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About Synapse


About Synapse


Please find below some of our more frequently asked questions.


For more information, or a more comprehensive look at these (and other) topics, why not get the facts  through Synapse's Fact Sheets.


What is an ABI?

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is a spectrum disorder that refers to any type of brain damage or neurological disorder occurring after birth. Over 2 million Australians are affected with some form of ABI, with more men affected than women. Over 40% of people with an ABI have a co-morbid Mental Health issue. ABI is also over-represented in the prison population with 65% of people in Australian prisons reporting a Traumatic Brain Injury in a year in comparison with 32% of people in the community.


The use of a single term (ABI) can lead to the misconception that ABI is one disorder, with one cause and one set of symptoms. This is not the case. People may experience a combination of symptoms affecting their behaviour, personality, physical abilities, sensory abilities, thinking and learning.


Some common effects can include increased fatigue (mental and physical) and decreased speed of processing and/or responding to information - this can lead to the perception that intellect has been affected, which is often not the case. Some people may have difficulties with impulse control and insight leading them to behave in a way that is socially inappropriate and sometimes against the law, without the realization that they may have an ABI. Others may show physical changes, including loss of fine motor control and slurring of speech, leading them to appear intoxicated.

How do I get funding in Qld?

If you don't already have funding (i.e. no compensation claim or no Disability and Community Care Queensland funding) you may wish to investigate Disability and Community Care. Disability and Community Care Queensland deliver accommodation support services directly as well as funding non-government organisations to provide accommodation support. Applying for support through Disability and Community Care can lead to obtaining funding for support and/or supported accommodation. There can sometimes be a long wait on this list, however, as applications are ordered on a needs basis.
Many supported accommodation services, like Synapse, aren't given blocks of funding to cover client support needs. These services require each client to have funding individually (through either Disability and Community Care or  compensation funds) to cover the costs of support staff and co-ordination.
It can be confronting discussing personal circumstances or levels of difficulty being experienced, however the more openly and honestly levels of need are communicated to Disability and Community Care - the greater the understanding of the urgency and/or level of support needed will be.


You can contact Disability and Community Care on 1800 177 120 to discuss this further.

Where do I find Accommodation?

With regards to accommodation options, it is important first to assess what support may be needed. Each accommodation facility is equipped depending on the support required by the majority of their clients. Hostels are usually equipped for people who are able to complete personal care tasks without supervision - but who need support with cleaning and possibly meals. Other facilities (like Synapse's Supported Accommodation) can support people to complete community access, personal care, meals and just about anything.


I would strongly recommend, when it comes to deciding what facility is right, that you go and take a look at the facility itself and speak with the staff. If you don't already have funding (compensation funds/funding from Disability and Community Care/self funds) then you may wish to visit the Funding question for more information about how to access supported accommodation.


If you are in a crisis situation, and are at risk of becoming homeless, you may wish to visit Homelessness Australia.

My loved one is in Rehabilitation, what can I do to help?

In the initial stages of an ABI, many people look for ways in which to assist their loved one's rehabilitation. Synapse suggests, rather than reading information about rehabilitation techniques that aren't specific to the individual, that you speak with the attending Physiotherapist or Speech Pathologist. These rehabilitation specialists will be familiar with your loved-one's situation, and will be able to tell you what they've been working on, and possibly what you can practice with your loved one when the rehabilitation team are not in.


Perhaps also take a look at Synapse's Fact Sheet: Family Guide to Low Cost Rehabilitation or Rehabilitation Tips.

When should I see a Neuropsychologist?

Neuropsychologists and Clinical Psychologists can often help with regards to Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Neuropsychologists are often better equipped with regards to ABI, as they specialise in studying the brain (rather than mental health issues, like a clinical psychologist). They may be able to offer practical strategies to manage your difficulties. Neuropsychologists can also undertake Neuropsychological Assessments to determine where an individual's difficulties and strengths may lay.


For a list of Neuropsychologists in your area you can go to and click 'find a psychologist'. If you look under the 'advanced' tab, you can search specifically for Neuropsychologists in any area you need.


