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Dysphagia or Swallowing Changes after ABI

Speech Pathology Australia states that:

‘Dysphagia’ is the term used to describe any difficulty with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, controlling saliva, taking medication, or protecting the lungs from food and drink ‘going down the wrong way’. It can be a problem with keeping the lips closed so that food, liquid or saliva doesn’t dribble out.

Sometimes the first sign of a swallowing problem is coughing, gagging or choking when eating or drinking.

Swallowing problems can mean food, drinks or saliva get into the lungs and this can cause lung infections (Pneumonia).


Lady sitting at a table with a meal

When difficulties with eating and drinking exist, the impact can be significant.  For example, people may experience:

  • Embarrassment and frustration
  • Social isolation & reduced community participation
  • A decline in mood, with symptoms of depression and / or anxiety
  • Loss of identity and sense of self

ABIOS provides the following services to assist individuals with brain injury, family and carers, and community services:

  • Consultancy: Provide professional advice as to what strategy or service the person could benefit from to manage their dysphagia.  This assistance can be contextual, and may include training or education.
  • Resources: ABIOS has developed some practical resources to assist in understanding and managing a swallowing impairment.  The resources are aimed at three key groups: people with acquired brain injury, family and carers, and community services (therapy, medical, respite, housing, lifestyle support, vocational, and study or school).  These resources are available below or by directly contacting our service.
  • Support: as part of a rehabilitation program ABIOS may provide general dysphagia education However support may also involve referring to a speech pathologist for specialist advice, and working collaboratively with those other health professionals, as well as families, carers and service providers to maintain community participation for the person with the brain injury.

The following resources provide information sheets to assist with understanding swallowing difficulties. They have been developed to provide practical information and ideas for people with brain injury, family, friends, support workers & health professionals:

A man preparing to eat an apple 

People eating out at a cafe


A group of Professionals clasping hands in a show of support

for People
with ABI


Resources for
Families and
Support Workers


Resources for

For eligibility for an ABIOS service please read Direct Client Services.
To arrange training from ABIOS please read ABI Education.

Contact ABIOS

Last updated: 12 July 2022