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Group Work in Aphasia Recovery

Posted Feb 08 2010 12:00am
Group Work in Aphasia Recovery
To view a calendar of the Aphasia Solutions Network online, small groups, visit http://aphasiatoolbox. earthwebplace.com/calendar.htm .  Click on each group to view details such as: name and qualifications of the leader, cost, availability for participation, etc .  The calendar may be viewed in the weekly, monthly or agenda format.  
If you wish to register for group participation or if you have questions or comments, please contact Bill Connors at 724.494.2534 or bill@aphasiatoolbox.com.  We have plans for new groups over the next few months and your ideas are welcome. 
Here is a list of activegroups:
1.    Public Speaking for People with Aphasia
2.    Introduction to Our Software Group
3.    Men's Aphasia Bootcamp
4.    Aphasia Bootcamp
5.   Woman's Aphasia Club
6.   Aphasia Conversation Group
7.   Verbs Turn Me On Group
8.   Introduction to SentenceShaper2 Group
9.   Small Group (2-3 clients) Focused AphasiaTreatment
10. Oral Motor Coordination Group (www.sentenceshaper.com)
11. SLP Aphasia Roundtable and Grand Rounds
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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."          Margaret Mead.  
Traveling the pathway of aphasia recovery is not for sissies. Those who attempt that journey deserve the finest tools, resources and support known to mankind.  Well-designed and well-managed groups provide invaluable social support, treatment, and practice time (Connors, 2009) for people with aphasia [PWA] and those who assist them.
In this newsletter we will discuss the issues of : 
- what constitutes a group
- what are the benefits of participation in the group process
- a history of aphasia groups
- group resources.  
Our second newsletter in this series, scheduled for release later week, will discuss our online, small group program.
What is a group?
A group can be considered a collection of 3 or more people who share an identity and a purpose.  The group exists so that the members can help each other to achieve the goals of the group and the individual members by communicating, interacting and engaging. 
What are the benefits of group work?
As Benjamin Franklin said,"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  Collaborative work in groups provides important opportunities that individual treatment work lacks.  First, it provides the social support inherent in human interaction especially with those who share a life-changing event such as stroke or head injury. Secondly, it offers the opportunity to learn both directly and vicariously from others by observing, listening and watching.  Thirdly, social work demands communicative engagement, collaboration and reciprocal action, all critical for maximizing aphasia recovery. Fourthly, it creates favorable conditions for PWA to practice their skills learned in therapy sessions in a safe, comfortable social environmentwith their peers.  Finally, it provides the speech therapist the chance to do formative assessment with his/her client, assessing progress and growing the individual treatment plan by direct observation of the patient in action with others.
What is the history of group work in aphasia treatment?
A history of research exists supporting the effectiveness of group aphasia treatment (Kearns and Elman, 2001).   Identified benefits of group work presented in the traditional literature include: opportunities for socialization and practice of communication strategies; peer conversational interaction; supplement to individual treatment; and social support.  Mackie and Damico (2009) extended the discussion of aphasia group activities demonstrating how the use of engagement in groups can add affective engrossment and promote successful group interaction.  Antonucci (2009) discussed the benefits of using a specific treatment technique, semantic feature analysis, during discourse in a group context.
Resources:
Many aphasia clinics and centers such as the Stroke Comeback Center in Vienna VA (http://www. strokecomebackcenter.org/) and Speechworks in  Winnipeg Canada offer aphasia groups. We encourage you to visit (and support) the website of the National Aphasia Association (http://www.aphasia.org/ aphasia_community/aphasia_ community_groups.html) for a detailed listing of groups in the USA and Canada.
Now for the $20,000question:
How can we best take advantage of innovative technology and multidisciplinary fields of study to translate aphasia group research and evidence into affordable, accessible and effective tools for PWA traveling the pathway of recovery?   In our next newsletter later this week we will answer that question.

Are you too eager and enthusiastic to wait?  Contact us at 724.494.2534 or bill@aphasiatoolbox.com.

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References
Antonucci, Sharron,  (2009). Use of semantic feature analysis in group aphasia treatment. Aphasiology,  23:854-856
Chen, F., &  Wang, T.C. (2009). Social conversation and effective discussion in online group learning. EducationTech Research Development, 57, 587-612
Connors, William, 2009. The Importance of Therapeutic Time On Task, www.aphasiatoolbox.com  Newsletter
Kearns, K, & Elman, R.,  (2001). Group therapy for aphasia:theoretical and practical considerations. Chapey R, ed Language Interventions Strategies in Aphasia and Related Neurological Communication Disorders.  4th ed  Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, William & Wilkins,  316-337
Simmons-Mackie, N, & Damico J.,  (2009). Engagement in Group Therapy for Aphasia. Seminars in Speech andLanguage. 1:19-26
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