Helping Heal a Community

Aphasia Recovery Program Celebrates 20 Years

StAR group

The StAr Program celebrates 20 years of community outreach.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Health Professions Stroke and Aphasia Recovery (StAR) Program celebrated 20 years with an awards luncheon May 1st.
The StAR Program is a community outreach program for people who have aphasia as the result of a stroke or other brain injury. Aphasia affects the ability to speak, understand, read, write and calculate. The StAR Program engages therapists, students and stroke survivors in an effort to provide a safe, supportive environment in which individuals can practice communication skills in order to regain life participation.
Melinda Corwin, Ph.D., professor and director for the Stroke and Aphasia Recovery (StAR) Program, said aphasia is challenging for those who have survived a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

“It typically happens with damage to the left side of the brain and manifests differently in every survivor,” Corwin said. “Strokes often are the cause of aphasia, but it also can be brought on by a form of dementia called primary progressive aphasia. Aphasia is a loss of language that can manifest as difficulty reading, writing, speaking and understanding words or numbers.”

The StAR program focuses on creating a community for stroke survivors, their caregivers (family members and friends), speech-language pathology graduate students and faculty members to build communication skills.
“We have small groups and every group has a personality of its own,” Corwin said. “They may have difficulty speaking, but when they are given the personalized tools to communicate, their lives improve drastically. Every person needs personalized care. No two cases are alike.”
Corwin was honored for her 20 years with the StAR program and a scholarship was established in her name.

Melinda Corwin

Melinda Corwin was awarded for her 20 years with the StAR program.

“The StAR Program is my favorite part of the week,” Corwin said. “It is an honor and a privilege to interact with persons with aphasia and their caregivers, as well as student clinicians and clinical supervisors, to help individuals regain life participation and communication skills. One of my favorite quotes from Katharine Graham is, “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”
Since 2006, the Texas Tech Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has chosen StAR as its philanthropy project. Every year, they conduct “Work Days” in the community. AIChE presented a check for more than $2,000.
StAR Program participants and community members who have been advocates for those with aphasiawere honored with individual awards. Also honored were Abie Rampy, Chick-Fil-A executive director of marketing and communications, and Leonard Williams, executive director of operations and talent. They were presented the Communication Friendly Award. This award is given to someone who consistently goes out of his or her way to help someone with a communication challenge and who treats all people with respect and always has a friendly attitude.  StAR program members reported that the employees at Chick-Fil-A on Slide Road go out of their way to be friendly and patient and always have a cheerful attitude.
Kevin Glasheen, a personal injury lawyer at Glasheen, Valles and Inderman, LLP, was presented the Life Participation Award. This award is given to someone in the community who has helped a person with a communication challenge regain his or her participation in life; someone who treats individuals with dignity and respect and recognizes that aphasia is a loss of language, not a loss of intellect. Glasheen allowed Julie Shirley, a StAR program member to maintain her job after a stroke.

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