Published: 5 December 2013

Student helps develop national aphasia campaign

Angad Singh

A student from the University of Liverpool has helped develop a national campaign to raise awareness of language disorder, aphasia.

Fourth year medical student, Angad Singh, came up with the Stroke Association’s ‘Ask, Wait, Listen’ slogan to help people communicate with people with aphasia, during an Active Communication Course at the University.

The Stroke Association is a national charity that provides high-quality, up-to-date stroke information for patients, their families and carers. The Stroke Association’s Training Team visited the University of Liverpool with stroke survivors from the Stroke Association’s Communication Support Services in Liverpool, to help third year medical students’ understand aphasia and strokes.

The Stroke Association delivers courses nationwide, but Liverpool is the only medical school in the UK that is delivering specifically tailored courses with the charity to all its third-year medical students. They are taught how to recognise poor communication practice, develop empathy for a stroke survivor who has aphasia, and how to communicate well with a person who has aphasia.

The active communication training for working with aphasic patients is part of the Disability Rotation, during which all students also have deaf awareness training from deaf trainers, as well as visual impairment and intellectual disability training.

The sessions are organised by Dr Margaret Hammond and Dr Pete Leftwick in the School of Medicine alongside Stroke Association trainer Jane Lewis with the support of Vikram Jha, head of Undergraduate Medical Education at the University.

The ‘Ask, Wait, Listen’ campaign promotes conversation techniques which can help communication with people with aphasia including giving people time, adapting to the individual, writing key words, using drawing and gestures, using body language and using communication aids. View the campaign.

Dr Pete Leftwick from The Community Studies Unit in the University of Liverpool’s School of Medicine said: “These sessions have made a huge impact on our students, giving them first-hand experience which helps them overcome their anxieties when working with people with a communication difficulty. I hope that this initiative will continue long into the future.”

Working with stroke survivors on a daily basis, Daisy Clark from the Stroke Association believes the training provides many benefits to her service users. She said: “I feel that being part of the training has given the stroke survivors I work with another opportunity to practice communication in a supportive environment and to share their personal experience of stroke and its long term effects. I know they feel empowered to be part of the training for future doctors, who may well work with stroke survivors in the future.”

There are around 367,000 stroke survivors in the UK who have aphasia, which it affects people in different ways.  Staff in GP practices and community health centres play a vital role in supporting stroke survivors to rebuild and maintain their health and confidence.

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