Computers can be effective communication tools for people with aphasia. Clients at the University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP) participate in a computer lab five days a week that is coordinated by a speech clinician and a student assistant.
Two to three clients work on specific programs in a group session. The programs address therapy goals such as reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking and memory skills.
For some of our older clients, their first exposure to a computer is through the UMAP computer lab. They can be intimidated and afraid that they will not be able to learn how to use technology to enhance their individual therapy. Others have not used a computer since they had a stroke and are unsure of their skills.
With careful guidance and support from the clinical staff, many older clients have positive experiences. Programs are selected carefully to offer clients success, independence and improvement in their language skills. Peers also encourage them to use these tools and are excellent role models for those who are less tech savvy. Family members need to be supportive and reinforce the use of computers by their spouse or partner.
If clients do not have the stamina for daily computer sessions, their schedule can be modified to meet their needs. During the computer lab sessions, some may need guidance from a volunteer or student intern.
Ongoing family education is critical to supporting a client's use of the computer in therapy as well as at home. Family members frequently observe and assist their loved one in the use of computer programs.
Most of our clients enjoy using technology and find it helpful in their daily lives. They continually improve their language recovery by working on specific programs, and they find they have more independence and control over their lives. It is very empowering for them to be able to communicate once again with family and friends and to re-enter their community. The overall result is a more positive outlook.
Mimi Block is clinical services manager at UMAP. For more information, visit www.aphasiahelp.com.