In 1993 Mike Adler suffered a stroke. He and his wife Elaine found nothing for people with Aphasia. They founded the Adler Aphasia Center in 2003 for people with Aphasia and their caregivers. The Center began with 4 members and today has close to 100 members with Aphasia and 40 caregivers.
The Adler Aphasia Center is a social center for people with Aphasia and their family members/caregivers – a place where people can connect with others who have had similar experiences.
Adler Aphasia Center members attend a wide variety of discussion and skill building groups, support groups, and computer activities. In addition to hands-on, interactive groups such as art, cooking and exercise. Groups are facilitated by licensed speech/language pathologists, trained staff and volunteers.
Visit the Adler Aphasia Center website for more information.
Q. What do your members with aphasia want others to understand about their condition?
A. Members at the Adler Aphasia Center urge the public and those that work in the healthcare industry to be fully educated about this language disorder. Just as those with physical disabilities have a right to wheelchair access, people with aphasia have a right to communication access. For this reason, many of our members with aphasia participate in educating and training healthcare professionals, those in service industries, and the community in general about aphasia by teaching them communication tips, so that when they encounter someone with aphasia, they can better communicate with them.
Q. What do you want your community to know about your center?
A. The Adler Aphasia Center is considered one of the gold standards of long term aphasia treatment programs worldwide. A non-profit organization based in Maywood and West Orange, NJ, we are an innovative post-rehabilitative therapeutic program that addresses the long-term needs of people with aphasia and their families. We are the only center of its kind in the New York-New Jersey area. We also offer five Aphasia Communication Groups in 4 NJ counties- Bergen, Morris, Somerset and Union counties. The programs and activities offered at the Adler Aphasia Center and facilitated by speech language pathologists and healthcare professionals, all share the primary goals of enhancing the communication skills of its members and providing opportunities for social and peer support, while building members’ self-esteem and self-confidence. The Center also addresses the needs of the caregiver by providing support groups since this language disorder affects the entire family. The Center offers training and educational programs in order to share its unique model of care with a national and international audience of health care professionals, consumers, educators, students, speech-language pathologists and others interested in improving the quality of life for those persons affected by aphasia. In addition, the Center is actively engaged in research efforts that examine the impact of its programs and offer innovative approaches to individual treatment.
Q. What’s your center’s favorite activity?
A. Each August, more than half of our Center’s members participate in the Center’s Drama Club’s presentation of a Broadway musical production. Members rehearse for 3 months to practice lines, learn choreography, rehearse the show’s songs, participate as its stars or backstage crew, create sets, and sell ads in our annual Playbill booklet. On show day, the members present two- 2 hour shows, wowing more than 400 members of the community who come to these performances. This event culminates with a special Tony Award presentation to its performers and crew, complete with red carpet and a viewing of its bloopers during the rehearsal process.
Q. Funniest thing that happened in your center?
A. Our annual musicals and Improvisation groups provide us with some of our funniest and most touching moments, like breaking character in the middle of a performance to tie a shoe, or someone who has difficulty speaking any words and will complete the line for another performer who cannot get the word out. There are so many funny moments at our Center because there is such a strong comfort level among all our members when they fail to find their words. They enjoy sharing the humor in their mistakes, which ultimately helps build their confidence and self-esteem.
Q. Can you tell us about a member that was particularly successful at your center?
A. Prior to her stroke at 40, Eunice had recently resigned as a supervisor in a multi-media department of a major publishing company to start her own consulting firm. She was juggling the demands of a new business and raising a young son when she had her stroke. Her disabilities following her stroke extended far beyond her ability to speak, read or write. She had very limited use of her right arm. Her balance was severely affected, although she could walk without the use of any mobility aids. Her eyesight was also compromised as she lost her field of vision in the top right quadrant of her right eye. And, most devastating, as the mother of a young child just 4 years old, her independence was lost as she lost her ability to drive.
When she came to the Adler Aphasia Center as a member two years later, range of motion of her right arm was improved although her right hand was still limited in its use. Thanks to occupational therapy, her balance was better, but her eyesight had not improved. Her neuro-optometrist, a leading practitioner in the field, had been conducting field tests every two years on her sight to gauge improvement. After 5 years of field tests and no significant improvement, her doctor suggested the tests stop for a period of time- that her eyesight had “plateaued.”
About this same time, she started attending group sessions in Life Skills twice a week at Adler Aphasia Center to improve her speech and boost her confidence in talking in public again. With the same creative passion she displayed in her work before her stroke, she began to extend that passion to jewelry design, something that always interested her. Eunice soon began teaching other members of the Center with aphasia how to design and create beautiful handcrafted pieces. As she worked with other members in teaching them the “ how-to’s” of jewelry design, she noticed that not only did her speech dramatically improve as she practiced her communication regularly in her role as jewelry teacher, her eye-hand coordination improved as well as the use of her right arm and hand.
Her eye doctor also discovered that her eyesight had improved dramatically since her last test, at the very same time she started working in jewelry design. He explained that working with the precise art of jewelry making has allowed her to learn to focus her eyes, exercise her eye muscles and ultimately, focus her attention in many other areas of her life. Eunice has not only mastered the art of helping others, she has helped herself to improve physically, mentally and emotionally.
Q. What was the inspiration for founding your center?
A. Two special people, Mike and Elaine Adler, founded our Center in 2003. Ten years earlier, Mike had suffered a stroke after bypass surgery. The stroke left Mike with aphasia. Elaine’s life changed as well. She felt frustrated, confused and helpless as she tried to put their changed lives back together. Although there were many hospital-based speech pathology services in the area that could help Mike with his aphasia, the Adlers found no program that could help him adjust to living with aphasia. The Adlers researched speech pathology clinics around the world and uncovered several unique programs where people touched by aphasia were learning new ways to communicate. Today, the Adler Aphasia Center offers two locations, in Maywood and West Orange, NJ, that welcomes people with aphasia and their caregivers and offers them innovative quality programming and services that help people re-engage in their communities and get on with their lives. Additionally, the Center offers five bi-monthly Aphasia Communication Groups in Bridgewater, Maywood, Morristown, Union and Scotch Plains.