Aphasia is a condition that robs people of the ability to communicate and can affect one’s ability to express and understand verbal and written language. This condition is typically found in individuals who have suffered brain damage from illnesses such as a stroke, and affects more than two million individuals in the United States. Dr. Larry Boles, Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), is creating a community group to help individuals who have been diagnosed with aphasia to regain their communication skills. “This group is a conversation group where individuals gather to share their stories in an attempt to regain conversations so that they can rebuild relationships with family and friends,” said Boles.
While providing therapy to a client, he noticed an increase in feedback and interactions from the client when he asked the client’s husband to give the cues for verb and noun pronunciations. This response inspired him to organize community groups. “Family members spend a lot of time with the client so it only makes sense to incorporate them into the therapy. And since then I’ve always encouraged couples therapy.”
The aphasia group will consist of clients who are already being seen at the Pacific Speech, Hearing and Language Center on campus. Many were referred to the group by former graduate students who were out on externships in area hospitals and clinics and by current SLP students working in the clinics. Dr. Boles also plans to have students lead the community group discussion, which gives students experiential learning opportunities.
“I’m hoping that with the students’ involvement in the community group they will gain a sense of humanity and gain confidence in conversation-based therapy and not rely solely on linguistic-based therapy,” said Dr. Boles, who anticipates seeing positive changes and an increase in “quality of life” in both the clients and students.
Dr. Boles has provided one-on-one therapy sessions to nearly 500 clients who have been affected by aphasia over the course of his career. He works closely with experts at the Aphasia Center of California in Oakland. Through this collaboration Dr. Boles says he is “fortunate to have access to other experts” in the field.
In addition to the community group, Dr. Boles has conducted research on “establishing alignment in aphasia couples therapy.” He found that when the spouse acts as the therapist, the clients can speak in longer phrases and have increases in elaboration and utterances. Dr. Boles presented this research at the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) Convention in March and will be presenting it again at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention in November.
To learn more about aphasia, visit the National Aphasia Association at www.aphasia.org.
By Dua Her '09