Student Trains Community About Aphasia

melinda-naylorAs a result of an MSU speech-language pathology class, one MSU student is educating the community how to identify and treat aphasia in emergency situations.

Melinda Naylor, a Communicative Sciences and Disorders master's student, along with her former instructor, Katie Strong, and two members of the Lansing Area Aphasia Support Group, recently presented about aphasia to an Emergency Medical Technical Class at Lansing Community College.

"Aphasia is an acquired language disorder in which speech and/or language input and/or output are affected. Emergency situations are stressful by themselves; however, when you add a communication impairment to the situation, the emergency situation becomes that much more stressful," said Naylor. "I thought it was important to help further train people about this issue."

According to the National Aphasia Association, aphasia affects about 1 million Americans (one in 250 people) and is more common than Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. More than 100,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. However, most people have never heard of it."

After helping to provide the aphasia training, Naylor hopes that the participants "will be able to describe aphasia, identify persons who have aphasia, utilize communication strategies to make encounters with persons who have aphasia less stressful and more productive, and to be prepared to manage common contact situations with people who have aphasia."

Strong, a facilitator of the Lansing Area Aphasia Support Group, wants to continue training students and emergency professionals.

"We wanted to provide students at Lansing Community College studying to become EMTs the opportunity to become familiar with aphasia, understand how it may impact an emergency situation, and then have some strategies for improving communication with people with aphasia who they may encounter when they are the first responder to a call."

"Melinda has gone above and beyond the expectations of this classroom-based assignment. She has established connections in the Lansing community with both the Lansing Area Aphasia Support Group and LCC's EMT training program to increase awareness of aphasia and the impact this type of communication disorder has in an emergency situation. The response from the training was overwhelming positive and I anticipate it leading to future trainings at LCC as well as with local police and fire units. She has paved the way for future students studying in Communicative Sciences and Disorders to participate in community based training on aphasia awareness," said Strong.

Naylor is currently completing a clinical fellowship as a Speech-Language Pathologist in Flushing, Mich.

Aphasia will remain an important part of her career, she says. "A significant portion of my patients have aphasia as the result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or brain tumor. Rehabilitating individuals who have aphasia is a passion of mine. I foresee myself working with this population, in one way or another, for the rest of my career"

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