Austin speech labs offered some insight into their work and how they are able to promote their services to help the Aphasia community. We loved hearing about their therapy approach and an uplifting success story they shared about one of the amazing young men they worked with.
Tell us about what you do and what services you provide to persons with Aphasia.
I am Shilpa Shamapant, President, Co-founder and Afternoon Clinical Director of Austin Speech Labs. Austin Speech Labs is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing intensive speech, language and cognitive therapy for stroke survivors as long as they need it. Vision of our organization is to improve quality of life for stroke survivors and their caregivers. We offer services in three areas to help stroke survivors become more independent and regain their language skills post stroke: 1) Intensive Speech and Language Therapy in office and tele-therapy; 2) Caring for Caregivers Program, and 3) Research to find innovative treatment for stroke survivors to reduce the length of recovery time.
Intensive Speech Therapy program offers services as Boot Camp sessions that are eight weeks long. Boot Camps are offered five times during the year. Clients receive anywhere from six hours to an hour of therapy per day. Hours of therapy per day are dependent on client’s endurance, needs and therapist recommendations. Therapy is focused on regaining conversation skills, reading and writing.
How do persons with aphasia and their families find you?
Our clients find us online, through word of mouth, referrals from Speech Therapists in the community and through other websites.
What is different about your therapy approach?
- We provide individualized intensive speech therapy for as long as a client needs it. Our cost is $10/hour and over 30% of our clients receive discounted or free therapy. We use over 400 undergraduate and graduate student volunteers from across universities in Texas and outside to assist speech therapists. This provides hands on experience to the students and helps the organization run the model at a low cost while continuing to give much needed individualized attention to stroke survivors.
- We provide caregiver program to facilitate communication between caregivers and stroke survivors and help caregivers take care of themselves as they are an important part of stroke survivor’s recovery.
- We provide Health Checkup for stroke survivors and caregivers to prevent strokes
- We conduct Research to find innovative treatments to reduce length of recovery time post stroke and publish data so stroke survivors across can benefit.
What do you like most about your work?
The most rewarding experience is having an opportunity to provide the much needed basic human need communication to stroke survivors as long as they need it. When I hear a word or sometimes even a sound from a stroke survivor, it gives us hope as speech therapists, but most importantly it gives hope and purpose to stroke survivors and their caregivers.
What do you find most challenging?
My biggest challenges are raising awareness about aphasia and educating people on neuroplasticity and that learning continues beyond insurance. Also educating people that communication is the basic human need. Another challenge is finding a way to create a low cost sustainable model is important as strokes are occurring increasingly in younger population according to American Stroke Association and providing access to therapy for long term is important so they can return to work.
Tell us about your favorite success story with a client
There are several stories to share but the one that comes to my mind is of a young stroke survivor who is a basketball coach, businessman, and a dad with two kids. He drove four hours once a week to receive our services for five years. It took him five years to regain more independence. Once he got to a stage where he could communicate better he went back to his home town and started practicing speech by giving presentations in his community. Today the client and his wife started a support group in their local community to help stroke survivors have better quality of life and Austin Speech Labs provides tele-therapy to help them receive speech therapy. This is the proudest moment for me to see our client not only improve in speaking but also helping other stroke survivors get better.
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