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Continued Intensive Therapy Benefits Adults with Aphasia

With intensive speech-language therapy, adults with aphasia are able to recover their communication abilities. Intensive therapy is defined as nine or more hours per week. It is best if these hours occur in increments three days each week.

The University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP) offers 23 hours of intensive therapy weekly. Upon completion of the six-week program, many clients want to maintain an intensive therapy schedule to continue to strengthen their language and communication skills. As a result, the program has designed a therapy program for home that will stimulate further recovery.

Certain principles are critical to the success of a home program: The more conversation opportunities, the better. Language stimulation needs to involve a meaningful exchange of information between people. This includes both listening and speaking – and can happen at:

  • Book clubs
  • Support groups
  • Dinner clubs
  • Sporting events

Each of these activities creates ongoing opportunities for adults with aphasia to communicate verbally or to use compensatory strategies, such as gestures, communication notebooks or writing.

Language stimulation can be combined with formal therapy to achieve the goal of nine or more hours of therapy each week. An individual with aphasia can attend weekly speech-language therapy sessions with a speech-language clinician and also participate in communication activities with others.

Here are some ways to continue intense therapy at home:

  • Ask your clinician to be an advocate for your family member with aphasia and offer referrals for therapeutic options in your home community. Your clinician can train volunteers and respond to questions as needed. If you live near a university or college, students in health care and education are often ideal resources to provide additional language stimulation.
  • Find volunteers who can work with the person with aphasia on the computer. There are many good computer software programs that stimulate language skills, including reading, writing and word recall. A benefit of using the computer is that it promotes independence and builds confidence in the individual with aphasia.
  • Get involved in a book club led by a volunteer or a person with aphasia. This is an excellent resource that helps people with aphasia reconnect with reading for pleasure and promotes positive social engagement with others. You can work with your speech-language clinician or a professional at your public library to form a book club.

It is important for adults with aphasia to re-enter their community and engage in recreational activities that they enjoy. Previous hobbies or new interests should be pursued to help learn to compensate and develop new strategies for activity participation.

Clients in the University of Michigan program bowl, golf, attend sporting events, shop at the farmers’ market, attend concerts and plays – the list is endless. It is important for people with aphasia to get out and participate. This requires engaging with others, which in turn promotes successful communication and language recovery. Ultimately, these social encounters bring hope about the future.

By: Mimi Block, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clinical Services Manager
By: Joanne Marttila Pierson, Ph.D., Associate Director, University of Michigan Aphasia Program

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"This is an excellent resource that helps people with aphasia reconnect with reading for pleasure and promotes positive social engagement with others. You can work with your speech-language clinician or a professional at your public library to form a book club"

Building Language Skills at Home

  • Minimum of nine hours a week of therapy is recommended
  • Encourage opportunities for conversation
  • Speech-language clinicians can be a resource for therapeutic options in your community
  • Look for opportunities to engage in the community through hobbies and social events
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