teachers

Turning People with Aphasia into Teachers

People with aphasia may make the best teachers when it comes to aphasia. The Waterloo Wellington Regional Aphasia Program in Canada is pairing people with aphasia with doctors, nurses, and speech therapists for conversations to promote understanding. It ensures that medical personnel can learn and people with aphasia have the space to express themselves at the same time.

The Main Message

The main idea the group is trying to get across to medical personnel is that aphasia may impact communication, but it doesn’t impact intelligence. They need to understand that the adult in front of them is still an adult. The Canadian Broadcasting Company wrote about the initiative recently, following the story of one participant, Steve Goff. His wife, Carol explained that “because her husband couldn’t speak after the stroke, people would often treat him like a child — even one hospital nurse.”

Steve Goff offers this eye-opening question for medical personnel: “Imagine if the last sentence you say tonight is the last full sentence you will say for the rest of your life.” By placing medical personnel in the shoes of people with aphasia, they can better understand what people with aphasia need and communicate accordingly.

Why Educate Medical Personnel

It’s not just about dignity. It’s also about educating medical personnel so they can best care for people with aphasia. They need to know how to get important information from the individual as well as impart their treatment plan.

People with aphasia, especially those further along their treatment plan, are in a good position to express how to best communicate with people with aphasia. For instance, allowing the person with aphasia to speak for themselves as much as possible. Making sure they understand the question or any information you’re imparting about their treatment plan. One great analogy the group makes is that just as people with mobility issues need wheelchair ramps, people with aphasia need communication ramps; in both cases, when modifications are made, it allows the person to participate fully in getting around and understanding.

As Carol Goff states, “You don’t have altered intelligence, you just have to find a different way to communicate.”

It’s an interesting program. What would you want medical personnel to know about aphasia?

Image: Hush Naidoo via Unsplash

Comments

7 Comments

  • Anonymous
    June 21, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    An important step to understanding the humanity of others.

  • Marie Dodd
    July 18, 2018 at 8:31 am

    WE have been advise by two Neurologists that there is no point in my husband, who has Primary Progressive Aphasia in getting speech therapy . Is there any help he can get to keep what speech he has left? He still can communicate quite well most of the time but needs help at times of stress and with strangers.

  • Susan Carol Kirby
    July 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    If you are in Texas, contact Austin Speech Labs, http://www.austinspeechlabs.org. We are a non-profit providing low-cost, intensive speech-language therapy to stroke survivors. It is not true stroke survivors cannot improve more than a year after stroke, as was previously thought. We demonstrated people can still improve, with appropriate therapy, regardless of time since stroke, age, education or site/amount of damage to the brain. Specifically for Primary Progressive Aphasia we might refer to the specialist at the Dell Medical Center in Austin. Speech therapy would slow the disease and help maintain existing skills. Your husband could learn alternate means of communication and interact with others who have gone through a stroke, good support to prevent isolation and depression. We offer teletherapy throughout Texas.

  • kim jackson.
    July 18, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    I would like them to try to take into account that there are many variables that also effect my communication skills, and which would be very individual to me. (As it would be for us all.) So its important to be open-minded and flexible towards each different person. That i might be unable to express something right now, but in an hours time my capacity may be vastly better. That sometimes, rather than just assuming or telling me what i need, they could gently ask … What do you want? How can we do this in a way that enables you? Rather than infantilising and disabling me by the merit of their qualifications, they could instead help create a space in which their medical knowledge can be joined co-operatively with my own (very qualified) understanding of myself. To work as a team. PS Thank you, NAA. Salut,.

  • Margaret M Breen
    October 26, 2018 at 12:47 am

    It’s so hard to begin, we know what we want to say and to say it right but sometimes our words just do not come out the right way. Or am I able to write as use too – sometimes trying to read I have to reread something a few times to figure it out and breaks my heart as I was once able to read 90 pages in a book in one day and now struggle to get through one page. I do not talk as much as use to or talk on the phone as once liked to keep in touch with family or friends. The other day my poor daughter said what are you saying or talking about I knew and was trying to express myself and felt so bad for her as one who does not have it does not understand and I do not expect them too! I did receive speech therapy but the program is not how it use to be and my DR’s want me to learn and get more speech to heal and learn to accommodate me to not be nervous speaking as I try and watch every word I say. If I am tired – stressed, or just worn out I still stutter slur my speech or sound as my husband says like have cotton in my mouth it gets very frustrating to us – yet feel bad for family and friends trying to learn our new way of life as much as we are and it plain ole’ stinks. I wish they had more Dr’s to understand what we struggle with each day sure after a stroke and your put on medications PT OT etc they do not explain our deficits and what to expect. We need more Awareness and more people to help us cope learn and understand.

  • Margaret M Breen
    October 26, 2018 at 12:53 am

    It’s so hard to begin, we know what we want to say and to say it right but sometimes our words just do not come out the right way. Or am I able to write as use too – sometimes trying to read I have to reread something a few times to figure it out and breaks my heart as I was once able to read 90 pages in a book in one day and now struggle to get through one page. I do not talk as much as use to or talk on the phone as once liked to keep in touch with family or friends. The other day my poor daughter said what are you saying or talking about I knew and was trying to express myself and felt so bad for her as one who does not have it does not understand and I do not expect them too! I did receive speech therapy but the program is not how it use to be and my DR’s want me to learn and get more speech to heal and learn to accommodate me to not be nervous speaking as I try and watch every word I say. If I am tired – stressed, or just worn out I still stutter slur my speech or sound as my husband says like have cotton in my mouth it gets very frustrating to us – yet feel bad for family and friends trying to learn our new way of life! We want our life to be normal as it was once – I wish they had more things for us to understand what we struggle with each day and after a stroke and your put on medications PT OT etc they do not explain our deficits and what to expect. We need more Awareness and more people to help us cope learn and understand. One of my Neurologist is so supportive and comforting to talk with and she understands and says not to get discouraged as it takes time. I thank her for that so much yet I feel I’ve loss so much as family, friends who do not understand and as said not their fault.

  • Margaret M Breen
    October 26, 2018 at 12:58 am

    We need the support understanding for us to receive more support, care to keep our dignity and for other’s to know we are still very smart human beings who just need to be directing in the way to learn to communicate better. Thank you to NAA for your help.

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