The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 9, 2013

Aphasia center members support each other with club after facility becomes inactive

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — Locals helped by the Central Pennsylvania Aphasia Center will continue its mission, even as the center itself closes its doors.

The center, founded in April 2011, announced in its newsletter earlier this month that it would be entering a period of inactivity due to difficulty in sustaining its mission, according to center executive director Robin Petrus.

Aphasia is a disorder which affects a person’s ability to communicate, as they have trouble associating words with their meanings. It is most commonly a result of strokes, or other brain injuries.

“Initially, I viewed this change as a failure to achieve my vision for the Center, but I now see this change in a different light,” wrote Petrus. “The Aphasia Center has transformed lives, connected people, and educated the community about aphasia and the need for long-term support. The mission does not end with the closing of a Center but continues as those of us touched by the organization go out into the world, sharing our ‘changed’ selves with others.”

And the center’s former members know the value of what Petrus taught them.

“It’s been a blessing,” said center member JoAnne Fisher. It was a place that felt safe, she said, because everyone there didn’t have to worry about making speaking mistakes.

She and others from the center plan to continue its mission, by forming the Aphasia Club, which will meet Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the center’s previous location in Maria Hall.

While the club won’t have access to the speech therapy services that the center did, it will still offer a much needed chance for the group to socialize with each other. Too many people who suffer from aphasia, said Fisher, tend to stay home and don’t talk due to their difficulty communicating.

“You’ve got to create a new life,” she said. “When you’ve got people helping you, who are the same, it’s so much easier to take chances.”

Fisher said she was not yet certain how many of the center’s 10 to 15 members would attend the first meeting this Friday.

The club does plan to continue the singing lessons that Petrus started. Songs tend to help coax words out of the minds of people with aphasia when regular speaking does not, said Fisher. While she is not certain of the science behind it, she does know that “when they’re singing, the words come.”

The club is still figuring out some of its specifics, said Fisher, but plans to keep growing and maintaining the social circle begun by Petrus. “We won’t stop now that we have people’s attention,” said Fisher.

The new club has Petrus’ full blessing.

“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a way to continue the mission despite the fact that we won’t have a full-blown center,” she said. “I’m very proud of them for continuing the mission this way.”

While Petrus said she was not certain what the future would hold for her, she was still “considering future options” for the Aphasia Center. “I definitely want to continue to be involved…in the role of a speech therapist,” she said.

“All of us are so thankful that Robin created this,” said Fisher. “If it hadn’t have been for Robin, more than likely this wouldn’t have happened.”


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