Check out the Aphasia Center’s member survey results, financials, and the difference they make as told by the people who are helped…
What do you say to someone who might not be able to respond as expected?
I am a proud volunteer and supporter of the Aphasia Center of West Texas and have been for many years. I didn’t know anything about Aphasia when I was first asked to serve. I’ve gained an extensive amount of knowledge about aphasia resources and aphasia facts along the way. But I’m a long way from being an expert.
As a volunteer I spent most of my time on the business side participating and spearheaded initiatives such as marketing, finance, fundraisers and other tasks necessary to operate a non-profit.
Over the years I’ve interacted with many of the members, the people with aphasia whom our efforts support. I attended an aphasia conversation group, required for all board members. I’ve heard personal stories of those who have graciously and humbly shared. I’ve gotten to know some of the members personally and discovered family connections, it’s a small world after all, and even tag teamed speaking engagements to bring awareness to the mission of the center.
But interacting with someone with aphasia wasn’t easy for me, especially in the beginning. What do you say to someone who might not be able to respond as expected? I was afraid of making others uncomfortable or frustrated. I was afraid of feeling uncomfortable and frustrated myself. I’m forced to deal with my own communication deficiencies and insecurities. Was I ready to make up the difference for what someone else wasn’t able to contribute to the conversation or was that the wrong thing to attempt anyway?
I struggled with how to pose questions. I found myself wanting to increase the volume of my speech which, I know, doesn’t help. I’m guilty of avoiding eye contact because I’m not sure of how to react even though I understand exclusion is often described as the worst part of dealing and living with aphasia.
Just as people with aphasia must undergo aphasia therapies and learn adaptive communication techniques, the rest of us must become familiar with and practice what it means to be aphasia friendly and communication friendly (the same techniques used here work to overcome a wide array of communication differences).
These helpful communication strategies and aphasia communication techniques give me the confidence to initiate and engage in conversation and work to develop relationships with people who have so much to contribute.
• Don’t leave anyone out
• Remember, aphasia doesn’t diminish intellect
• Ask simple and direct questions
• Slow down – talk about one thing at a time
• Use pictures – drawings and diagrams are helpful
• Use gestures – body language goes a long way
• Be patient
• Ask permission first before attempting to finish someone’s sentence
• Start with yes or no questions
• Confirm understanding (the other person’s and my own)
With the help of the Aphasia Center of West Texas I’m learning and using these aphasia friendly communication strategies. I appreciate the safe and non-judgmental environment in which to practice. I enjoy seeing others successfully navigate conversation despite these barriers and I’m thankful for their patience with me. The people at the Aphasia Center of West Texas, volunteers, members, staff and other contributors, are very much worth the effort of getting to know.
By Rachael Reinert
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I am someone who attended the first Aphasia Center of West Texas fundraiser, Chocolate Decadence 11 years ago. But not until I was invited to become a board member did I truly begin to understand aphasia, what causes aphasia or what living with aphasia might entail.
I thought aphasia was only about the loss of speech, but I have learned that it can rob a person of language in many forms – speaking, reading, writing and numbers. Another thing I learned – aphasia affects everyone differently.
For those who have suffered a stroke or traumatic injury to the brain, our Aphasia Center gives folks tools to re-engage in life’s interactions and activities. Plus the caring and creative staff gives hope to those with aphasia. I’ve learned that there is no cure for aphasia, but with individualized speech therapy for aphasia followed by aphasia group treatment, lots of healing can take place. Living with aphasia and living a full and fulfilling life with aphasia is possible.
I am proud to be a part of the board of directors, excellent staff and volunteers who work within the wonderful physical- and communication-accessible environment that is the Aphasia Center of West Texas.
By Donna Robertson
Philanthropic Family of the Year Award goes to Cece and A.J. Brune
ACWT joins our region in honoring Cece and A.J. Brune selected as Philanthropic Family of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. As 29-year West Texas residents, Cece and A.J. support a broad range of organizations, including the Aphasia Center of West Texas.
