Rambling with… Westman Aphasia


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2022 (232 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Researching my own health issues, I found Brandon’s Westman Aphasia and Susan Cable, their chief administrative officer, and decided to ask her about the services provided by the organization.

According to the Westman Aphasia website, “aphasia is a language or communication disorder that is a result of damage to parts of the brain responsible for language. Aphasia can occur suddenly following a stroke or head injury, or it can develop slowly as the result of a brain tumour, dementia, or a progressive disease of the brain.”

I first asked how long WA has been helping people.

                                <p>Westman Aphasia is an essential service to those with aphasia, their caregivers and professionals.</p>


Westman Aphasia is an essential service to those with aphasia, their caregivers and professionals.

Susan said: “We started in 2008 to support those living with the chronic communication disorder called aphasia, and their caregivers, families, and friends. We began direct service in 2009, and indirect service province-wide via presentations, etc.”

I have dysarthria, which made me ask about similarities to and differences from aphasia.

Susan said: “Dysarthria and aphasia are two completely different conditions. Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder involving impairment in the clarity of speech sounds. Aphasia is a language impairment meaning there’s weakness in the understanding and expression of language. Both are communication disorders resulting from diseases such as stroke, brain tumour, progressive disease like dementia, etc., or injury to the part of the brain responsible for communication.”

I suffered a heart attack and a stroke, so I always thought I had aphasia; however, my speech therapist soon straightened me out. During my heart attack and stroke, a lack of blood flow to my brain resulted in an acquired brain injury (ABI), causing dysarthria.

Brenda Rust, a speech language pathologist and program clinician told me: “Aphasia happens when there is only damage to the language centres of the brain and the injury to the brain is localized to those regions. Motor speech disorders like dysarthria result from damage to the part of the nervous system involved in speech production. Many neuromuscular conditions (diseases that affect the nerves controlling certain muscles) such as cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and ALS, can result in dysarthria, secondary to muscle weakness, spasticity and/or paralysis.” When I asked how many people Westman Aphasia employs, Susan’s answer surprised me: “We do not have, and have never had, paid employees other than two casual part-time program clinicians who also put in many hours of their own time annually. Our board of directors, program helpers, and CAO are all volunteers, although we are looking for funding to hire a CAO part-time as the workload is quite extensive for a volunteer.

Susan told me that: “Westman Aphasia is the only organization of its kind in Canada west of Toronto that offers specific group sessions for people who live with aphasia and their caregivers, and public awareness through community events, community outreach to those who may need extra support, and public and health-care professional education and training through presentations and workshops to help educate participants about aphasia, its causes and effects, what it means for those who live with it and those who care for them, and how someone can improve their own ability to communicate effectively with someone who has aphasia.”

Westman Aphasia is a non-profit registered charity and is not part of our provincial or federal health-care systems so does not receive any government funding. It has a multi-year funding agreement with the United Way Brandon & District – its primary funder since the organization’s inception – for its main programs and services. Operating expenses come from public donations and fundraising events.

Westman Aphasia’s programs and services offer hope, encouragement, and guidance to those affected by aphasia.

The organization is offering its first virtual workshop on Saturday, Nov. 5 to help people learn more about aphasia. Get more info at www.westmanaphasia.ca, or by emailing westmanaphasia@gmail.com

Weldon Rinn

Weldon Rinn
St. Vital community correspondent

Weldon Rinn lives, writes, and enjoys living in St. Vital. He can be reached at weldonrinn2@gmail.com

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