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Conversation Café boosts confidence in adults with aphasia

adults and students at conversation cafe

Participants connect at CSD Conversation Café.

Relationships are established, connections are made and problems are solved through conversation. The ability to communicate, to participate in conversation is what binds us. Imagine losing that most basic ability; the ability to express your thoughts through speech. For people with aphasia—a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate—this is their everyday reality. Reluctance to engage in opportunities to talk with others can lead to isolation and loneliness.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Illinois State University is providing an environment for connection and conversation for people with aphasia in their newly established “Conversation Café.”

Located in Fairchild Hall, a large meeting room has been transformed into a small café complete with coffee and baristas. Each week adults with aphasia are invited to come and join in conversation with others over a cup of coffee. CSD graduate and undergraduate students facilitate the hour-long group session. Participants range in communication abilities. Some have almost no verbal skills and communicate using speech generating devices while others have only occasional difficulty finding the exact words to express their idea.

All are welcome. Despite the differences in ability, all participants contribute to the overall conversation with support from the graduate students and each other. Topics of conversation have included current events, favorite holiday traditions and travel. Feedback from the participants and their families has been overwhelmingly positive. The confidence of one client in particular who was first introduced to the speech and hearing clinic through the café, has grown significantly. After several visits and many successes in conversation, his wife remarked, “He talks to you? He doesn’t usually try to talk anymore.”

If you know anyone who may benefit from this type of social communication environment, have them contact our clinic for more information at (309) 438-5803 or speechhearingclinic@ilstu.edu.

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