More than 250,000 people live with disabilities following stroke, the most common of which is language impairment; every year nearly 40,000 children enter school with significant difficulties with speech, language and communication; approximately 750,000 people in the UK stammer. Some people have difficulties understanding speech and language, the meanings of words and sentences; others have difficulty putting their ideas into words and sentences or making themselves understood.
These difficulties can and usually do have far reaching consequences for an individual’s quality of life and ability to participate in society. Together they can be referred to as communication impairments and cover all the different aspects of talking and understanding.
They can arise in the context of a wide range of developmental and acquired conditions including autism, learning difficulties, hearing impairment, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, throat cancer and many others. For some people, there is no known cause of their difficulties. Despite their differences, they pose common challenges in terms of our knowledge; there is
- poor understanding of why some people cope better than others
- a lack of evidence about which therapy works best
- poor use of emerging technology by professionals.
Our programme of research seeks solutions to these challenges. It is an applied programme focusing on the everyday experience and management of communication impairments by the people with these impairments, their families and carers, by the professionals who work with them and by the public who meet them every day.
The results will provide robust research evidence about:
What people can do for themselves: Not all children or adults with communication impairments experience long term negative effects. We want to find out what makes people resilient and share that with others.
What professionals can do to help: We want to identify the critical components of therapy programmes and with this knowledge build effective and accessible interventions
What technology can offer: We want to make better use of technology to diagnose and assess communication impairments and to enable independent access to intervention techniques for people in their own homes
The research programme has three interacting themes. The specific research aims and vision for each theme is shown below.