Service Learning for Speech Pathology Students

by Hailey Bell

I have been volunteering in the Aphasia Initiative for almost two years. Throughout my experience here, I have learned so much that I would not have learned any other way. I know how to assist people better and I have also learned so much about the members and their lives that I feel I can connect with them on a more personal level. Throughout the semesters, new members have not only been welcomed into the group but also our family. One of my favorite aspects of this group is how welcoming all the members are- this applies to accepting new students and also new members. Aphasia Initiative members want to help the students to learn, and the members also want new members to feel accepted because they understand how hard life can be. Every time I go to the Aphasia Initiative, I am inspired to work harder and to be more understanding, because you never know what people are going through.

I work at a local Whole Foods Market, and here I have been able to use the skills that the aphasia initiative has given me to help others. While at work, one of my coworkers was given a card from a customer that read “I have Aphasia” and listed some tips in order to help her talk to the customer. My coworker had never heard of Aphasia, and still struggled to make conversation with this customer. However, I was able to use the skills the members of the Aphasia Initiative have taught me in order to talk to the customer and show my coworker how to effectively communicate with somebody with aphasia. Until this moment, it did not dawn on me that my coworkers did not know what aphasia is. I was able to use this as a teaching moment, and now almost all of my coworkers know what aphasia is and know how to effectively use aphasia-friendly communication strategies. Without the Aphasia Initiative, I would have not learned any of these things and would not have been able to inform my coworkers about them either.

Looking forward, I am excited to see what my last semester in the Aphasia Initiative will bring me. I love meeting new members and also learning more about our current members. I am upset I am graduating and leaving this group behind, but I am so thankful for my time and experience her and know that it will forever make me a better speech-language pathologist. Thank you to Arin and Jen for organizing the group, and to all the members for coming each week!


Dr. Harnish Awarded Grant From NIH

Dr. Harnish Awarded $2.3 Million Grant from NIH to Investigate Genetic Links to Recovery from Aphasia

Stacy Harnish (Associate Professor in Speech and Hearing Science) with co-investigators Christopher Bartlett (Nationwide Children’s Hospital), Jeff Pan (Biomedical Informatics), Stephen Petrill (Psychology), David Osher (Psychology), and Vivien Lee (Neurology) were awarded a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.  The project will investigate patient-specific factors that may influence response to therapy for language impairment after stroke, or aphasia.  Results from this work will assist with better estimation of prognosis for stroke survivors with aphasia, which could empower patients and families to make more informed health care decisions about how to pursue the most appropriate rehabilitation services based on their unique characteristics, such as genetics, cognitive skills, and brain structure after stroke.

Congratulations, Dr. Harnish!

Yoga Happiness

Yoga Happiness  by Anna Evans

In addition to our regular communication focused programming, we believe that it is important to address and support the other challenges our members face on a daily basis.  One of these areas of difficulty is mobility and balance.  In order to meet this need, we have partnered with Burgundie (Burg) Miceli, a local yoga instructor at Happiness Yoga Studio.

Burg initially became involved with our group after making a donation to our Open House Raffle and subsequently offering to teach yoga classes to our members.  Burg has a personal connection to our mission and cause since her mother has also experienced aphasia.  Since then, Burg has been working with our clients for almost a year and has taught 2 classes per month each semester.  We have been so lucky to have her as part of our team and enjoy every session with her.  Burg explains that “We have fun doing it! Even those that grumbled about doing yoga (you know who you are, wink wink!) still did what they could and enjoyed some aspect of it!”  Additionally, Burg reflects that she has seen significant improvement in the balance of our members.  “Overall, just being able to move their bodies and work on both left and right sides was good for everyone!”  Lastly, in addition to balance and strength training, Burg has also shared specific breathing techniques to help cope during stressful situations.

Just like many of our members, Burg is in a transition of her own.  In the next month, she will be moving to Missoula, Montana to work with aphasia clients full time at the Big Sky Aphasia Program at the University of Montana.  We are sincerely grateful for Burg and her contributions to the OSU Aphasia Initiative and wish her the best of luck in her next endeavor!

Art Therapy at the Initiative!

Art Therapy at the Initiative! by Anna Evans

Sure, art can be fun and relaxing but did you know it can even be therapeutic?  Here at the Aphasia Initiative, we recognize the importance and benefits of incorporating multiple modalities into our therapy and the recovery process of our members.

