Today we share an update from one of last year’s 12 Days of TAP posts featuring James Washington and Byron Stallings. James and Byron are very involved in TAP’s Bible Study group (led by TAP group leader, Julia Canavan), which uses the Bible as a tool for practicing speech, listening and reading. James, Byron and Julia partnered with Synder Center for Aphasia and Life Enhancement (SCALE) Program in Baltimore and invited SCALE members to virtually join TAP’s Bible Study group for fellowship. They both volunteered to co-facilitate this joint virtual group (assisted by SLPs from TAP and SCALE) and meet weekly to practice the skills needed to lead aphasia groups.
This year, James and Byron felt another calling for expansion – so they agreed to take their talents to Jacksonville, Florida where they established another virtual Bible Study group at Brooks Rehabilitation Aphasia Center (BRAC). James and Byron’s collaborations provide opportunities for individuals with aphasia to practice their communication skills, develop leadership skills, and to co-design a model for empowering stroke survivors to re-engage in the wider-aphasia community as group facilitators. TAP is proud of the resilience and leadership that James and Byron continue to demonstrate – what a pleasure to know them!
Today’s story was written by a caregiver of someone with primary progressive aphasia (PPA):
In the fall of 2020, my spouse, Karen, started to complain about losing words – which we both initially attributed to “aging” coupled with the stress of the first year of the pandemic. But as the months passed, it was clear that something wasn’t quite right. Like many folks before us, we entered what felt like a lengthy phase of medical appointments and testing, only to one day be told that Karen has Primary Progressive Aphasia. Fortunately, before leaving the UNC neurologist’s office that day that we received the diagnosis, she handed us a brochure for TAP and said, “You need to contact this group. They’re great.”
I can’t overstate the importance of the Triangle Aphasia Project. We were able to set up a consultation with Maura Silverman in fairly short order and within a couple of weeks of that meeting we attended – along with a number of good friends – the “Learning to Speak Aphasia” webinar. Maura and the TAP team also provided us with additional information and pointed both of us to helpful resources. We connected with SLP Abbe Simon, who has been working with Karen and me for over a year now. And Abbe then connected me with the TAP Care Partners Group where I’ve received much-needed support as well.
I learned very quickly after Karen’s diagnosis that I was in over my head just trying to understand PPA, let alone how to be a helpful spouse as Karen and I navigate this journey together. I’ve stumbled a lot, but the support of others in the TAP Care Partners Group helps me enormously. I not only learn a lot from others in the group, but I don’t feel so alone. I’m grateful every day for the resources that TAP provides!
Jorge Salazar developed aphasia because of a brain tumor. Following his aphasia diagnosis, he had to retire from his job, making him realize the significant impact aphasia was having on his life.
Upon introduction to TAP by a speech therapist, Jorge started participating in both Spanish and English groups. He attests that TAP has been immensely beneficial, especially since he no longer has a job to attend, leaving his family as his primary communication circle. Recognizing the need to work on his speaking and writing skills, TAP groups provide him with the opportunity to practice. Jorge can see positive changes in both him and those around him at TAP groups.
Jorge Salazar desarrolló afasia a causa de un tumor cerebral. Debido a su diagnóstico de afasia, tuvo que retirarse de su trabajo, lo que le hizo darse cuenta del importante impacto que la afasia estaba teniendo en su vida.
Su terapista de lenguaje lo refirio a TAP y Jorge comenzó a participar en grupos tanto en español como en inglés. Él da fe de que TAP ha sido inmensamente beneficioso, especialmente porque ya no tiene un trabajo al que asistir, y su familia era lo unico que tenia como fuente de comunicación. TAP le brinda la oportunidad de practicar sus habilidades de expresion oral, escrita y de socializacion. Jorge reconoce que ha visto una gran mejoria y cambios positivos no tan solo en el, pero tambien en sus companeros de los grupos TAP.
Timothy (Tim) Coleman lives in Durham and loves to read comic books and play video games. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
Tim experienced a hemorrhagic stroke in 2015 while in his 30s, which made talking very difficult for him. He is happy to say that TAP has improved his talking skills, particularly because he has been able to meet and converse with others also experiencing aphasia. Tim regularly attends two virtual groups (TAP into Movies and TAP into Memories). He encourages other people with aphasia to reach out to TAP so that they, too, can find specific groups they enjoy being a part of to rebuild their communication “competency”.
