Aphasia is a language difficulty resulting from a brain injury that affects speaking, listening and connecting.
With over 140,000 Australians living with aphasia, the study reveals that pets play a significant role in enhancing the emotional and social aspects of the lives of those affected. From bolstering confidence in social situations to providing much-needed companionship during low moments, pets offer a source of solace and support.
Charlotte Mitchard, a UniSA student researcher, explained that aphasia can manifest differently in each individual, impacting their ability to speak, read, write, and comprehend others.
“Aphasia can have a big impact on a person’s life, affecting how they connect and interact with others, as well as how they participate in the community,” Mitchard said.
For people with impaired communication skills, feelings of isolation and loneliness can be common. However, pets, whether furry friends like dogs or cats or even aquatic companions like fish, can provide a sense of purpose and companionship, which proves especially valuable for those grappling with isolation due to their condition.
Mitchard emphasised that pets serve as non-judgmental communication partners, offering unconditional friendship and love. Many participants expressed sentiments such as, “my pet doesn’t care if I can’t talk properly; they love me anyway.”
Professor Maria Kambanaros, the senior researcher and a speech pathologist, views this study as a springboard for further exploration into the relationship between pets and health in speech pathology.
“The next phase of our study will examine how pet ownership can help people who are caring for those with aphasia,” Kambanaros revealed.
She added that they are also exploring the impact of pet ownership on the wellbeing of people with different acquired neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s Disease.
“We know pets have a positive impact on our lives. By exploring how speech pathologists can support this in therapy, we can promote a far better quality of life,” Kambaranos said.