CHENNAI: The Bhoomika Trust, in association with Sri Ramachandra University, organised a three-day seminar and workshop on aphasia, addressing and training 175 students and 67 speech pathologists. To conclude the campaign, a conference was held at Hotel Savera on Sunday, where speech pathologists and caretakers of people with aphasia participated.
Sudha Jayendra, a person with aphasia and co-founder of the Bhoomika Trust, welcomed the audience and research scientists from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. “We have two people here to share their knowledge in aphasia therapy with us...” she said in a slow yet enunciated manner to which the hall erupted in a thunderous applause to encourage Sudha’s progress.
Leora R Cherney, senior research scientist, RIC, questioned, “How many of you heard of aphasia before a loved one had it?” As very few hands went up, she explained, “Aphasia is more than a speaking disability. It’s about listening, understanding and comprehending language. But, like most of you would be aware by now, it keeps the intelligence of a person intact.”
The chronic condition is caused primarily by stroke and other causes including brain tumour, meningitis and so on. Out of 1 lakh people, 133 are affected by aphasia. Till 2015, India had more than 16.68 lakh people with aphasia and experts opined that the cases of stroke increased dramatically in the last 15 years. “Strokes in youngsters are also increasing. The incidence of aphasia is higher than Parkinson’s disease, but people are more aware about Parkinson’s than aphasia,” she shared.
Ann K Oehring, an RIC consultant, who develops and provides clinical programming for adults and young adults with aphasia, emphasised the need for patterned strategies that can help improving comprehension. “Speaking slowly and loudly in short sentences with appropriate intonation, and communicating using multiple modalities can help.”
A Bengaluru resident at the event said she had a stroke six years ago, but was in ‘hiding for four years’. “It’s only in the last two years that I have been doing well because of speech therapy.” Pointing to this, Leora, said, “Awareness and advice on aphasia has to increase and people with aphasia don’t have to hide. Also, family support is extremely critical here.”
Talking about the future of aphasia therapy, experts added, “Researchers are looking at magnetic and electric therapies, but as this is a symbol/language problem, the need of the hour is intensive speech therapy and rehab.”