Imagine you have suffered a serious stroke. You are unable to speak or follow a conversation. Since you cannot use language to connect with your family and friends, you become frustrated and depressed.
Dr. Alana Kozlowski, Missouri State University communication sciences and disorders assistant professor, studies people with an acquired communication disorder called aphasia. She has been working to develop a way for those with aphasia to have a rewarding, relaxing activity in an environment where those who struggle with verbalization are back on equal footing with those who care for them.
During the 2015-16 academic year, a small group of people with aphasia and their caregivers joined “team Koz” twice a month to make music in a room at the Springfield-Greene County Library Center.
She chose this activity because aphasia is caused by an injury to the left hemisphere of the brain, the area that controls language. The right hemisphere controls response to the components of music – melody, harmony and pitch. Participants in the music-making group could hum, tap, sing, or “just be among friends.”
“Often my goal as a speech-language pathologist was to help clients effectively and efficiently express their wants and needs. However, I began to question whether having a shared social experience with or without words may be equally important. Maybe a shared social experience was more important than words to a 75-year-old who had been married 50 years,” she said.
Someone who entered the room would see 15 people singing “Amazing Grace” and never guess that six of them would not be able to make a simple request such as asking for salt.