Attending Aphasia Boot Camp

2016-0815 Aphasia Boot Camp
Randy Miller (right), a participant in Fontbonne University’s Aphasia Boot Camp, joins others playing a version of Jeopardy! The class, which offers six weeks of intensive language therapy for stroke patients, is part of the Eardley Family Clinic for Speech, Language and Hearing. Photo by Sid Hastings

By Michele Munz | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nearly every weekday for a six-week summer boot camp, they meet for group therapy in a classroom at Fontbonne University. They all suffer with aphasia. A stroke has limited their ability to communicate their thoughts, find the right words, read or write.

Each week has a theme, such as current events, entertainment, or health and wellness. At one recent meeting, the group played a “Jeopardy!”-like trivia game. Olympics was as one of the categories.

Unlike real “Jeopardy!”, they could help one another figure out the answers. Aphasia doesn’t impair one’s intelligence, and this is a smart bunch. There’s a young former Marine, a retired college professor, software developer, nurse, mechanical engineer, accountant and journalist.

The Aphasia Boot Camp is offered each summer by the university’s communication disorders department. It started as a two-week test project in 2013 and quickly expanded to include hour-long group therapy sessions that meet four days a week for six weeks, with individual sessions meeting before or after.

Language skills lost during a stroke can rarely be fully restored, so insurance typically covers the cost of speech therapy — often just a couple of hours a week — up until the person’s progress slows or plateaus. But recent research shows that instead of quitting, bouts of intense therapy over a short period of time can help people continue to make gains.

“The idea that recovery is over 10 to 12 months after a stroke is just not the case,” states Amanda Alton, the Fontbonne instructor and licensed therapist overseeing the boot camp.


Thanks to Michele Munz for writing the articleSt. Louis Post-Dispatch for committing their resources to publishing the article; Amanda Alton for contributing to the article; Fontbonne University for providing the service described in the article; Google for helping me find the article; and the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible to include the picture, text and links in this post.


  1. I have often found with my own aphasia problems and word search. During intense discussions with people that know me well and of my disability history, or with people that are mere acquaintance not having any prior knowledge of my aphasia, it has worked best for me, when that word which is an absolute necessity within the conversation and no alternate noun, verb or acronym can be used in its place, I have found using the definitive form of the word, and asking for help in placement of the word or necessary acronym from my conversational partner has been most unassuming and accepting a practice. I have found my partners in conversation, many with and without aphasia to use similar tactics as acronyms become more common, crossing many boundaries.

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