There is a strong connection between mental health and communication skills with more and more research into this area in recent years.

The link between mental health and communication skills goes both ways; communication skills can be impacted by mental health and communication skills can impact mental health.

Speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) can impact a person’s ability to seek mental health treatment, their engagement in therapy and the outcomes of mental health treatment.

Impact of communication needs on mental health:

  • Long term communication difficulties may contribute to social isolation and loneliness.
  • Communication difficulties may impact development of self-esteem, self-image and personal aspirations.
  • Communication difficulties may contribute to psychological and behavioural difficulties due to the frustration involved in not being able to convey thoughts and messages effectively.
  • Possibility of reduced self-advocacy because of difficulties expressing thoughts and emotions.
  • Impact on quality of life.

Impact of mental health on communication:

  • Effects of depression on communication may include tearfulness, irritability, decreased social awareness and interaction, impaired attention, and concentration as well as delayed information processing.
  • Effects of anxiety on communication may include reduced social awareness skills and social interaction abilities.
  • Effects of psychosis on communication may include reduced language and social skills, difficulty getting conveying messages effectively, difficulty understanding the messages of others, reduced language processing, difficulty reading facial and social cues.

Speech, language and communication competence are important in the development of relationships, academic and vocational achievement and mental wellbeing. Therefore, Speech Pathologists are an important part of the mental health care team.

Why are our recall abilities so important?

Your memory recall ability is a very important skill to have. If you cannot recall important pieces of information, then what is the point of learning this information in the first place?

Memory recall is where you recall information that you have previously learnt. Training this skill ensures that we can use information we have previously learnt, in the future. There are numerous activities and games included below, that can improve and assist your memory recall skills. These activities can be as short and simple, or challenging as you wish them to be.

Brain yoga

  • Make a fist with your left hand and extend your thumb, then make a fist with your right hand, extending your pinkie. Swap, so your left pinkie is extended and your right thumb. You can do the same activity with tapping your head and rubbing your stomach. Make sure to keep swapping hands!
  • Another option is to do basic everyday activities, such as brushing your teeth, with your other hand.
  • These activities are meant to aid in coordination, which strengthens neural connections, improving memory functions.

Card games

Memory card games test a person’s short-term memory and their ability to remember patterns. This is meant to be a simple and fun way for you brain to engage and activate areas related to pattern recognition and recall.


Playing chess uses short and long-term memory, executive functioning, and information processing speed. You must monitor and adapt your plans and behaviour to achieve your goals. You also need to analyse the chess board and remember possible strategies to implement while remembering your opponent’s previous moves and guessing what they might do next.

Creative skills

Learning new skills engages your brain in different ways than it might have previously. New and cognitively demanding skills, such as quilting, photography and other creative occupations enhance memory function.


There is a strong correlation between crosswords and delayed onset of dementia. Crosswords stimulate and challenge the brain, especially if you are new to them. If they’re too easy, you may need to find another activity to engage your brain.

Learning a new language

Learning a new language stimulates parts of the brain that most other activities do not and can also play a role in delaying the onset of dementia. Bilingualism increases and strengthens connectivity between different areas of the brain.

Learning how to play a new musical instrument

This activity exercises the parts of the brain that are responsible for coordination. This skill may also benefit cognitive development in a young brain and help protect against cognitive impairment in an ageing brain.


Puzzles activate cognitive functions of perception, mental rotation, working memory and reasoning, as your brain must sort through colours and shapes to assemble a visual picture. The more pieces a puzzle has, and the less range of colours on the picture, the more difficult the puzzle. Putting the correct piece in place also releases dopamine, which helps concentration levels. If your puzzles are getting too easy and you’re getting too bored, you can choose a smaller puzzle, flip it over and then only use the back of it.

Rebus puzzles

Rebus puzzles combine the use of illustrated pictures with individual letters to depict words or phrases. E.g., the word, “been”, would be depicted as a picture of a bee next to the letter “n”. The phrase, “too bad”, would be depicted as “BAD BAD”.

Regular exercise

  • Regular exercise can improve memory, cognition, and motor coordination, not to mention, lower stress levels.
  • Dancing engages areas in the brain related to rhythm and balance. Dance has also demonstrated positive effects on memory, planning and organisation.
  • Elite athletes for high demand sports have demonstrated improved attention and faster information processing speeds. Sports can be physically demanding, which is good for the body, and some require cognitive skills, such as:
    • Sustained attention
    • Planning
    • Multitasking
    • Ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations.


Getting enough sleep is crucial as this is when your brain converts short-term memories to long-term. The recommended amount of sleep is between 7 and 9 hours each night. Sleeping for this amount of time boosts memory recall, reduces mental fatigue and helps regulate metabolism.


