June is National Aphasia Awareness Month

Guest post by Sara Palmer, PhD

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month—the perfect time to celebrate people living with aphasia and the aphasia programs that help them, from traditional speech language therapy (offered by hospitals, outpatient clinics, and home health agencies) to long-term language recovery programs based in the community. Nearly 2 million Americans are living with aphasia, an acquired communication disorder usually caused by a stroke or brain injury that interferes with expression and understanding of spoken language, writing and reading—but not intelligence. Although recovery from aphasia often continues over many years, insurance coverage for speech therapy services typically runs out after several months. Fortunately, community based aphasia programs offer the next step for continued progress.

The Snyder Center for Aphasia Life Enhancement (SCALE), now a specialty program of The League for People with Disabilities, is one of a small number of free-standing aphasia centers in the country—and the only one in Maryland—that uses the life participation approach to aphasia (LPAA). This model promotes long term recovery of language in people with aphasia who are no longer receiving traditional speech therapy services. It has proven successful in helping people with aphasia achieve their communication goals—and equally important—re-engage in family, social, and community life. SCALE offers individualized treatment, group therapy, and assistive technology to enhance language recovery, while encouraging active participation in group and community activities, boosting self-confidence, and supporting families in coping with aphasia and learning better ways to communicate with their loved ones. Like other LPAA programs, SCALE’s classes and projects are developed based on the interests of participants and their families and are focused on enjoyable and meaningful life activities—hobbies, sports, creativity, socializing, and employment or volunteer work.

Chris Ihle’s Story

After her stroke in 2007, Chris Ihle couldn’t walk or talk; “awful” was the one word she could say, and how she felt most of the time. Though Chris understood what others said to her, she couldn’t express her ideas or have a conversation. After months of rehabilitation therapies, Chris was walking better, but still felt frustrated, anxious, and isolated due to aphasia and her inability to drive or use her right arm. She spent much of her time at home, and was afraid to be left alone.

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