We spoke with the Adler Aphasia Center to learn more about their services, their approach, and why they find working with Aphasia so important. In this profile, they also share with us their favorite success story with a patient and what makes their center unique. Check out their NAA listings at the end of the post.
Tell us about what you do and what services you provide to persons with aphasia.
Adler Aphasia Center, a non-profit located throughout the state of NJ, is an innovative post-rehabilitative therapeutic program that addresses the long-term needs of people with aphasia and their families. Founded in 2003 by Elaine and Mike Adler, its mission is simple: to provide help for those living with aphasia and their caregivers and to expand awareness and knowledge of aphasia. Adler Aphasia Center serves the greater NY/NJ region.
The programs and activities offered at Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood are facilitated by licensed speech-language pathologists and healthcare professionals who share the primary goals of enhancing the communication skills of its members and providing opportunities for social and peer support, while building members’ self-esteem and self-confidence and alleviating their isolation. Using the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA), the Center uses group treatment focusing on conversational skills to facilitate re-engagement with family and community.
The Center also offers Aphasia Communication Groups throughout the state that meet twice a month. These groups, also facilitated by Adler trained licensed speech-language pathologists, allow participants to practice their communication skills and make social connections. The Center addresses the needs of the caregiver by providing ongoing support groups.
Training and educational programs are also offered to those in the healthcare profession, consumers, educators, students, speech-language pathologists and others interested in improving the quality of life for those persons affected by aphasia. In addition, the Center is actively engaged in research efforts that examine the impact of its programs and offer innovative approaches to individual treatment.
Adler Aphasia Center offers two full service facilities for people with aphasia four days a week in Maywood, its flagship location, and in West Orange, NJ. Center members participate either on Mondays/Wednesdays or Tuesdays/Thursdays.
What is different about your therapy approach/support group?
Using LPAA, we are utilizing a leading innovative and successful model that dramatically impacts the ability of people with aphasia to better communicate in their everyday interactions and activities. As the only program offering long-term therapeutic support for people with aphasia in the greater NY/NJ metropolitan region, the Center provides a unique set of services and programs that are not available elsewhere in the area. The Center offers a warm, welcoming club-like environment for people with aphasia who come together for activities that help them improve their communication skills through the arts, technology, movement, popular hobbies, and group discussions. The Center’s technology program provides communication skill learning through computer lab programs and training in the use of customized assistive communication apps on mobile devices that facilitate effective communication.
An outgrowth of the technology program is a successful vocational project called Something Special, a gift and jewelry-making program that engages members in business planning, item design and production, and sales. In turn, Center members are giving back to our community by acting as sales reps at event sales at area corporations, rehabs, hospitals and community settings. This gives them the opportunity to practice their communication strategies in public while raising money for the Center’s scholarship program (all proceeds support our Scholarship Fund), enabling those living with aphasia to attend our program regardless of their ability to pay.
What do you like most about your work?
Our entire staff feels truly blessed to be making a difference in the quality of life of our members with aphasia. We see the positive impact our programs have on our Center’s members- whether it’s having the confidence to tell their story to a person one-on-one buying a piece of jewelry they created, or using an iPad to email or text a loved one for the first time, or reciting lines in our annual musical in front of 250 people, or simply hearing a newer member speak their first words again after participating in our program. It brings great joy to be a part of a team that has such a powerful impact on helping stroke and brain injury survivors to build new social connections that become “family” and to watch as they rebuild their quality of life.
What do you find most challenging?
The biggest challenge we face, like every other organization that works with people with aphasia, is that much of the public doesn’t understand what aphasia is nor how to communicate with someone with this communication disorder. One of the ways we are combatting this issue is through our Advocacy, Education and Training program. People with aphasia often find themselves excluded from discussions about their care, often to their detriment. By involving people with aphasia in a training effort to sensitize and educate healthcare providers, communication barriers between aphasia patients and their doctors, nurses, and therapists can be lowered.
Our program offers visiting young doctors-in-training, nurses, and nursing assistants the experience of witnessing first-hand that in a nurturing and supportive environment, people with aphasia can continue to recover and improve even years after the initial onset of aphasia. Because it can be very challenging to communicate effectively with a person with aphasia, we are training these service professionals in specific communication strategies, which can result in more positive outcomes for the person with aphasia. By reaching more healthcare and service professionals through this training program, the Center is making important strides toward fulfilling its mission of therapeutic rehabilitation for people with aphasia through the widening of a support network in the medical community and in service organizations.
Tell us about your favorite success story with a client
Ed was a young athlete, the captain of his high school soccer team, a member of his school’s varsity track team, a swimmer, a water skier, a runner, an avid Yankees and Jets fan and a professional athletic trainer. Ed was also a stroke survivor diagnosed with aphasia at the age of 33.
Ed’s life was always enriched by sports. Two days after running a 10K race for a local charity, he was hospitalized with a severe headache. Complications of a dissection of the carotid artery led to a stroke, putting Ed in a 47-day coma, and aphasia. Following a very long rehabilitation period, Ed became a member of the Center in 2012. As his parents say, Adler Aphasia Center gave him back his life. He couldn’t say many words and was slow to meet others, being one of the youngest Center members. It took him almost a year for him to say “Dad” again, a huge highlight for his father who hadn’t heard Ed call him that since his stroke in 2005.
His parents, Rosemary and Bob, write, “Since joining the Center, Ed has rediscovered vocabulary he hasn’t used since his stroke. He now enthusiastically communicates and engages others in conversation. He no longer asks for our help to communicate his thoughts. Ed uses the phone as never before, both to receive and initiate calls with friends and family. Ed’s improved language has helped him to be an even better father to his children.”
With increased confidence, Ed has taken the Center by storm. These past three years, Ed has taken on leading roles in the Center’s annual musical productions, using scripting to learn almost 90 minutes of lines when he played the lead in Grease, Beauty and the Beast and Music Man. Ed has redirected his life and developed new skills and abilities behind the lens of a camera. Ed has spoken publicly about living with aphasia to an international audience at a major pharmaceutical company and to people who came to see his photography display at a regional art gallery. And he has reacquainted himself with the sports he once loved and has taken on new ones, thanks to an area adaptive sports program. If asked which he prefers- cycling, skiing, kayaking, golfing or sailing- Ed will tell you, “all of the above.
How do persons with aphasia and their families find you?
Adler Aphasia Center has a website www.adleraphasiacenter.org and a strong presence on social media. Additionally, we can be contacted by email at email@example.com. Our flagship facility is located at 60 West Hunter Avenue in Maywood, NJ, and can be reached at 201.368.8585. Our satellite Center is located at the JCC MetroWest at 760 Northfield Avenue in West Orange, NJ, phone 973.530.3981. For location information about our Aphasia Communication Groups, our less intensive therapeutic programs throughout NJ, call 201.368.8585.