Aphasia support group

August 14, 2008 10:38:29 AM PDT
Over 1 million Americans suffer from aphasia. It's a disability that affects the language area of the brain which makes communicating difficult. Known as "the silent disorder," people with aphasia struggle with speaking, writing, reading and expressing themselves.

Chuck Amato, who just turned 60, is a likable guy.

"Many friends, other people, the friends, good friends, a party," said Chuck.

Chuck, once a successful attorney an avid sportsman, still works once a week at the American Bar Association. At the age of 33 he had a stroke.

"Six weeks coma, no speech that and no speech, and gradually and gradually," Chuck said.

Dr. Leora Cherney is the director of the Center for Aphasia Research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"Aphasia can really impact anybody at any age," said Cherney. "The most common cause of aphasia is usually a stroke. We also see aphasia from other causes like traumatic brain injury or brain tumors."

People living with aphasia are often frustrated by the loss of language. The lack of awareness has made it difficult to advocate for themselves.

Four years ago, RIC created an aphasia community group.

"Our focus in all of them is communication and interaction," Cherney said.

It also allows them to express themselves anyway they can.

"Whether it be through single words, through gestures, through facial expressions," said Cherney, "and everybody else around the group understands and supports them."

Regardless of his communication challenges, Chuck finds a way to tell us about his visit with the pope.

"Shake the hand of the Pope, but before that waiting, waiting to get into the pope...shake the hand and leave," said Chuck.

The aphasia community group meets twice a week. There is a small fee.

Dr. Cherney says they are starting an intensive aphasia program next month. For more information go to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's web site or call (312) 238-1117.


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