Completing a sudoku uses your working memory, as you must come up with numbers to fit the space and remember them. Studies have discovered that people who practice sudoku frequently, have better cognitive function.

Take care of yourself

  • Eat well – make sure key vitamins are in your diet and take supplements if necessary.
  • Drink lots of water – if you don’t, the body and the mind can become weak and tired.
  • Get enough sleep – the brain needs sleep to change new memories into long term memories.
  • Manage stress effectively – limit stress in your life, using physical relaxation techniques, thought awareness and rational positive thinking and imagery.
  • Cut out bad habits – limit caffeine and alcohol, sit down less and do more of the physical activities you enjoy.

The suitcase or tray game

  • In a group, take turns. The first person says something they will pack in a suitcase, then next has to say the first, and come up with a second, the third has to say the first and second before coming up with a third, and so on. The first to miss an item loses.
  • Ask someone to put a bunch of items on a tray. Look at it for 3-5 seconds. Put a cloth over it to cover it. Write down a list of everything on the tray.
  • These games test your short-term memory recall abilities and will improve these skills if you keep practicing and testing yourself daily.

Video games

Video games that include action, puzzles and strategy components may lead to improvements in attention, problem solving and cognitive flexibility. Some games also force you to multitask and react to new stimulus while trying to achieve an objective. This can improve working memory and ability to recall information while solving a problem.

Once you have incorporated some of these activities into your daily life, you should begin noticing an improvement in your memory recall abilities, and, possibly, in some other areas as well.

If your child has difficulty communicating with others, it is usually due to a delay in speech or language, or sometimes both. So what is the difference?


Speech, also called articulation, is how words are pronounced. Children acquire sounds in a particular order. They also present with difficulties with speech sounds that are normal at certain stages of their development. These difficulties are called phonological processes, and they typically disappear by themselves as children develop skills.

Below is a table of phonological processes, and the age they are typically acquired

ProcessExampleAge Remediated
Voicingpig -> big3.0 years
Word-final devoicingred -> ret3.0 years
Final consonant deletioncup -> cu_3.3 years
Frontingkiss -> tiss
girl -> dirl
3.6 years
Assimilationdog -> gog3.9 years
Weak syllable deletionbanana -> _nana4.0 years
Cluster reductionsnake -> _nake4.0 years
Glidingrabbit -> wabbit5.0 years
Stopping/f/ fish -> tish
/s/ sock -> tock
/v/ van -> ban
/z/ zip -> dip
/sh/ sheep -> teep
/j/ jump -> dump
/ch/ chip -> tip
/th/ this -> dis
3.0 years

3.6 years

4.6 years

8.0-8.6 years
(Caroline Bowen, 2011; Kilminster and Laird, 1978).

The following speech sound substitutions are atypical. If your child is presenting with any of these, contact a Speech Pathologist to discuss intervention.

Backingtap -> cap
dad -> gad
Affricationcar –> sar
Initial Consonant Deletionbag -> _ag
Medial Consonant Deletionspider -> spi_er
Vowel errorspig -> peg, apple -> ipple
Collapse to one or minimal sounds‘I want to go there’ -> ‘my mo moo mo mere’

Sometimes children need speech pathology intervention to assist their speech sound development. If you are concerned about your child’s speech skills, contact Harrison Speech Pathology to discuss this further and arrange an initial assessment appointment.


Language is the ability to communicate by sending and receiving messages. It can be separated into two categories, receptive language, and expressive language.

  1. Receptive language is the ability to understand information, both verbally and visually, for example written, picture or gestural form.
  2. Expressive language is the ability to communicate your needs, wants and ideas successfully, via verbal or non-verbal means. Non-verbal expressive language includes body language, gesturing,  using pictures or symbols, writing and sign language.

