The University of South Australia has partnered with Aphasia SA to explore how pets can help people with acquired language difficulties.

Aphasia is a language difficulty after brain injury that can affect a person’s ability to talk, listen, and connect, and a new study has showed that pets can deliver notable improvements in people’s emotional and social wellbeing, from boosting their confidence in social situations, to providing them with company when they felt low.

Charlotte Mitchard, Student Researcher at UniSA, said 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.

“People with affected communication skills can feel quite isolated and alone. But a pet – whether it’s a dog, a cat, or even a fish – can give them greater purpose and companionship, which is especially valuable for people who feel isolated because of their condition.

“Pets are also a non-judgemental communication partner, offering friendship without expectations. In fact, one of the most common phrases we heard was ‘my pet doesn’t care if I can’t talk properly, they love me anyway’.”

Professor Maria Kambanaros, Senior Researcher and Speech Pathologist, said the study presents a leaping point for other pet and health research in speech pathology.

“The next phase of our study will examine how pet ownership can help people who are caring for those with aphasia.

“Beyond that, we’re 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,” explained Professor Kambanaros.

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