The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the challenges faced by Australians with communication disability. Communication is a basic human right and Speech Pathology Week seeks to make Australians aware of this.

For this important week in LiveBig’s calendar we wanted to highlight one of our participants Andrew, a 61-year-old NDIS participant who lives in a supported independent living accommodation.

For many years, Andrew had lived a relatively normal life and communicated with ease until one day in 2016 when he was admitted to hospital due to a fever, drowsiness, headache, and generalised weakness. Whilst in hospital, Andrew was diagnosed with cerebral vasculitis and subsequently experienced multiple strokes which left him paralysed from the neck down. Aside from losing most of his motor and cognitive abilities, Andrew also developed a communication disability which rendered him non-verbal his communication now consists of raising his eyebrows, nodding, and close his eyes.

Andrew was referred to LiveBig for speech pathology services, predominantly to explore other methods of communication which might provide Andrew with autonomy and control once again.

Together with LiveBig speech pathologist, Olivia, Andrew has worked and communicated closely with all of his formal and informal supports to ascertain a range of augmentative and alternative communication methods that could accommodate Andrew’s communication needs. Olivia has also reached out to various assistive technology service providers in search of innovative tools that can provide Andrew with communication access.

After several trials of a range of different high and low technology AAC tools, systems, devices, and strategies, such as a symbol board, symbol-based speech-generating application on an iPad. Olivia was able to organise a trial for Andrew with Control Bionics, an assistive technology provider which supplies an eye-gaze and electromyography communication device called Neuronode Trilogy.

This technology combines touch, eye control, and electromyography/spatial control which provides Andrew, who has complex communication and physical needs, with an opportunity to communicate his needs, wants, and opinions once again beyond just his facial expressions!

The current goal of therapy is to trial, implement, and educate all of Andrew’s formal and informal supports to use this device when communicating with him. In time, the long-term goal is for Andrew to effectively regain majority of his communicative functions but via a multimodal form of communication.

Speech pathology is a vital support to those who face communication difficulties ranging from a mild speech impediment such as a lisp, or a stutter, to those who require alternative means of communication.

Speech pathologists at LiveBig are a dedicated team of professionals with varied experiences who are eager to provide individualised and tailored support to you or your loved ones – so, please reach out to us and we would be more than happy to chat further!