The following table outlines typical language development

AgeReceptive Language SkillsExpressive Language Skills
12 months• Understand about 10 words
• Respond to their name
• Recognise greetings (hi, bye)
• Recognise a few familiar people and objects
• Make eye contact
• Start to use sounds, gestures and say words
• Continue to babble
• Copy different sounds and noises
18 months• Understand up to 50 words and some short phrases
• Follow simple instructions
• Point to familiar objects when named
• Point to some pictures in books
• Say 6-20 single words
• Copy lots of words and noises
• Name a few body parts
• Use objects in pretend play
2 years• Follow simple two part instructions
• Respond to simple ‘wh’ questions (eg: ‘what’ and ‘where’)
• Point to body parts and pictures in books when named
• Understand ‘in’ and ‘on’
• Say more than 50 single words
• Put two words together (eg: bye mum)
• Use tone of voice to ask a question
• Start to use ‘mine’ and ‘my’
3 years• Follow more complex two part instructions
• Understand simple ‘wh’ questions (eg: ‘what’ ‘where’ and ‘who’)
• Understand ‘same’ and ‘different’
• Sort items into groups when asked (eg: food vs animals)
• Recognise basic colours
• Say four to five words in a sentence
• Use a variety of words for names, actions, locations and descriptions
• Ask questions using ‘what’ ‘where’ and ‘who’
• Talk about something in the past
• Have a conversation but may not take turns or stay on topic
4 years• Answer most questions about daily tasks
• Understand most ‘wh’ questions, including those about a story they have recently heard
• Understand some numbers
• Show awareness that some words start or finish with the same sounds
• Use words such as ‘and’ ‘but’ and ‘because’ to make longer sentences
• Describe recent events
• Ask lots of questions
• Use pronouns (eg: ‘he’/’she’ ‘me’/’you’ and negotiations (eg: ‘don’t’ ‘can’t’)
• Count to five and name a few colours
5 years• Follow three part instructions
• Understand time related words (eg: ‘before’ ‘after’ ‘now’ ‘later’
• Start thinking about the meaning of words
• Understand instructions without stopping to listen
• Begin to recognise some letters, sounds and numbers
• Use well formed sentences understood by most people
• Take turns in longer conversations
• Tell simple stories with beginning, middle and end
• Use past and future verbs correctly (eg: ‘went’ ‘will go’)
(Speech Pathology Australia, 2020)

If your child is not meeting these milestones, contact Harrison Speech Pathology to discuss their language development and arrange an initial assessment appointment.

Speech is the ability to use and coordinate your lips, tongue and mouth to make sounds. Children learn to use these sounds and how to put them together in words.

They develop from the time a child starts using words until the early years at school.

Speech Sound Development

Speech Pathologists are often asked questions about the typical age of speech sound development. Children acquire sounds in a specific order at certain ages.

Most children develop the following sounds at the ages below:

  • 3 years old – /m, n, p, b, ng, w, h, d, t, y, g, k, f/
  • 4-5 years old – /f, l, sh, ch, s, z, j/ and sound clusters e.g. /sl, sn, bl/
  • 6 years old – /r, l, v/
  • 8 years old – /th/

Speech Intelligibility

Some children can have trouble saying sounds clearly which might make them hard to understand. Children’s speech generally gets easier to understand as they get older.

While children develop at individual rates, there is a general pattern to children’s sound development. The following ages are based on percentages of speech typically understood by family members:

  • 5 years old – 25% of speech is understood
  • 2-3 years old – 50% of speech is understood
  • 4 years old – 100% of speech is understood

Speech Sound Difficulties 

Speech difficulties may be present when children have persistent difficulties saying words or sounds correctly. A speech sound delay is when sound errors or substitutions that are typical in development are occurring later than expected. A speech disorder describes errors that occur that are unusual sound errors or error patterns.

Speech delays can affect a child’s communication in many environments, their confidence, and interactions with peers, teachers and family. As children reach school-age, speech delays can impact their ability to learn to read and write.

It is important to seek advice from a Speech Pathologist if you are concerned about your child’s speech as it is essential to begin intervention as soon as possible.

 How can I help my child?

There are many strategies to assist your child in developing their speech.

  • Show your child that you are interested in what they say, not how they say it.
  • Provide lots of modelling – watching or hearing someone demonstrate a new skill is very important to learning.
  • Get face to face with them so that they can watch the way you say words
  • Use technology, games and their hobbies. This is particularly beneficial to older children to increase their motivation to learn and also improve retainment of the skill.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech sound development, please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology and speak directly to one of our trained therapists.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Blood flow to the brain is essential as it carries oxygen and nutrients to keep the brain working. If blood flow stops to an area of the brain the cells begin to die. A stroke may be caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or a bleed (haemorrhagic).

If you suspect yourself or another person is having a stroke you should phone 000 immediately. Early medical treatment is an important factor for survival and recovery.

Look out for the acronym FAST. If you see any of these symptoms seek help.

F – Face: do they have a drooping face and/or asymmetry?

A – Arms: are they unable to lift one or both of their arms? have their arm(s) lost strength?

S – Speech: is their speech slurred?

T – Time: each passing minute is important so call 000 immediately

What are the common effects of a stroke?

