Houston Aphasia Recovery Center helps stroke patients succeed with communication impediment

Here's what we know

This is stroke awareness month.

One possible long-term complication of stroke is aphasia. The disorder gained awareness when Bruce Willis was diagnosed.

Aphasia is a language disorder that occurs when the brain has been damaged. It requires rehabilitation to regain the ability to speak fluently.

When insurance no longer covers therapy or the patient plateaus with progress, the Houston Aphasia Recovery Center (HARC) helps people learn to live successfully with their aphasia.

Tom Pickett lost language after his stroke, and now visits HARC twice a week where he finds comfort in socializing with others who know exactly what he’s going through.

Speech pathologist, Cathleen Swallows, said the public should know if they encounter someone who has difficulty communicating and may have aphasia, their intelligence is intact.

“It’s important for the public to know that aphasia can affect someone’s language skills, but it does not impede their intelligence,” she said. “Know that different things like writing a word down, letting them write, can help them get their words out, and I think they’d really appreciate it.”

Other communication tips for people with aphasia:

  • Try singing. Singing is sometimes easier than speaking
  • Use hand gestures
  • Give choices, ask yes or no questions
  • Speak slowly
  • Give time to answer, don’t interrupt

What if you can’t pay?

HARC is a non-profit. Patients rarely pay much to attend, according to Swallows, or they’re given scholarships through the center’s fundraising.