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Intensive Aphasia Program at UCF Helps Stroke Survivors Take Back Their Lives

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The clinic is staffed with Clinical Educators and graduate students who treat a variety of disorders. It is the clinical centerpiece of the undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at UCF and provides high-quality speech, language and hearing services to the local community.

Fellow participant, Uriah Nelson - a former professional soccer player, is equally thankful and smiles every time he pronounces a word.

"I couldn't talk at all. I used to never go out to the store or to eat," Nelson said about the first six months after his stroke in 2006. "People weren't patient. It was embarrassing. Now I go to store. The therapist here, they do good."

Janet Whiteside, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Clinical Educator and founder of the pilot program called Intensive Aphasia Program, said isolation is a major problem for stroke survivors. She's amazed at the progress many of the patients are making.

Research says traditional therapy - short sessions over a long period of time -- is necessary to help people regain skills after a stroke. But recent research suggests patients may increase their benefit and maintain their improvement with more intensive sessions over a shorter period of time.And a critical piece is re-integrating them back into the community.

"It's not always easy," Whiteside said. "People aren't always patient when they don't see an obvious disability."

Whiteside, Clinical Instructor Jane Hostetler, MA, CCC-SLP and five graduate students have been working with members of the community throughout the summer. Stroke survivors receive individual and group therapy Monday through Thursday, three hours a day, for an entire month.  Goals are based on assessed needs and the individual's perceived communication needs. One day a week they take a field trip to a facility on the UCF campus to practice what they are learning and confront what they might encounter in their everyday lives.

The participants have ordered coffee and lunch at dining facilities on campus. They have toured the Arboretum, bookstore and the stadium as well as visited the library and Institute of Simulation and Training in Research Parkway. Thegoal is to get them engaged and speaking.

"Empowering our clients to communicate in different environments with unfamiliar listeners is a very important part of our clients' rehabilitation,"Whiteside and Hostetler said. "This also gives our graduate students good experience that bridges what they learn in the classroom with what they will experience in clinical settings."

Graduate student Deidre Mears, of Altamonte Springs, agrees. She's been working with Nelson this summer. 

"In the clinic you see your client and what they are going through in that environment," Mears said. "But then you see them like this, in real life, in action, and it really tells you what they need and how effective strategies are or are not."

People of all ages have participated in the summer program. They include former CEOs, housewives, doctors, engineers and everything in between. It reflects the simple fact that the third-leading cause of death in the nation doesn't discriminate. About one-third of all cases are among people 65-years-old or younger.

"It can happen to anyone," Whiteside said. "It really can, but we can help a lot of our community take back their lives. That's what we are all about."

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The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
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