The effects of a stroke depend on where the stroke occurred and the extent of damage to the brain. The following are common effects of a stroke:

  • Weakness in one side of the body (often the opposite side of where the stroke occurred in the brain)
  • Poor movement and difficulty coordinating movements
  • Not recognizing one side of the body (neglect)
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulties understanding language
  • Difficulties saying words and sentences
  • Problems chewing and swallowing food, drinks, and saliva
  • Incontinence
  • Voice issues
  • Changes to senses – taste, sight, hearing, smell, touch
  • Vision loss
  • Fatigue
  • Change in mood and personality
  • Difficulties solving everyday problems
  • Fatality

How can a speech pathologist help a person who has had a stroke?

Speech pathology may be involved in the initial acute management of a stroke and long-term therapy.

Initially a speech pathologist may assist in determining how the stroke has affected communication and swallowing. The therapist may recommend and teach Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems (AAC) so the person can communicate and make choices about their medical plans. They may also assist family, friends, and medical staff to communicate effectively with the person. Additionally, a speech pathologist may change the person’s diet and food/drink to ensure they can eat, drink, and take medications safely.

Following initial medical treatment, a speech pathologist is commonly involved in long term management to assist the person to return to previous activities, or to assist them to manage their changed functioning. A speech pathologist may help with the following:

  • Implement AAC systems to support a person’s specific communication needs
  • Support a person who cannot think of the word they want to say
  • Support a person who says the wrong words
  • Help a person to say sounds precisely so people understand them
  • Treat voice problems
  • Assist with memory
  • Improve problem solving
  • Provide therapy for social problems
  • Help manage diet changes so the person is safe to eat a drink
  • Train others in how to support successful communication
  • Educate family, medical staff, workplaces
  • Provide compensatory strategies

If there are swallowing and communication concerns it is important to start therapy as soon as possible. Intervention applied within the first 12 months is often when the quickest and concentrated gains are made.

How can I help someone who has had a stroke communicate?

There are many strategies to assist someone to communicate. It is best to first chat with your speech pathologist to determine the most effective strategies to apply.

The following are some common recommendations:

  • Speak in short sentences
  • Write words down, or encourage them to write
  • Pause between sentences/ideas so they have time to think about what you have said
  • Give them time to think of what they want to say and for them to communicate their message
  • Make sure you have their attention before you begin talking to them
  • If they have neglect of one side of their body, stand on the side that they can recognize
  • Talk about here and now topics
  • Monitor fatigue and talk about important topics when they are well rested
  • Stick to routines
  • Reduce distractions such as radio or tv noise in the background
  • If in a group setting limit it to just a few other people and make them aware of how they can help the person
  • Let the person know when you have understood them
  • Do not assume the person does not understand you
  • Talk to the person, even if they cannot talk back to you
  • Include the person in conversations
  • Respect the person’s wishes

If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke and would like assistance in managing the changes that have occurred, please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology and speak directly to one of our experienced therapists.

In most jobs, communication is used constantly throughout the day. This may include greeting a customer, sending an email, answering the phone, speaking with management, providing and understanding instructions for a task, or writing a report. 

Successful communication generates idea sharing, increased productivity and straightforward conflict resolution. Miscommunication in the workplace frequently causes business shortfalls in addition to breakdowns of working relationships.

Before a person even gets a job, they often rely on their communication skills to demonstrate their skill sets. Resumes, phone calls, and interviews are all based on the skill of communication and are integral in the good seeking process. 

It is clear to see how some people with communication difficulties can struggle to achieve employment or perform to an optimum level in the workplace.

Can a speech pathologist help me in preparing for job seeking?

If you have a communication difficulty a speech pathologist can assist you in the goal of seeking employment. They will first help you to determine specific areas that you are having difficulty in, and then provide individualised therapy to target these. 

They can assist you to improve your communication in all stages of job seeking including:

  • Asking establishments for job application processes
  • Navigating websites and understanding the business you are applying for
  • Understanding job descriptions
  • Making and answering phone calls with potential employers
  • Creating an effective resume to communicate individualized skill set
  • Conducting yourself in a way which matches the job you are applying for
  • Understanding interview questions
  • Effectively answering interview questions
  • Managing and troubleshooting common communication problems which occur in interviews and application processes
  • Advocating for your needs and goals in the job role
  • Accepting an employment offer and understanding the information that follows

Can I get support if I already have a job but want to communicate better?

As communication does not stop after you have obtained a job, a speech pathologist can assist job holders. This includes verbal, written and social communication. Additionally, speech pathologists can assist people to access and use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in the workplace. 

Areas which a speech pathologist can help you in include:

  • Writing emails, reports etc.
  • Literacy skills
  • Understanding instructions and following procedures
  • Making sentences which effectively convey your message
  • Understanding other people’s language
  • Improving memory of spoken information
  • Understanding a range of workplace vocabulary
  • Saying sounds clearly
  • Managing and problem-solving issues with voice volume
  • Practicing safe voice use to avoid voice injury
  • Making appropriate conversation with others
  • Answering the phone in a confident and expected social manner
  • Determining how to vary interaction styles based on your communication partner
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution using communication
  • Choosing the right AAC option for your workplace
  • Setting up or adding to and AAC system to suit your needs
  • Providing strategies of how to include people who use AAC
  • Assisting you to advocate for your needs

What should I expect during appointments?

Your first appointment will be dedicated to finding out about factors which influence your communication, including your areas of strengths and weaknesses.

From here your therapist may conduct formal and informal assessment to determine how therapy can be tailored to your specific needs and personal goals.

The frequency of ongoing appointments depends on your lifestyle, presenting issue, and therapist recommendations. 

Your speech pathologist will work with you to determine the best approach. Newly learnt skills will be applied in a manner which mimics natural workplace environments to assist generalisation of these skills to all contexts.

This may include mock scenarios such as responding to an interview, phoning the therapist to discuss a business proposal, using technology to create emails and search information, and managing social conversations with the therapist.

For young learners, motivation may be facilitated through the use of games and apps. 

After your appointment your therapist will typically provide you with easily achieved home tasks between sessions.

This will continue your learning outside of appointments, in addition to assist you to transfer your new skills to all environments. 

The therapists at Harrison Speech Pathology are experienced in working with all ages and therefore are able to assist people with their communication during any stage of their working life. Get in touch to find out more.

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that causes impairments in the areas of communication, social skills, and may cause restricted and repetitive behaviours. 

It ultimately effects how the person is able to interact with the world around them. The level of impairment and specific challenges varies widely between people. Some people may have difficulty using verbal language, while others may struggle with only social skills.

Does Autism mean my child won’t learn to talk?

Every person will develop communication differently. Approximately 30% of people with autism are classified as nonverbal. 

This label does not necessarily mean the person cannot say any words, and instead it refers to an inability to complete daily tasks using adequate communication. These people may use gesture, speech generating devices, or pictures to better communicate. 

How does Autism effect communication?

Two aspects of communication skills include language and social skills. Language refers to understanding and using words and sentences, whereas social skills refer to the application of these to interactions. 

The impact of autism on language depends largely on an individual’s social and intellectual development. Children with autism may experience a regression of skills, be slower to develop communication, not use verbal communication, have difficulty understanding others, or need more time to communicate. 

Some children with autism may have rich vocabularies and be able to talk about a variety of subjects in detail, however, may struggle with social rules. This may include difficulty making eye contact, understanding body language, starting a conversation, using conversational social rules, using politeness markers, staying on a topic, or developing play skills.

How can I help my child?

There are many strategies to assist your child in communicating:

  • Get them engaged and interested in interactions. The first step in assisting any child with language difficulties is to get them interested in others and ready to learn. With very young children try to play the same way they do, for example stacking blocks, or lining up cars. This shows them you are a safe play partner and can play in a way they find satisfying and fun.
  • Provide lots of modelling. Watching or hearing someone demonstrate a new skills is very important to learning. Avoid testing the child, such as asking them to repeat everything you say or asking them lots of questions.
  • Show them how communication is beneficial. It is important that skills being taught will benefit their day to day activities. This may include showing a young child how making a sound can help get a toy they want, or for an older child, how learning about conversations can assist them getting a job.
  • Give them time to communicate. Give your child time to think of and use their message. They may also need more time to understand what you have said.
  • Use technology, games and their hobbies. This is particularly beneficial to older children. Think about ways that their communication goals can be used in tasks they are interested in. This can increase their motivation to learn and also improve retainment of the skill.
  • Include the child in their goal setting. For older children make sure they have a say in what they wish to work on. They may be more concerned about having a range of topics to speak to friends about compared to their sentence structure.
  • Directly teach and show the child unspoken social rules.

How can I help an adult who has autism and communication difficulties?

Everyone has the need and right to communicate. Never assume that a person who does not talk, cannot understand or communicate. You can assist an adult by trying to understand how they best communicate. 

This may include interpreting their gesture, using pictures, helping them to internet search a phrase or picture, asking yes/no questions to better understand their message, or using their own communication device. It is also helpful to give the person time to make their message, particularly if they are using a device. 

If an adult with autism appears panicked or overwhelmed use simple language or their device, and if appropriate help them find a calm space. During these times they may not be able to communicate what they need.

If you or your child experience communication difficulties, please do not hesitate to call Harrison Speech Pathology and speak directly to one of our trained therapists.

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