Communication camp gets people talking


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This article was published 20/07/2021 (685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There’s an innovative summer camp for adults that has everyone talking, and the reason they can talk is because this camp is for folks who are learning to speak again after suffering brain injuries.

The Aphasia Connect Camp, a first of its kind for adults, is an online program for participants and their caregivers. Aphasia is a language disorder that limits a person’s ability to communicate, resulting in difficulty speaking, reading or writing. This can be due to medical causes such as genetic illness, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, dementia, concussions, tumours and traumatic brain injuries from accidents, many from sports mishaps or falls.   

Communication virtual camp for Winnipeggers runs Aug. 5, Aug. 19 and Sept. 2. On Oct. 1 and 2 the equivalent of a jamboree happens at the Manitoba Aphasia Camp sponsored by the March of Dimes.

Supplied photo 
Speech pathologist Allison Baird will help run the Aphasica Connect Camp this summer.
Supplied photo Speech pathologist Allison Baird will help run the Aphasica Connect Camp this summer.

The caamp is also available in Thompson (Aug. 23 and Sept. 13); Selkirk (Aug. 19 and Sept. 2) and Steinbach (Aug. 12, Aug. 26 and Sept. 9).   

The camps are run by certified speech pathologists Stephanie Harvey and Allison Baird,assisted by approximately 30 volunteers.

Stephanie once taught math in Malawi, and she has an MA in speech therapy from the University of Minnesota.  Allison’s background includes work at St.Amant Centre, hospital administration and an MA in speech pathology from the University of North Dakota.   

The camp provides not only an opportunity to relearn how to communicate but also to learn new coping strategies.

“There is a lot of laughing and sharing at the camps,” Stephanie says. “Your brain works better when you’re having fun.”    

They provide support “for parents, spouses and friends who are in daily contact with the client to give them tools to work together between their meetings with us. Essentially, this is a life-participation approach to aphasia.”

“By far, the favourite part for clients is the storytelling component,” Stephanie says. “They love getting to know others while sharing their own journey.”  

Besides assessing speech, the therapists also address a common side effect of a stroke, which is inability to swallow. In consultation with the client’s medical team, coping strategies are incorporated.  
Another common side effect is depression, which Allison and Stephanie help monitor but “because we are in the business of hope, I’ve never had a client who didn’t want to get better,” Allison says.  

That hope is in the form of the positive relationships that are an outcome of working on communication skills. 

“Our obligation is to serve and help people navigate their new life experiences,” Allison says. “With COVID, everyone is on camera, and that actually helps us meet the requirements of good therapy.”

With virtual care, a new concept in the language of medicine, Stephanie and Allison are able to serve northern Manitoba residents via Telehealth. They work with people in Churchill, Shamattawa, Garden Hill, Flin Flon and The Pas.

For Stephanie, reducing social isolation is key to her passion in working with post injury clients.

“Thanks to Zoom, we can see clients in their home environments, meet with their caregivers and structure sessions for maximum benefit,” she says.

To book a screening session go to: or call 204-231-2165.

Heather Emberley

Heather Emberley
Crescentwood community correspondent

Heather Emberley is a community correspondent for Crescentwood. Email her at if you have a story suggestion.

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