The estimated 1 million people in the U.S. who have aphasia cannot easily explain their condition. The language disorder, which typically results from a stroke or other damage to the brain, impairs a person’s ability to speak.
Adventist HealthCare Physical Health & Rehabilitation, with inpatient and outpatient locations in Rockville, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Gaithersburg, began offering a community aphasia group in 2006 to provide a support network for those feeling disconnected due to ongoing communication challenges.
“There is value in communicating with others who are also having difficulty,” explains Sandi Lancaster, MA, CCC-SLP, a senior speech-language pathologist with Physical Health & Rehabilitation. “Having a supportive group environment to work on communication can be extremely therapeutic for individuals with aphasia.”
In 2015, Lancaster shared information about the potential therapeutic benefits of music and singing with the group. “Individuals with aphasia typically have damage to the left hemisphere of their brains, whereas music is largely a function of the right hemisphere,” she says. “So music can tap into people’s strengths when they have aphasia.”
The presentation allowed members of the group to realize that although they had difficulty speaking, they were in fact able to communicate in another way: through song
Group member Erik Delfino felt so inspired by the opportunity that he worked with two other group members to start a choir, now known as Aphasia Tunes. Today, Aphasia Tunes regularly performs at Calvary Lutheran Church in Silver Spring. The group purchased instruments through a grant from the church and has continued to perform with support from the church’s music minister, Brian Priebe. The choir currently practices twice a month and performs at the church.
According to Delfino, who suffered a stroke in 2014, being part of the choir has helped him overcome his communication challenges.
“I know people with my condition have difficulty getting the words out, but for me, singing was no problem,” Delfino says. “I am excited to see how this new initiative will continue to bless the lives of others as we move forward. I know it has already been a great blessing to those involved.”
Support Groups and More
Learn more about the community aphasia group and other support groups at Adventist HealthCare Physical Health & Rehabilitation.