For the past two years, Tanya Pirasteh has been running art classes and coordinating different projects for our members.  Tanya originally became involved with the Aphasia Initiative through her friendship with our very own client, Max McClain!  Typically, Tanya runs art sessions twice per semester and our members love this opportunity for creative expression.  Her favorite part about working with the Aphasia Initiative is “introducing new artists and ideas… [the members] will generally try anything: they’re pretty fearless!  If I tell them to try and draw something a lot of people would consider difficult, they just go for it!”.  Additionally, Tanya notes that “the greatest outcomes I’ve seen personally are some genuinely great drawings in this group.  Keeping in mind a lot of folks are working with their non-dominant hand, it is really quite impressive.”

In addition to working and engaging with our members, Tanya has also “loved spending time communicating with some family members and getting to know the group as a whole. Jen and Arin are caring individuals and I have learned so much from being a teeny part of their work.”

We are excited to continue this creative partnership in the future and can’t wait to see what projects and ideas Tanya has in store for us!

152 million Reasons to Care about Supported Conversation Training for All Healthcare Providers

 by Erin Stefancin

“And then it hit me”…isn’t that how all the best stories begin?

I had the pleasure of attending my first professional conference in early March of this year: The Aphasia Access Leadership Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, meeting and learning from pioneers of the Life Participation of Approach to Aphasia (LPAA). I was overwhelmed by the passion in the room targeted at improving communication access for all persons with aphasia. A major focus of the conference was effecting change at a systems level: how can we improve communication access for persons with aphasia within healthcare settings and how we can encourage all healthcare providers, not just speech-language pathologists, to embrace the ideology of supported communication.  Dr. Nina Simmons-Mackie spoke so eloquently about the 2.5 million Americans living with aphasia and the staggering costs to society due to poor health literacy- for persons with aphasia.  And then it hit me… Aphasia Gain: the benefit of supported communication for all.

Being a graduate student in the final semester of my program, I have had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of clinical settings in a short period of time. I was taking a break from my intensive semester focused on Auditory Verbal Training and Early Intervention at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to attend Aphasia Access. During Dr. Simmons-Mackie’s talk, I began thinking about my studies in American Sign Language with Deaf Studies. “Deaf Gain” is a term that was coined by Aaron Williamson in 2005 to describe the accommodations and modifications that benefit Deaf people that can also benefit society as a whole. From widened hallways to allow for communication and easier visual access to use of gestures within baseball games by the umpire, society as a whole can benefit from these communication supports. With “Deaf Gain” those with physical disabilities have easier access in hallways and all nosebleed season ticket holders know what call the umpire made.

This led me to the principles of supported communication in conjunction with the LPAA principles. Persons with aphasia and society as a whole can benefit from these ideologies…a new outlook of Aphasia GainThese ideologies include using verbal and written instructions, simplified language, visual supports, increased wait time and use of body language and gestures to supplement spoken language communication. All of these tools allow persons with aphasia to better access the information being portrayed, but implementation of these strategies can truly do even more. These tools can benefit persons with traumatic brain injuries and dementia in which their memory can be impacted, giving them verbal and written feedback to increase carryover of therapeutic tasks. It can benefit those with low health literacy skills or low English proficiency in which visual support of images to supplement text and simplified language can increase comprehension. The benefits of these accommodations go beyond those with aphasia. Aphasia Gain can lead to equal communication access for all.

So, what is the potential impact? Who can truly benefit from the implementation and consistent use of communication that can be accessible to all?

Member Story: Self-Defense by David

David Herriott is the epitome of putting your passion into practice. He has always been an avid participant of jiujitsu, and his stroke did not change that. In fact, David advocates that his physical-wellness and awareness of the capabilities of his body have helped his recovery process drastically. He felt that other members of the Aphasia Initiative could benefit from a class on fitness and self-defense.

He, in partnership with his friends Devan Quitter and Sean Foster, from the Columbus State Self Defense Program,  planned and organized a class in which fundamental body movements carried over into self-defense techniques. Members learned how to fall safely, how to get back up, how to protect their heads and necks, how to adapt to the vulnerable parts of their bodies and defend themselves.  The group courageously volunteered in many of the demonstrations. David was a huge inspiration, reminding us that if you put in time and effort, and love what you do, anything is possible. Thank you, David!

Interprofessional Education in the Aphasia Initiative

The Aphasia Initiative has been working on expanding its interprofessional relationships in order to bring our members the best possible service to members and provide educational opportunities to students. This past summer, Lisa Juckett, COT/L, Assistant Professor in Health and Rehabilitation Science at OSU, brought her service learning students to the Aphasia Initiative. The OT students performed assessments, developed home programs, and learned about aphasia and most importantly– how to communicate with someone who has aphasia.  We are grateful for this new partnership and can’t wait until next summer!

Meet Kassidy! She is a second year in the Master of Social Work program here at OSU. We are excited to have her working with us this semester.