As an intern at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks, I participated in the weekly aphasia group. Each week, I saw members given countless opportunities to participate in meaningful conversation. Within the two-hour group, members discuss current events, their families, past travels, work experience, and any other personal interests. Communication is not limited to spoken words in this group. Instead, the use of all forms of communication are used to help members express their thoughts. I admire the work being done in this group and I hope the following blog will provide you with a glimpse into this weekly aphasia group.
The Aphasia Group Experience
As the members of S.L. Hunter’s SpeechWorks’ aphasia group gather around the table for weekly group therapy, I see Sandy, the group’s Communication Disorders Assistant (CDA) turn to a new member and say, “Congratulations on your new grandchild! Was it a girl or a boy?” The new member smiles and announces, “girl!” Each individual in the group begins to congratulate the new member. Some members offer a congratulations through spoken words and others through the exchange of a smile. As the conversation continues with questions such as, “how many grandchildren do you have now?” I am filled with admiration for the personal and meaningful conversation that occurs in the group. I think to myself, “It is conversation that matters. This is what any person with or without aphasia would want to discuss.”
Discussion using all modes of communication
Next, a discussion regarding the week’s current events begins. Sandy begins a discussion on the CN Tower Edge Walk. She picks up a black sharpie and begins to write key words that will be used in the discussion. “The CN tower,” she says while pointing to the word “CN tower” on the sheet in front of her, “is allowing visitors to walk around the building’s very top edge.” Sandy pauses again and draws a simple sketch of the building. Next, she draws an arrow pointing to the top of her drawing to indicate the EdgeWalk occurs at the very top. Some of the members begin to chuckle. As I watch Sandy continue to unravel the discussion, I am struck by both Sandy and the group’s volunteers’ use of every mode of communication to aid each member’s understanding of the topic.
Once the summary is complete, Sandy and the volunteers begin to lead the group through discussion questions. “Would you want to participate in the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk?” the volunteer asks. She then writes the key words of the question to help each member better understand. Each member of the aphasia group is given a turn to answer. One member verbally answers “no”, another shakes her head no, and another points to the word “yes” on the answer sheet created by the volunteer. I notice how Sandy and the group’s volunteers create opportunities for each of the members to express their opinions in their preferred mode of communication.
Providing everyone with an opportunity to contribute
The final half hour of the aphasia group is spent playing a game. I notice how the game “Headbanz” is adapted to provide each member with an opportunity to play. Verbal, written, and visual support is provided to help each member take a turn in the game. For example, a volunteer writes the words “person, place, and thing” on a piece of paper. Members are provided with the opportunity to form a verbal answer or to point to one of the three words written down. Again, I notice how members are provided with the individual support they need to actively participate.
I am very privileged to have been given the opportunity to participate in this aphasia group. The members seemed to enjoy themselves and keep coming back week after week.
Rebecca is a recent graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology Program at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through her internships, she has gained experience working with toddlers, school aged children, and adults with a variety of communication disorders. While Rebecca enjoys working with kids and adults, she has a special interest in working with kids who have language disorders.