But just minutes after taking this photo, we were off to Brisbane for the last of 12 sessions in a semester-long Aphasia Clinic at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Queensland. This is the third time that we've participated in this clinic – we did our first UQ clinic in 2009, not long after Allen's release from hospital, and we went again for one semester in 2010.
Each clinic group contains six or seven participants who have some form of aphasia – most of whom acquired the condition as a result of stroke. Almost all the participants come along with a family member (usually a spouse, but sometimes a son or daughter). Each week's session includes one hour of group therapy activities, and one hour of individual therapy. Here small groups of participants have to rearrange a series of pages, each of which contains text and a photo, into a logical sequence to make a story. This demonstrates clearly that aphasia therapy is about much more than just speech. The full spectrum of mental processes can be affected by the deterioration in areas of the brain that affects a person's ability to use language. Sequencing difficulties are just one of many other problems that people with aphasia may experience.
Allen's poor score on naming simple objects (19/60) confirmed that he has severe word-finding difficulties. This result is down from 29/60 in 2009 and 39/60 in 2006, when he was first diagnosed (55 is considered an average score). However, when he doesn't have to name an object himself, but simply has to match a given word to a picture, or vice versa, he scores almost perfectly (37/40 and 39/40). This confirms that his comprehension of words is relatively intact – as we know from the fact that he is still an avid reader. (Currently he's re-reading Dickens and recently finished a couple of Bill Bryson's travel books.)
In past years, when we have presented a copy of the UQ report about Allen's progress to the gerontologist who treats him for aphasia, and who administers his own tests once a year, he has been very impressed with the quality of the UQ reports, and the depth of coverage. We, too, have been well pleased with all three of the UQ Aphasia Clinics we attended over three years. And I would certainly encourage anyone with aphasia to participate (the Speech Pathology Clinic webpage gives contact details – but remember to specify that you're interested in the Aphasia Clinic, which is not specifically listed on the website).
In spite of this, I think we may not be participating in further clinics. I tried to explain my reasons for this in an email to our student therapists, part of which read as follows: