Virtual reality helps speech pathologists

14 May 2021

How can virtual reality help speech pathology researchers?

uq speech pathology virtual reality research
Learn more about studying speech pathology at UQ (Photo credit: UQ)

According to University of Queensland researchers, immersive virtual reality (VR) technology is helping to treat communication disorders. Dr Atiyeh Vaezipour from the RECOVER Injury Research Centre said the results provided a foundation to inform the design, development and implementation of a VR system to be used in the rehabilitation of people with acquired communication disorders.

“Communication disorders can result in significant barriers to everyday life activities, and commonly require long-term rehabilitation.” Dr Vaezipour said.

“Traditionally, speech pathologists deliver therapy in places such as hospitals and health centres, where there are limited opportunities for real-life interaction. VR applications could simulate social communication situations that are difficult to create within the clinic in realistic, personally relevant, and safe environments. VR could be used as a rehabilitation tool in communication environments that mimic the richness, complexity and dynamics of everyday situations.”

Dr Vaezipour interviewed and surveyed speech pathologists following their use of an immersive VR kitchen environment.

“Participants in this study were positive about the usefulness of VR and its potential applications to the management of communication disorders within speech language pathology,” she said.

“Speech pathologists considered VR to be a viable option for observation of communication performance in more life-like environments, bridging the gap between communication in the clinic and communication in external environments where distractions are present, such as background noise or visual complexity. VR could provide valid contexts for people to practice their communication skills, build confidence, and interact with others.”

Ms. Danielle Aldridge, a speech pathologist working with the team at RECOVER, said, “the beauty of a virtual environment is that people can re-enter that same scenario over and over again as many times as they need to, to really nail their communication skills in those contexts and then build up their confidence to apply the skills and strategies that they have, in a real-life context.”

Dr Vaezipour said a human-centred design process was critical in developing virtual reality tools for use in clinical practice.

“Immersive virtual reality applications will require customization and adaptation capabilities that enable tailoring to the specific target goals, and physical, cognitive, and communication needs of the client. Incorporating human factors from the early stages of design and development could enable the successful adoption of novel technologies in rehabilitation.” she said.

The study is published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.

About the UQ Speech Pathology program

The UQ speech pathology program is an accelerated program for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree. The program 2.5 years in length and will prepare graduates for a career in speech path across any of the diverse areas in which speech pathologists practice, such as education, health or private practice.

Program: Master of Speech Pathology Studies
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intake: November
Duration: 2 years
Application deadline: Offers are made throughout the year based on academic merit and subject to availability in the program. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible as this program can fill quickly. Firm application deadline is generally August 30.

Star your application to UQ Speech Pathology School!


Are you interested in studying speech pathology? We can help! Contact OzTREKK’s Speech Pathology Admissions Officer at to learn more about your options.