Communication sciences and disorders

The ability to communicate is central to all aspects of a person’s life.

Undiagnosed or untreated, a person who has a communication or swallowing disorder is susceptible to poorer educational outcomes, reduced employment prospects and increased likelihood of social, emotional and mental health issues.

Our team focuses on evidence-based assessment and treatment options for communication and swallowing disorders in babies, children, adolescents and adults. We are known for our cutting-edge treatments for speech disorders in childhood, reading disorders, prevention and treatment of stuttering, voice disorder treatment, and the treatment of communication difficulties which can follow an acquired brain injury such as stroke, dementia or traumatic brain injury.

Some of our recent achievements include:

  • launch of the Dr Liang Voice Program, following a $10 million donation to advance the assessment and treatment of voice disorders
  • a Cancer Institute NSW Future Research Leader Fellowship to Dr Kimberley Docking to work with children with brain cancer and leukaemia in conjunction with the Kids Cancer Alliance (Translational Cancer Research Centre)
  • a third consecutive NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship to Professor Leanne Togher to develop communication treatments for people with traumatic brain injury and dementia. Professor Togher was subsequently awarded the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship - Clinical Award for the top ranked female Research Fellowship in Clinical Medicine and Science in 2017.

Meet our researchers

Leanne Togher

Professor Leanne Togher
Research leader

Professor of Communication Disorders Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Over 30 years ago, as a young speech pathologist, I realised that speech pathology treatment for people with a traumatic brain injury can have a significant effect on their capacity to talk to their friends, maintain family relationships and return to work.

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Since then, my academic and clinical career has been devoted to finding effective and efficient treatments for people with brain injury, and supporting their families. Recently, my research has been using the latest digital health technology advances to deliver communication treatment for the more than 50 million people worldwide who have a brain injury.

I ensure the work of my team is translated into clinical practice through my alliances as a Member of the International Brain Injury Association Board of Governors and international leader of its Social Cognition and Communication Special Interest Group, and as a contributor to the American College of Rehabilitation Medicine Cognitive Rehabilitation guidelines.

Tricia McCabe

Professor Tricia McCabe

Professor of Speech Pathology

The very first patient I treated, when I was an undergraduate student speech pathologist, had childhood apraxia of speech and made very slow progress in therapy. Childhood apraxia of speech is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to move the muscles used in speech. This experience, combined with a serious case of curiosity, lead me to develop new and effective treatments. These treatments have revolutionised how speech pathologists worldwide treat this previously intractable condition.

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Of course, big change is not a one-woman show – I would not be where I am today without my students, who have contributed ideas, inspiration, hours in the clinic and their own drive to help children and families with this rare condition.

Changing practice can be challenging but our childhood apraxia of speech research website is teaching speech pathologists the basics of these new treatments. By making new treatments easy to access and learn, we are facilitating translation of our research into clinical practice and changing the lives of affected people around the world.

Meet our research students

Maryane Gomez

Maryane Gomez

As a busy expat clinician working in the United States, I was scrambling to prepare a treatment session for one of my first clients with childhood apraxia of speech. Initially drawn to the Kaufman Speech-to-Language Protocol (K-SLP), as it was readily available at my facility, I began to realise that although the treatment approach was widely used by American speech pathologists, there was no research available to support it.

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For this reason, I decided to become involved in childhood apraxia of speech research and analyse the effectiveness of the K-SLP approach.

After consulting with many researchers in Australia, I linked up with Professor Tricia McCabe at the University of Sydney, who is now my PhD supervisor. Since I enrolled in the postgraduate program, Tricia has been committed not only to helping me develop my research but to grow as a researcher.