Art for Aphasia
[L-R] Volunteer art instructors Romy Vandoros and Vivian Mewing; research participants John Giliberm, Alisdair McLennan and Olegario Gonzalez; Kate Perry and volunteer art instructor Karlene Wilcox.
Aphasia is communication difficulty caused by damage to the brain and is most commonly caused by stroke. People with aphasia may have difficulty talking, understanding what others say, reading and writing, but the condition does not affect their intelligence. The loss of critical communication skills can have a significant impact on how people with aphasia interact with the world.
"Speech pathologists commonly treat those with aphasia, and are not only interested in their language skills but also their overall wellbeing and quality of life," said Eva Nemeth, Manager, Speech Pathology Clinical Education program.
Recent graduate Kate Perry, as part of her Master of Speech and Language Pathology research project, investigated how participation in an art group affected the quality of life of adults with chronic aphasia.
With support from volunteer art instructors, four people with chronic aphasia participated in a weekly art group session over an eight week period to develop their own work of art.
"The research participants had all lost critical communication skills and the project looked at the impact of finding new ways to communicate through art," said Kate. "My research project identified the benefits the art program gave to each participant including a sense of achievement, enhanced well-being and the chance to develop new friendships within a supportive social group."
Kate explains part of her research involved asking participants what they thought about the art group.
"One participant responded they felt it was 'peculiar… but liking'," said Kate. "Most of them had no prior experience with art, and all indicated that although it was a new skill, it was enjoyable to learn and make art."
The artwork produced is now on loan from the participants involved in the project, and are on display at the Speech and Hearing Clinic.
"The artwork that was produced is amazing and each reflects the individual style adopted by the participants," said Kate.