Communicating for Aphasia

App improves communication between providers and aphasia patients

Melinda Corwin

Melinda Corwin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, has served individuals with aphasia for 30 years. 

When the brain doesn’t receive enough blood and oxygen, many individuals experience a stroke. Aphasia occurs when the brain is injured from a stroke, head trauma, brain tumors or infections and happens mostly in older people.
Aphasia disrupts communication and impairs language processing. This affects every aspect of an individual’s ability to produce or comprehend speech and the ability to read or write. More than two million people in the U.S. are living with aphasia.
Melinda Corwin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, has served individuals with aphasia for 30 years. As the director of the Stroke & Aphasia Recovery (StAR) Program and a professor in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Corwin knows first-hand the need to help individuals with aphasia.
“Because communication is at the core of everyone’s daily life, aphasia has significant and far-reaching consequences,” said Corwin. “People with aphasia often experience social isolation, reduced life participation and loss of friendships, which negatively impacts their quality of life.”
“My students and I strive to provide communication access for persons with aphasia and their family members, friends, health care providers, and coworkers. Aphasia should not have to result in loneliness, depression, and isolation.  We use the life participation approach to aphasia to promote communication and well-being.”

Melissa Corwin shows app

The ultimate goal of the app is to improve communication between providers and aphasia patients.

With the many patients in West Texas experiencing aphasia, Corwin saw a need to improve health care providers’ communication with aphasia patients.

Corwin and colleagues from the Texas Tech University School of Art, Indiana University Media School and Texas Tech University College of Media and Communications, created a prototype for a story-based, interactive app that will explain stroke and aphasia in a patient-friendly manner.
Miscommunication can result in serious adverse events such as medication errors, poor patient satisfaction and hospital readmissions. This app will enable individuals with aphasia to communicate with providers and improve patient outcomes.
“I envision a future in which strong patient-provider communication will be the crux of excellent medical care,” said Corwin.

StAR program

The Stroke & Aphasia Recover (STAR) Program serves approximately 40 stroke and brain injury survivors & 25 caregivers every week during the fall & spring semesters.

The new app is a piece of the puzzle to improved patient care and awareness for patients with aphasia. For the past 21 years, the StAR Program has been engaging speech-language pathologists, students and stroke survivors to help patients regain life participation in the Lubbock community.
Speech language pathologists are trained to help children and adults access spoken and written communication in health care, education, vocation and community settings.
Reflecting on her years at the StAR Program, Corwin said, “A patient once told me that doctors saved her life, but the speech-language pathologists helped her find a life worth living again.”

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