Pacific Students Offer Creative Support for Aphasia Patients

Communication is central to any relationship.

So when someone experiences a communication disorder, speech often isn’t the only casualty — relationships can suffer too.

In January 2017, graduate students from Pacific University partnered with the Aphasia Network to offer a weekend camp at the Oregon Coast for couples affected by aphasia, a common disruption to the language center of the brain, often caused by a stroke.

“Usually, it’s one person who has aphasia and one person who has more of a caregiver role,” said Alex Bing SLP ’18, a second-year student in Pacific’s master’s in speech-language pathology program. “We’re focusing on what they do well and what they are successful at … and we’re working on other communication strategies that might work for them.”

Bing and others in the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders brought communication tools — but they also joined students from the Pacific University School of Occupational Therapy, who specialize in helping people adapt their environments and actions to accommodate different needs.

“Occupational therapy is often disguised in games and having fun, but there’s always a scientific reasoning behind it,” said Anna Hall, a first-year student pursuing her doctor of occupational therapy. “We are empowering the individual to make the choice. It’s disguised as a fun activity, but you’re still observing how they are communicating with people, how they’re handling their frustration … and how they’re dealing with their decision-making.”

For Pacific students, the camp was an opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare professionals and to practice their clinical skills. But they also hope they were able to serve camp participants with lifelong skills that will enhance their relationships and help them live with aphasia.

“The No. 1 thing that is lost in aphasia is words,” said Annabelle Watts SLP ’17. “I really hope participants who come here realize there is this gigantic world of communication and that here are all these other ways to facilitate that and have fun and re-engage with life and with their partner.”

May. 31, 2017