Turning Silence into Song
Story by Adventist HealthCare Staff
It makes sense that the estimated 1 million people in the U.S. who have aphasia cannot easily explain their condition. A language disorder, which typically results from a stroke or other damage to the brain, impairs a person’s ability to speak. Unfortunately, it also makes sense that people with the condition feel isolated.
Adventist HealthCare Physical Health & Rehabilitation (PH&R), with inpatient and outpatient locations in Rockville, Silver Spring, Takoma Park and Gaithersburg, began offering a community aphasia support group in 2006 to provide a network for those feeling disconnected due to ongoing communication challenges.
“There is value in communicating with others who are also having difficulty,” explained Sandi Lancaster, MA, CCC-SLP, a senior speech-language pathologist with PH&R. “Having a supportive group environment to work on communication can be extremely therapeutic for individuals with aphasia.”
In 2015, Ms. Lancaster shared information about the potential therapeutic benefits of music and singing with the group.
“Individuals with aphasia typically have damage to the left hemisphere of their brains, whereas music is largely a function of the right hemisphere,” she said. “So music can tap into people’s strengths when they have aphasia.”
Thanks to the presentation, members of the group realized that, although they had difficulty speaking, they were able to communicate in another way: through song. Group member Erik Delfino felt so inspired that he worked with two other group members to start a choir, now known as Aphasia Tunes.
Today, Aphasia Tunes regularly performs at Calvary Lutheran Church in Silver Spring. The group purchased instruments through a grant from the church and has continued to perform with support from the church’s music minister, Brian Priebe. The choir currently practices twice a month and performs at the church.
Mr. Delfino, who suffered a stroke in 2014, said that being part of the choir has helped him with his communication challenges.
“I know people with my condition have difficulty getting the words out, but for me, singing was no problem,” Delfino said. “I am excited to see how this new initiative will continue to bless the lives of others as we move forward. I know it has already been a great blessing to those involved.”