Air Force Veteran Uses Technology To Help Him Communicate After a Stroke
Alan has had a storied career as a successful business man, an Air Force veteran and a man of the theatre. His love of acting started as a hobby which led to working with some of the finest actors in the business. He studied with world renowned acting coach, Lee Strasberg, at the Actor’s Studio, where he studied with Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and many more acclaimed stage and screen actors. He performed as the lead in numerous regional musical productions. His love of performing carried into his conglomerate of beauty salons that he formerly owned, aptly named Stages.
He was a man who was constantly challenging himself both professionally and personally: he had owned 13 beauty salons, 2 small planes, was a hands-on dad heavily involved in his children’s’ school activities, spent 3 days climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro at the age of 50, and completed his MBA at Columbia University.
All of this came crashing down just three years ago when Alan suffered a catastrophic stroke that left him unable to say a word. Alan has aphasia. An avid exerciser until the day of his stroke, there was little to make sense of any more. When his family introduced him to the Adler Aphasia Center only two and a half years ago, his outlook changed slowly. At first, he was hesitant to make new acquaintances, much less get involved in their arts program, which involved acting opportunities in their annual musical production. He was used to tackling meaty acting roles before his stroke and now, just tackling life’s basic skills was a struggle. With encouragement by other people with aphasia in his program, he agreed to be a part of their annual musical production’s ensemble to get his feet wet again.
Thanks to a positive experience performing at their most recent musical production coupled with learning to use specific apps to augment his communication through the iPad within the Center’s Technology program, Alan has blossomed. His communication skills have improved greatly, he has developed a real camaraderie with others at the Center and he’s excited to come each week and be with his newfound friends.
Adler Aphasia Center’s Technology program has introduced the wonders and innovations of using assistive mobile devices, like iPads, to effectively communicate for their members with aphasia. The program started with a small group of people three years ago in their Research Based Individual Therapy program, where iTouches were customized to allow their members more communication opportunities. Today, their Technology program is so in demand that several settings are being offered to their members with aphasia on how to use and integrate mobile technologies to connect with their families and communities.
Using text-to-speech and visual cue apps, members are communicating with their iPads in ways they have never experienced before, using the information they are learning in our technology program. Alan hadn’t emailed anyone since his stroke. Using the tools he learned on his iPad with an app called Dragon Dictation, he independently wrote his first real email to his son who lives in North Carolina. Almost immediately he received a response from him, becoming emotional as he realized he discovered a new way to communicate with his family.
Alan is no longer passively engaged in conversation at the Center. His level of confidence and self-esteem has increased and he is sharing his life experiences with others at the Center, using his iPad. As his wife, Linda, likes to say, “He’s got his fire back.”
By Elissa Goldstein
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