Aphasia Bootcamp

by Hannah Rae Vaden

For the second summer, the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center ran the "Aphasia Bootcamp". The camp is directed by Marilyn Wark who is the Director of Clinical Services in Speech-Language Pathology, Tawni Ballenger, and Kelli Owens. The camp is held in June, which happily coincides with Aphasia Awareness Month. This year, the SLP clinicians adapted the camp to a virtual format that accommodated the safety protocols set in place for COVID-19. The boot camp ran for two hours a day, four days each week. The intensive program spanned a four-week period. Faculty, students, and clients who participated have described the experience as 'life changing'.

Aphasia Bootcamp

Aphasia is the loss of an acquired language that can occur as a result of stroke, traumatic brain injury or an aneurysm. This year, there were four clients who participated in the online camp. They each received group and individual therapy and support. The goal of the bootcamp was to help rehabilitate and maintain language skills for the clients. Each day the clinicians provided an intensive experience where the clients worked on functional goals. Most of the patients had lost their ability to speak and were trying to regain it. One patient had primary progressive aphasia. Her intervention was designed to maintain the functional speech skills she still possessed.

Participating in the boot camp was good experience for both the students and the clients. The students tackled new obstacles presented by telehealth and adapted their therapy skills to virtual formats. Some patients found online therapy more tiring than in-person therapy, and they missed the face-to-face connections. The students found creative ways to bring energy and community to the sessions. As with the face-to-face basecamp in the previous year, participants had assignments to work on at home so they could practice integrating these new skills into their daily life. To function in the online modality, student clinicians learned to use a virtual white board, taught typing skills to their patients, and used downloadable apps (e.g., Boom Cards) to engage and focus participants.