Helping Aphasia Through Art

Harriet Rollitt, MA Fine Art

Using art to express emotions is nothing new, but if you also have to overcome physical difficulties just to lift a pencil, creating a ‘work of art’ takes on a whole different meaning.

Aphasia is one of the most frustrating aspects of life after a stroke for both patients and their loved ones as it affects all forms of communication using words.

However, a partnership approach between speech and language experts, North Tyneside Adult Learning Alliance, Newcastle University’s fine art students and the Stroke Association has shown that art can prove a valuable form of expression when words literally fail.

In just eight weeks the 16 artists - some new to art and others revisiting old skills - produced an exhibition of original and reworked pieces ranging from portraits to abstracts, forming new friendships and building confidence in the process.

'All the works are ways of expressing their determination to play a full part in life despite their aphasia,' said Dr Rose Hilton, speech and language therapist at Newcastle University, who runs North East Trust for Aphasia (NETA).

'Although many people with aphasia also have physical problems from the stroke - such as impaired use of their right hand - skilled introduction of art as a tool for self expression can provide release and open new avenues of communication.'

'This all contributes to re-building self confidence - a vital part of the long rehabilitation process for the whole family after a stroke or brain injury.'

The ncl+ Foundation supported exhibition ran at the University’s Ex Libris Gallery, next to the Hatton Gallery in the Fine Art building in July 2010.

Extract from article published by Newcastle University Press Office in Newslink on 13 July 2010