Living with Aphasia – aphasia goals and aphasia treatment after rehab therapies end.
Communication is essential and fundamental to life. When communication is impaired it also obstructs health – the ability to live life to its fullest potential – as defined by the World Health Organization’s definition of health.
Nearly one third of all stroke victims have aphasia. Aphasia from stroke or any brain injury is likely to linger because the language center of the brain has suffered permanent damage.
The goal of the Aphasia Center of West Texas, as well as other aphasia resources, is to emphasize treatment focused around meaningful outcomes and giving people with aphasia the tools to reengage in life and activities they deem important no matter a person’s situation or setting.
To evaluate meaningful outcomes we first look at what living with aphasia feels like.
An aphasia diagnosis can lead to feelings of isolation. People living with aphasia report feeling unproductive and marginalized by society. Depression and aphasia is an all too common occurrence. Contributing factors are low self-esteem, lack of confidence, embarrassment, and anxiety. Aphasia can make conversation uncomfortable and overwhelming. The uneasiness can cause a fear of going new places and a fear of navigating appointments and life in general. And families are not exempt from the ripple effect.
Participation is the key to meaningful outcomes of aphasia communication therapy.
In the aphasia community we talk about the life participation approach to aphasia rehabilitation. With the life participation approach we use adaptive communication strategies, and we teach those strategies to family, friends, anyone and everyone interested in helping people with aphasia access life’s interactions.
The Aphasia Framework for Outcome Measurement model (AFROM) is an approach coined by a team of renowned aphasia researchers and speech and language pathologists. The approach illustrates how aphasia is a language barrier whose impact can be minimized by environmental adaptations, skilled conversation partners, and participation in activities of one’s choosing. Success in all of these areas plays a critical role to self-identity and living with aphasia.
Removing communication barriers – making language “aphasia friendly.”
As part of the initial aphasia assessment and individualized aphasia treatment plan, we look for ways to simplify communication so interactions are easier for a person with a language barrier like aphasia. This includes identifying symbols for everyday objects and concepts. A common project for members is to, with the help of our staff, put together a book with symbols and pictures that tells the person’s life story. What a great tool for making new friends and showcasing personalities.
These aphasia friendly communication tools are reinforced in our safe environment at the Aphasia Center of West Texas through various groups, classes and activities. Furthermore, we work with families so that everyone at home can become familiar with aphasia friendly communication techniques.
But it doesn’t stop there, the goal of the aphasia community is to educate the public and encourage a more aphasia friendly environment in our society. Signs, menus and other materials that are considered aphasia friendly also work to overcome other kinds of language barriers including English as a second language, dyslexia, and the hearing impaired. We want everyone to have a better understanding of aphasia and know it does not affect someone’s intellect, only their ability to communicate. This knowledge will help health care providers, researchers, funders, policy makers and society at large to see the big picture and better respond to the needs of those living with aphasia.