My name is Tamara Lapsley and I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist and a TAP Communication Support Team volunteer. A little over 5 years ago, a dear family friend’s 18 year old son — Austin Harrell – suffered a large LMCA stroke. I had known Austin since he was born and had watched him grow up, play soccer, attend church with my kids, and go on annual camping and lake trips with our family and 3 other families from church. When Austin suffered his stroke 3 weeks before heading off to college, my heart truly broke knowing all that lay ahead of him and his family. However, in the process of trying to figure out how our group of friends could support Austin and his family through this crisis, I found out about Triangle Aphasia Project and Maura Silverman’s Communication Support Team model. I immediately felt a renewed sense of hope about Austin’s situation!
Austin’s family contacted Maura and as soon as he returned from the inpatient rehabilitation program at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Austin became involved with TAP. Almost immediately Susan Harrell and Maura organized Austin’s Communication Support Team, of which I have been honored and blessed to be a part of over the last 5 years. In conjunction with many other volunteers as well as several speech-language pathologists, Austin has gone from working on following 1-2 step directions and saying simple words and phrases to completing a college course each semester, writing college papers, and carrying on conversations with peers and strangers. Recently at TAP’s Christmas Open House I tried to make my way over to talk to Austin but wasn’t able to do so BECAUSE he was carrying on a lengthy conversation with a stranger. It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!!
As you can see, TAP and the Communication Support Team/Life Participation Model of therapy has had — and continues to have– a tremendous impact on Austin’s life, as well as the lives of countless others. It has also had a huge impact on my life and prompted myself and another family friend of Austin’s – Angie Hudson — to co-found Esteamed Coffee, Inc., a nonprofit coffee shop and bakery to employ individuals with communication, intellectual/developmental, and/or visual disabilities. One of the goals of this coffee shop will be to extend the Life Participation Model of therapy to the employee’s work and social environments. Maura has graciously agreed to be on the Board of Directors of Esteamed Coffee and is lending her 15 years of nonprofit expertise to this endeavor. We are so excited about taking what we have learned from the Communication Support Team model and extending it to the individual’s work environment! Please visit our website at www.esteamedcoffee.com to learn more.