Sarah Mazeika is TAP’s newest group leader. While relatively new to the triangle area, Sarah has quickly realized the impact that TAP has on the North Carolina aphasia community. She values TAP’s emphasis on the life participation approach, a principle that she emphasizes in her clinical practice.
Sarah thoroughly enjoys leading her Friday in-person Conversations and Connections group and looks forward to co-facilitating the new in-person TAP into Recreation group at Jaycee Community Center in Raleigh, which she will co-facilitate with a licensed recreational therapist starting on Friday, January 12th. We are so happy to have Sarah involved!
John Sams lives in Apex with his lovely wife, Phyllis, and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren. John is a retired salesman, a talented artist, and a gardener.
John was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) four years ago with his primary deficit being language difficulties. He shares that there was not a time-specific event that he can pinpoint when his language became more difficult. He is happy to be associated with TAP because it provides opportunities to practice conversation with others and implement the skills learned in speech therapy in a community-setting. John attends the virtual TAPLinks/PPA Group on Wednesdays with his wife and the virtual TAP into the Bible group, as well as the in-person Conversation and Connections group. John wants other people to know that the more you do, the more opportunities you have to improve!
Mike Strickland lives in Wendell with his wife, Angie, and daughter, Lillie. He owns a stained glass studio where he currently works as an artist. Mike is a big college football fan (shout out to the Wolfpack!) and is extremely hard working.
Following knee surgery, Mike experienced an ischemic stroke on May 9th, 2023, resulting in aphasia and apraxia of speech (AOS). Despite changing many things in his life, Mike has identified blessings to come from his stroke, including meeting new people who have helped him along the way. Mike regularly attends the in-person Wake Forest, Conversation and Connections, Write On and TAP into Literacy groups. Mike wants other people with aphasia to know that every day they should decide to keep going because there’s always something to learn and progress can always be made.
Bill Swartley lives in Apex with his wonderful wife, Kay. He is a retired forest hydrologist and one of the biggest Penn State fans out there!
Bill was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) in 2021. He shares that he has learned effective strategies from other TAP members to improve his ability to communicate with his loved ones. Bill regularly attends the virtual TAPLinks/PPA Group on Wednesdays with his wife, as well as the in-person Conversation and Connections group on Fridays at the TAP Home Office. Bill wants other people with aphasia to continue to socialize and never stop having conversations with people.
Andrea is a TAP client who had her stroke right after the birth of her second child. She shares that depression hit hard during those first two years – whether due to postpartum depression or the impact of aphasia, she doesn’t know.
Andrea discovered TAP after moving from Arizona to Cary, where she was welcomed with open arms. She now has friends unlike she’s ever had, who she can lean on for support through the good times and the bad. Her world before vs after TAP is night and day. And of course, she wishes you happy holidays!
Jeff Fosburg is a retired electrician for General Motors. He had a stroke in February 2022 which resulted in both aphasia and apraxia of speech (AOS). Jeff was and still is an avid bike rider and loves Michigan Sports (Go Lions!).
Jeff shares that TAP feels like a family to him. He regularly attends four different virtual groups: TAP into Sports, Conversation and Connections, TAP into the Bible and more recently the joint virtual group with the Ohio State University Aphasia Initiative – all of which he loves. Jeff wants other people with aphasia to remember that they are not alone in their journeys and emboldens them to find an organization like TAP to feel better connected.
Eric Cotton is a 23-year-old college athlete who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was hit by a car while skateboarding in January 2023. Eric is a huge fan of sports, highly relational and a man of faith.
Eric shares that his accident took a lot away from him, but that TAP has re-introduced many positive things back into his life. He comments that TAP has helped him regain his ability to speak by participating in conversations with others. TAP has also provided an opportunity for Eric to join a weekly Bible study, something that’s important to him. Eric regularly attends many virtual groups, including TAP into the Bible, Conversation and Connections, TAP into Reading and TAP into Sports. He strongly encourages other people with aphasia to try TAP!