OSU Aphasia Initiative

This past summer, I served my internship as an undergraduate assistant for the OSU Aphasia Initiative, a group therapy program for persons living with a neurogenic communication disorder as a result of a stroke or brain injury. In addition to handling administrative duties, as well as assisting with supportive communication strategies during sessions, I partnered with one of our members to help bring his vision of a self-defense class for the group to life. We worked with the Columbus State Police Department to create an adaptable class for people of all ability types. 

I was exposed to the importance of interdisciplinary team care for speech therapy as I watched this project grow from the early idea stages through the final product. David and I collaborated with professionals from diverse fields, including speech pathologists, occupational therapists, police officers, jiujitsu world champions, caretakers, and members of the community. Not only did this project help demonstrate the benefits of physical awareness and engagement for members, it showed me the positive impact that community access and involvement can provide as well. 

This has been transformational to me as I begin to form my professional identity, as I now view recovery from a more holistic lens. It has transformed me into a future clinician with interprofessional values, which will assist in giving clients the best quality of life possible. My hands on experiences will translate into the classroom and beyond, and I will carry these perspectives with me as I move into higher education, and an eventual career.

My partnership with David helped our relationship grow immensely, and led to the aforementioned transformation. He helped my view of the world transform as I learned to focus on the “abilities” portion of disabilities. Planning and organizing this project with David taught me the importance of the life participation approach to aphasia, in which intervention is aimed towards a more rapid return to active life.

 For David, this meant continuing his passion for physical fitness and jiujitsu, and manifesting that interest in a way that allowed him to teach his peers. Furthermore, I was an active participant in the sessions with the members. We learned fundamental body movements that carried over into self-defense techniques. The agenda included how to fall safely, how to get back up, how to protect our heads and necks, and how to adapt to the vulnerable parts of our bodies to defend ourselves. 

Furthermore, the self-defense event itself was incredibly eye opening to me. In our program, we are constantly advocating that having aphasia indicates a loss of language, not a loss of intelligence. Therefore, seeing members use their voices to speak up as confident individuals who are capable of defending themselves was inspiring. The active participation from the entire group reminded me of the tenacity and willingness to improve that each individual possesses, and that was incredibly empowering to witness. 

The change that has come about within me will be vital to my future. I am an aspiring speech-language pathologist, and after volunteering at the Initiative for two years, I have formed a deep interest in working work with and furthering research on adults with neurogenic communication disorders. I was honored to have the opportunity to serve this incredible organization as an intern, and was even more thrilled to be included in the implementation of this specific self-defense project. David’s drive to execute the class in a way that was beneficial to the entire group has motivated me to be self-determined in my own goals, learning that the path to achieving them can always be adjusted.

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