin, J., Thompson, S., Hayward, C., Flicker, L., Woods, D. (2019). General practitioners’ perceptions of their communication with Australian Aboriginal patients with acquired neurogenic communication disorders. Patient Education and Counseling, 102, 2310-2317. 0738-3991/

Hersh, D., Woods, P., & Armstrong, E. (2018). Informality, interaction and the development of relationship during aphasia assessment in the early period after stroke. Aphasiology, 32(8), 876-901. DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2017.1381878

Penn, C., Armstrong, E., Brewer, K., Purves, B., McAllister, M., Hersh, D., Godecke, E., Ciccone, N., & Lewis, A. (2017). De-colonizing Speech-Language Pathology practice in acquired neurogenic disorders. SIG 2 Perspectives on Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders, Vol 2(3), 91-99.

Armstrong, E., Hersh, D., Hayward, C., & Fraser, J. (2015). Communication disorders after stroke in Aboriginal Australians. Disability and Rehabilitation, 37(16): 1462–1469.

Hersh, D., Armstrong, E., Panak, V., & Coombes, J. (2015). Speech-language pathology practices with Indigenous Australians with acquired communication disorders: results of a national survey. International Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 17(1),74-85.

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