story by Claire Miller
More than 2 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder that can affect reading, writing, verbal expression and understanding others.
This chronic language disorder is typically caused by a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or a brain tumor, and it’s something that most Americans know very little about. But faculty and students in the College of Education & Human Development’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders are working to change that.
“If the general public does not know about aphasia, then communication access to activities such as the theatre, restaurants, parks and museums will be poor,” said Jacqueline Laures-Gore, director of the department’s Aphasia and Motor Speech Disorders Lab. “And poor communication access results in greater social isolation and poorer mental health for persons with aphasia and co-survivors.”
Thanks to recent funding from the Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation, Laures-Gore worked with Aimee Dietz, chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Stephanie Gilbert, clinical instructor in speech-language pathology, to expand an initiative called Aphasia Friendly Atlanta. This initiative is designed to improve aphasia awareness and make public spaces more accessible to those living with the disorder.
The first task? Updating local restaurant menus to be more aphasia-friendly – meaning displaying pictures of food, using short and simple descriptions of dishes, and using an easy-to-read font for all menu text, among other changes.
“With the help of Aaron Fuchs, a graduate student in communication sciences and disorders, and two community stakeholders, Ayse Needham and Chuck Bradley, we developed menus for two restaurants that welcomed this project and became our community partners,” Laures-Gore explained. “Brooklyn Bagels and The Flying Biscuit (Midtown and Candler Park locations) now have aphasia-friendly menus, and Aphasia Friendly Atlanta will continue to seek ways to make our beautiful city communication accessible for all.”
Laures-Gore also leads Good Morning Aphasia, an annual event that invites people with aphasia and their families to Georgia State University’s campus to share their experiences and meet others living in the metro-Atlanta area who are affected by the language disorder.
The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the college’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, the Georgia State chapter of CommunicAid+ Nation and the Georgia Aphasia Interdisciplinary Alliance co-sponsored the event, which took place on May 5 this year, a few weeks before Aphasia Awareness Month in June.
The department’s efforts are crucial to improving quality of life for those living with aphasia in Atlanta.
“Our faculty’s research and community work takes a life participation approach to aphasia, which focuses on living life successfully and engaging in activities meaningful to people with aphasia,” Laures-Gore said.
For more information about Aphasia Awareness Month, visit https://www.aphasia.org/stories/june-aphasia-awareness-month.