By Tara Mathews
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN The first rural aphasia group has settled in Lester Prairie, where volunteers and facilitators are helping stroke victims from neighboring communities regain the power of speech.
Aphasia is a loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words, usually resulting from brain damage.
Speech-language pathologists (SLP) Krista Petersen of St. Mary’s Health Care Center in Winsted and Leah Seifert of Glencoe Regional Health Services (GRHS) facilitate the conversation group.
This is their second 12-week session.
Local volunteers and students help, so that each person has one-on-one assistance during group activities.
Some volunteers write to group members to help them hear or comprehend a conversation. Other volunteers help groups members by hinting the first sound of words or saying a word to remind members how it sounds.
The weekly 90-minute sessions result in amazing speech transformations, according to Petersen.
“I am involved in a lot of organizations and volunteering,” Lester Prairie resident Shirley Dibb, a volunteer with the group said. “But nothing is as rewarding as this. It’s so great to see them be able to communicate without as much frustration.”
“Group members see improvement in each other and communicate it, which is encouraging,” Seifert noted.
The group is different from therapy in many ways, according to Petersen.
Sessions don’t take place in a medical facility, which keeps the environment more relaxed for members.
“We all get along, because there are common threads,” Karen Borrell, an aphasia sufferer in the group, said.
“We are like a family,”Dibb commented.
Members enjoy the close relationships they develop, and the time they spend in a group, according to Borrell.
“I’m talking more,” Borrell said. “And I can speak to everybody now.”
Some members didn’t expect to see results as quickly as they did, and have been impressed with the improvement of themselves and other members.
“I have been impressed with the group,” Lester Milbrand, a group member with aphasia said. “I couldn’t talk much when I started, and practicing with therapists just isn’t the same.”
A mix of therapy and an aphasia conversation group is the best way to regain speech, he noted.
Ed Doomer, another group member with aphasia, said he likes to see how other people are progressing.
“Everyone learns from everyone here,” he added.
The group takes field trips, as well. They visited Carlson’s Orchard last fall, and have a trip to a Minnesota Twins game planned for this spring.
The program includes 12 weeks of weekly groups, and is tuition based, which can’t be covered by insurance.
The $320 cost is paid to MnCAN for facilitating programs.
A sliding fee scale (income based) is available for individuals who can’t afford the full fee.
Generally, speech-language pathologists are paid by Minnesota Connect Aphasia Now (MnCAN), but the Lester Prairie aphasia group speech-language pathologists are paid by GRHS and St. Mary’s Care Center.
The Lester Prairie aphasia group operates through MnCAN, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping stroke victims regain their speech, hearing, and comprehension.
MnCAN has eight different aphasia groups, seven of which are in the metro area.
The organization was founded by Cindy Busch, a speech-language pathologist who began working with the Minnesota Stroke Association.
When the stroke association decided not to participate in group sessions, MnCAN branched out on its own.
Its mission is to improve communication skills, community participation, and achievement of goals for individuals living with aphasia.
For more information, contact Krista Petersen at (320) 485-3134 or click here: MnCAN.