Dr Maggie Ellis, world-renowned dementia expert from the University of St Andrews, has been shortlisted as a finalist for Scotland’s leading entrepreneurial development programme for Higher Education.
Dr Ellis’ shortlisted project, Astellis, helps people with advanced dementia by offering a range of training programmes based on a non-verbal communication technique called Adaptive Interaction. The project is shortlisted in the Converge 2019 Impact Challenge category.
Developed by Dr Ellis and co-founder Professor Arlene Astell, Adaptive Interaction has received worldwide recognition in both academic and care communities. The technique was initially developed to facilitate communication between people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Adaptive Interaction was developed as a means of helping family members engage with their loved ones whose dementia has reached the latter stages. Diagnosed individuals can often become non-verbal and more socially isolated as a result. Dr Ellis and Professor Astell’s technique helps to reintroduce those with dementia back into the social world.
This non-verbal communication method builds on the fundamentals of communication, including mirroring, turn-taking, sounds and movement.
Astellis works with people to develop a shared language between communication partners over time. There is little to no involvement of speech during interactions and through observation and imitation, caregivers focus on learning the interaction of partner’s communicative repertoire.
This approach has been successfully applied to other clinical populations such as congenitally deaf-blind individuals and people with severe autism.
Dr Ellis works in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University and is a leading figure in the battle against Alzheimer’s.
She says, “My main career ambition is to improve the lives of people living with dementia, their friends, families and caregivers via translational research.”
The Converge Awards Final will take place at the V&A in Dundee this month, where academic entrepreneurs will represent institutions from across the country.