Independence on the Menu

18 Aug

In the spring of 2010, four men who have some trouble with language gave a Nazareth campus audience a good talking-to.

The four have aphasia, a condition stemming from strokes or other traumatic brain injuries that leads to challenges in speaking and/or comprehension. And they came up with a compelling project, according to Cameron McCurty, a graduate student in speech therapy from Syracuse.

“They wanted to be able to advocate for themselves, to tell people what aphasia is and how it affects them, and give tips for people to communicate better with people who have aphasia.”

Speaking Out

Steve Gennarino was one of the four. Gennarino had a stroke when he was 57 and has been a patient of the aphasia clinic at Nazareth for more than three years. Cameron was his therapist during the spring semester.

“At the beginning of the semester, we talked about what he wanted to do better,” she said, “That included ordering his own food in a restaurant and having people wait patiently as he speaks.”

Asked how his presentation went over, Steve Gennarino responded, “I felt good about it, but I wanted to give them a little more talking-to.”

Cameron added, “It was really well received. The main objective was to present the face of aphasia to the campus safety department and get it out in community to get a better understanding. A lot of people know someone who has had a stroke but they may not know the difficulties that come with that. It’s nice to put a face on it.”

Unthinking individuals may perceive a person with aphasia as having abused alcohol or another substance, she said, because many times a person who has had a brain injury struggles or searches for the words.

Meeting Goals Together

Gennarino lives with his sister Barb, who is his primary caretaker. “If not for Nazareth’s clinic, Steve wouldn’t have had any more speech therapy,” said Barb Gennarino. “You know the complications of the health care system – they want to get most folks to a basic functional level and then it’s ‘okay, thank you very much, you’re on your way.’ This was a fantastic opportunity to continue.”

The advantages of Nazareth’s aphasia clinic go beyond speech therapy. “Without the clinic, many of our patients would be home with a spouse or alone,” Cameron said.

“Social bonds form at the clinic. Patients meet people with similar experiences and develop friendships they wouldn’t have otherwise made.”

Barb Gennarino added, “Lots of times, the highlight of the week is coming to our clinic.”

Cameron, who will graduate in December, said she has found her passion in aphasia work. “All my supervisors are saying you’re made for this, this is your place. It’s a joy to work with Steve. It’s a partnership – I make suggestions, he makes suggestions, we figure out what works for him, and go toward our goals together.”

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