University of Worcester to collaborate with local charity to research dysphagia and dysphasia

The University of Worcester’s Psychology department is stepping up its partnership work with Malvern-based national charity ARCOS.

The two institutions will collaborate for the benefit of people with difficulties in eating, drinking and swallowing, and also those with communication problems.

Dysphagia is the medical term for impairment of swallowing, while dysphasia describes impairment in understanding and/or using language.

Both dysphagia and dysphasia may be caused by a stroke, as well as by other conditions. Research into the experience and needs of those with dysphagia and dysphasia is increasingly important.

Together with ARCOS, the University’s Psychology experts will work to explore how different health professionals support individuals with dysphagia. With regard to meeting the needs of those with dysphasia, Psychology Master’s student, Natasha Rae-Dean (pictured), has been appointed to work one-to-one in a project to provide distance support in therapy for individuals with impaired language and communication skills.

Dr Bere Mahoney, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Worcester, is leading the collaboration at the University and she believes that these projects will benefit those with the conditions, their families and a range of health professionals who work with them.

“These projects are part of our growing collaborative work with ARCOS,” she explains. “They already do fantastic work in supporting individuals with communication and swallowing difficulties, and we are very keen that the expertise within our Psychology department helps raise both understanding and awareness of these conditions through our collaborative work with ARCOS.

“Work such as this is representative of the innovative, creative work taking place within the department, and we are confident that this growing partnership will benefit those living with such difficulties, healthcare professionals and our students, such as Natasha, who have the opportunity to truly make a difference to patients’ lives through this vital work.”

Future collaborative projects are planned and aim to benefit both organisations, along with their staff and service users. Kay Coombes, Director of ARCOS, believes that the partnership will be hugely beneficial to all involved:

“Past collaboration work with the University of Worcester included scientific validation of an innovative saddle-seated wheelchair for children and older people with severe physical disabilities.

“The University of Worcester’s state-of-the-art motion capture and analysis facilities made an important contribution, and we anticipate that the expertise in the University’s Psychology department will make a huge difference to meeting the needs of those with difficulties in communication after stroke, as well as helping to increase our understanding of ways of managing and treating swallowing difficulties.”

Natasha Rae-Dean adds: “To help and engage with individuals living with dysphasia is a fantastic opportunity. I am looking forward to working with ARCOS in order to enable individuals with this condition to meet their therapeutic goals.

“The support which they provide is vital to the individuals and families who are dealing with communication and swallowing difficulties. Being able to assist the patients, and learn more throughout my role with ARCOS, will enable me to develop and apply the skills which I am learning through my MSc Psychology.”

ARCOS is based in Malvern and exists to improve life for those with impaired communication and/or eating, drinking and swallowing. To find out more about their work, visit www.arcos.org.uk.