Restoring Communication After a Stroke or Brain Injury

Northwestern Medicine
Neurosciences January 23, 2018

Losing the ability to communicate is a devastating and frustrating experience not only for the individual affected, but for those who are interacting with this person. A new center at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine, is designed to address the long-term challenges of aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to parts of the brain that control language. Aphasia frequently occurs following a stroke or brain injury. According to the National Aphasia Association*, approximately 2 million people currently experience aphasia, with 180,000 new cases each year.

Though improvement is possible, aphasia often remains a challenge for the duration of a person’s life, which can result in social isolation, decreased confidence, increased frustration and even challenges with personal relationships. The Northwestern Medicine Aphasia Center, led by speech-language pathologist Michelle Armour, offers small group sessions that provide a comfortable and supportive environment for aphasia participants to practice their communication skills through real-life activities. Targeted activities include math, cooking, fitness, music, technology, recreation and book clubs. Each session focuses on improved language functioning, increased socialization, independence, and improved quality of life. Both individual and group sessions are available.

“The Northwestern Medicine Aphasia Center at Marianjoy has filled a gap in available services for people with aphasia,” said Armour. “It provides the participants and their caregivers an opportunity for continued language treatment in an encouraging and social atmosphere, while keeping the client’s individualized goals at the center of their care. Not only can they receive support from a skilled interdisciplinary team but they support each other and build friendships along the way.”

Steve Davis, 47 years old, experienced a stroke in November 2015. He has been attending the center with his father, Bill, and mother, Corinne. “Steve’s recovery from aphasia has been difficult until Marianjoy initiated this clinic, and we are now seeing him looking forward to each session with enthusiasm,” said Bill Davis. “The variety of workshop programs in small group settings has provided him with the ability to respond and participate with others, knowing he is not judged by what he cannot do, but by what he can contribute to the group.”

Corinne Davis said not only has the program shown benefits for their son’s confidence, but also his abilities. “His speech is becoming more clear and meaningful to him, adding new words and even voicing complete sentences at times. The Aphasia Center has worked wonders for him that he has not shown prior to participating,” said Corrinne Davis. “This program offers hope where despair had existed.”

The Davises added that they, too, have benefited from the caregiver aspect of the program, in which caregivers can share their experiences and tips on how to handle adjustments in both their own and their loved ones’ lives.

The Northwestern Medicine Aphasia Center is funded, in part, by the Northwestern Medicine Innovation Challenge grant, sponsored by Superior Ambulance Services. The NM Innovation Challenge Grant is a competitive grants process to help fund innovative approaches to deliver and improve ambulatory care within Northwestern Medicine.

For more information or to register for the Northwestern Medicine Aphasia Center at Marianjoy, please contact Michelle Armour at 630.909.8562 or

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