11 years ago, when Cece heard the plight of stroke survivors struggling with aphasia, she invented a chocolate-themed fundraiser called Chocolate Decadence. She chaired both the event’s first year (which raised one month of the Center’s operating expenses) and the 10-year-anniversary event (now consistently raising nearly 50% of an entire year’s operating funds).
Executive Director Kitty Binek reflects, “Every nonprofit dreams of volunteer impact this far-reaching. Cece’s meticulous standards match the Aphasia Center’s bar of excellence. Her attention to detail shows in every interaction whether an event, recognition of staff efforts, or the way she motivates others to serve. Cece and A.J. consistently invite their friends to our events, broadening awareness of aphasia as well as broadening our circles of support.”
The depth of sharing from Cece and A.J. Brune has changed our region, making West Texas a better place for all of us.
Volunteers at the Aphasia Center are the lifeblood of our program.
Volunteers are challenged with jobs requiring specialized skills, hours of training and high levels of accountability. We utilize various tools and adaptations to create an environment that provides communication access and offers a holistic approach with the goal of helping people with aphasia re-engage in life. As a result, we ask our volunteers to make an uncommon commitment requiring an enormous degree of passion and dedication.
Having spent the past seven years as a program volunteer Marilyn Mathis has proven herself to be a rare treasure. As a retired school teacher, Marilyn began serving in our computer lab where she assists members in using aphasia-friendly software programs. Rarely absent, she consistently offers patience, kindness and support. She also acts as a conversation group facilitator and leader of our weekly Book Club. However, these duties are only the beginning. She can also be seen stuffing envelopes, pulling weeds, answering phones, working special events and performing a myriad of other humble tasks.
That being said, the greatest endorsement came in 2013 when along with others, Aphasia Center members nominated Marilyn for the Sweetheart Award – the most prestigious honor a volunteer can receive from the Center, and she won.
Though all the hours and tasks are invaluable, Marilyn’s biggest contribution is the lifeline she offers to Aphasia Center members who can no longer read or travel. As Book Club facilitator, Marilyn has become skilled at all the adaptive techniques necessary for people with aphasia to have an authentic conversation after listening to a good book. This skill, coupled with her passion and heart for those who know more than they can say, caused her to begin asking our members, many struggling with mobility, if they could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? One by one as they expressed the places they longed to see, she researched and came back with a way the group could virtually travel to their chosen destinations. She sparked conversation and connection, transporting people who could use a vacation off to the location of their dreams.
All of at the Aphasia Center of West Texas applaud Marilyn Mathis as winner of the Judge Pat Baskin 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award.
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.
Speech Therapy in Midland Texas – next steps to aphasia recovery
Are you or a loved one struggling with aphasia after stroke or other brain injury? Are you wondering what to do after speech therapy Midland Texas, speech therapy Odessa Texas or after speech therapy in any of the surrounding counties has come to an end? Then look no further.
Our services are available to residents in Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, Andrews, Lamesa, Pecos, Ft. Stockton, Monahans and surrounding communities.
The Aphasia Center of West Texas is the go-to resource for holistic, innovative communication therapy using the life participation approach to aphasia recovery.
Our speech therapy goals for aphasia are not to treat the condition medically, but rather our treatments for aphasia are geared toward improving someone’s ability to re-engage in life’s interactions and activities in spite of aphasia. The Aphasia Center of West Texas is the “next step” in care after, or in addition to any medical treatment for aphasia. We do not take Medicare or supplemental insurance.*
Once the initial evaluation and aphasia assessment have been completed, our services are offered on a membership basis and include special aphasia groups like these:
• An introductory Living with Aphasia course
• Conversation groups
• Aphasia Apps course
• Computer lab
• Book club
• Music group
• Poker club
• Photography group
• Toastmasters Gavel Club
Program fees and aphasia treatment activities are billed on a monthly basis. Meals and transportation are available for additional fees. * Sliding scale fees and scholarships are available. No one is ever turned away for inability to pay.
Contact us at 432.699.1261 for more information.