Neurologists, Neurosurgeons and Rehabilitation specialists will also be important in the initial stages of ABI to ensure you are medically well and stable. Often you access these people through you GP or during your time at the hospital. During Rehabilitation there are often specialists available that have extensive experience supporting people with ABI (e.g. neurophysiotherapist as opposed to a physiotherapist). It can pay to find these specialists, as they will often have a better understanding of your situation. Try speaking with your local Brain Injury Association and they may be able to give you more information.

What is a Neuropsychological Assessment, and how do I get one?

A Neuropsychological Assessment is a measurement of someone's cognitive capacity. Memory, processing speed, and language will often be assessed to assist with understanding where specific deficits are. This will aid when deciding what management strategies and rehabilitation will best benefit the patient.


There are a few ways to get a neuropsychological assessment. Firstly, you can go to a GP and get a referral to see a Neuropsychologist, and they will perform this for you. This can get quite costly, however, and isn't usually covered by Medicare.


Secondly, you could look into seeing a psychologist at a University Psychology Clinic. This is usually a more cost-effective option, as the University Students charge a lower fee. This may take a little longer than going to see a professional Neuropsychologist, however, and often won't provide medico-legal assessments.


You can also try to go through the hospital to get access to a Neuropsychologist who will conduct an assessment. It is always best to try to get in contact with the hospital that responded to the original injury, as they will have the medical records which may assist with the assessment. If this isn't possible, however, try going to the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at your local hospital. There will often be a long waiting list if you choose this, however.

What is the different between Respite and home help, and how do I get them?

As a support person for someone with Acquired Brain Injury, it's very important to make sure you're taking care of yourself. Taking time away and having a break can improve the relationship for yourself and for the person you're caring for. Remember they might appreciate the break also, having the chance to interact with other people.


During Respite a support person can either come into your house to care for your loved one, or your loved one can visit a Respite Facility.


Home help, on the other hand, is an opportunity for you to be able to gain a little support around the home, to assist you to live independently. This can come in the way of transport to get groceries, cleaning services, personal care, and many other things.

In Queensland, you can contact Commonwealth Respite  and they will give you information on what short term respite is available in your area.


Commonwealth Respite 
Short term and emergency respite 

Ph:  1800 052 222


Also available:


Carers Advisory Service 
A national number for Carers to call for initial emotional support, information and referral.

Ph:  1800 052 222


What are all these scans? MRI, fMRI, CT, EEG, PET?

X-rays, Computerised Axil Tomography (CT or CAT scans), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans, SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography) scans, EEG (electroencephalogram) and other tests may be performed to establish the nature and extent of a patients injuries.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) both scan the brain in cross sections. MRI does this using magnetic fields and radio frequencies and CT uses X-rays. The MRI has a higher resolution than CT so trauma visible in an MRI scan may go unseen on a CT scan. Some Brain Injuries (mostly diffuse injuries) are not visible on either scan even though they may still cause the individual difficulties. CT scans are better at detecting fresh blood (to visualise haemorrhages) while an MRI scan is better at detecting the remnants of old haemorrhaged blood. CT scans may be done frequently after the injury to monitor the amount of brain injury, as MRI's are quite expensive and difficult to perform.


fMRI Scan
Through similar methods to an MRI, a functional MRI (fMRI) measures activity in the brain. While in the MRI machine, the patient is usually asked to perform certain tasks during which brain activity will be recorded. The brain is scanned every 2-3 seconds during an fMRI and the blood oxygen level dependant (BOLD) - increased when areas of the brain are active - attenuates the signal, showing what parts of the brain are active. This allows us to visualise what areas may be having difficulties, and how the brain is functioning following a Brain Injury.


The (EEG) Electroencephalogram records the ever changing but tiny electric signals coming from the brain using electrodes placed on the scalp. Slowing of electrical activity in some areas of the brain while the person is awake may indicate a lesion. Widespread slowing may indicate a widespread disturbance of brain function. A Quantitative EEG is capable of creating a map of the brain's electrical activity throughout the day. Comparison with a typical EEG makes it possible to localise areas of slowing of electrical activity.


PET Scan
Positron Emission Tomography measures concentrations of positron-emitting radioisotopes with-in the brain tissue. The brain uses glucose for energy so glucose molecules are given a radioactive "Tag" and then inhaled by the patient. A large Geiger counter is able to detect areas of the brain that are not using enough glucose.


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