Group offers speech therapy for those who need it

April 6, 2011 6:13:43 PM PDT
With Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Foundation in Houston, people are beginning to understand how difficult the recovery is after a brain injury. But what happens after rehabbing at TIRR when it's time to go home?

Speech therapy needs to continue, but often stops because of insurance. Well now, instead of sitting at home, there's a new option.

At 50, a brain aneurysm robbed Michael LeBourgeois of his ability to speak. He got speech therapy in the hospital, but when he left, nothing happened.

"When I got home, the insurance was used up," he said.

Speech therapy for people with a brain injury is often limited to a few sessions a year. It's a huge problem.

Experts say people are continuing to make progress eight to 10 years after stroke and brain injury, but until lately there's been no place for them to go.

Last year, the Houston Aphasia Recovery Center was created to give those who've lost speech a chance to have a conversation over recreation.

"HARC is very inexpensive, a lot of fun and we don't have discharge dates. It's like a gym," said its founder, Dr. Rita Justice.

Like everyone else, after a stroke, Don Ison's speech therapy at TIRR was limited by insurance. But at HARC, he gets speech therapy playing poker.

"I love poker!" Ison said.

"It's just opened up a whole new world for him," said his wife, Grace Ison.

Pat Stalsby, who suffered an aneurysm at 47, hasn't been able to talk to her three children for five years, but slowly the words are beginning to come.

"There's no stopping the improvement as long as people are in a stimulating and supportive environment and continue to use their skills," HARC Program Coodinator Stephanie Schmadeke said.

"The therapists have helped me do a lot of things I couldn't do before," LeBourgeois said.

And it's also friendship and hope.

The HARC Program costs $2 to $20 a day. If you have a loved one who has lost speech because of a brain injury, you can call 832-767-5028.

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