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New Aphasia House Offers Innovative Therapy in a Home-Like Setting

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By Karen Guin

A new facility dedicated solely to innovative therapy for individuals with aphasia, or the loss of speech resulting from neurologic injury, has been established at the University of Central Florida with an anonymous $25,000 donation.

The Aphasia House provides speech-language therapy in a setting distinct from a typical medical office. Each room is outfitted to resemble a familiar space in a home, including a kitchen, garden patio and garage. The rooms are designed to encourage natural conversations. UCF graduate students studying communication sciences and disorders provide individualized and group therapy under the supervision of certified clinical faculty.

This is the only intensive program for persons with aphasia in the Central Florida area.

Approximately one million people in the United States, or one out of every 275 adults, have some type of aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association. The most common cause is a stroke.

The facility is a dream-come-true for its director, Janet Whiteside, a clinical educator at UCF and Chair of the Board of Clinical Educators at the UCF Communication Disorders Clinic. Whiteside is an expert in her field. She received the 2010 Honors of the Association Award from the Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.

Director Janet Whiteside makes notes while monitoring therapy sessions.

"As a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, I saw how effective the use of a home environment was during therapy for children who were deaf or hard of hearing," Whiteside recalled. "I've always wanted to create that type of environment for clients with aphasia."

She is equally pleased that The Aphasia House is also an educational facility, where students gain experience implementing cutting-edge therapies for the condition. It is conveniently located in the Central Florida Research Park's Research Pavilion. The UCF Communication Disorders Clinic is housed in the same building.

Thanks to the donation, Whiteside brought the first group of clients to the house this summer. Four individuals with aphasia resulting from either a stroke or brain injury are participating in a six-week Intensive Aphasia Program from June 21 to July 29.

Research has shown that personalized intensive therapy is especially effective in treating aphasia, so each client spends four hours a day, four days a week working directly with one or more student clinicians. The goal of the program is to increase the clients' communication skills.

Whiteside closely monitors the therapy sessions, noting the clients' progress and ways to adjust the therapies, which she shares with the students. She and the students also keep the clients and their family members well-informed by providing them with a copy of the protocol and explaining what is being done and why.

Clients sign in when they enter the house's living room.

The Intensive Aphasia Program will be conducted six times a year in The Aphasia House. Whiteside is currently interviewing stroke survivors for the next session, which runs from Aug. 30 to Oct. 8. Treatment is not free, but the facility takes Medicare and will work with participants to fill out the paperwork for reimbursement.

The donation will help pay for running the intensive programs, education for those working at The Aphasia House and consultation with experts "to help us become the premier facility of its kind in the nation," Whiteside said.

Those interested in learning more about the program at The Aphasia House may call 407-882-0468 or email www.ucfspeechlanguagetherapy.com for more information.

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