Stroke survivor spreads aphasia awareness


LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – May is National Better Speech and Hearing Month. One stroke survivor is raising awareness about apashia – a condition that affects two milllion Americans. 

Rose Shuff, a former U.S. National Karate Team Member, suffered a stroke 22 years ago. She was only 32 years old.

“I didn’t realize that I couldn’t speak until I thought I was hollering for some help because I was cold. Nobody came,” Shuff said.

Doctors shortly diagnosed shuff with aphasia – a condition that affects a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect their intelligence. Those who have suffered from a stroke, brain tumor or even a traumatic brain injury are suspectible to aphasia. Shuff says it took about six or seven years of therapy for her to feel like she got her voice back.

“I lost my identity when I had the stroke. I didn’t lose it overnight but I gradually lost it over a few years. I said I got to do something to help those who have lost their identity and find a new purpose,” Shuff said.

Shuff founded the Aphasia Center of Acadiana. It’s a place where they not only provide support groups for people with aphasia but free speech therapy services. Dr. Jennifer Tetnowski, a speech therapist and professor at UL Lafayette, oversees the program, with master’s students conducting the therapy as well. 

“Treatments tailor to the individual. So for almost all people we work with, we are working on conversation and working on reading using real reading materials,” Dr. Tetnowski said.

Dr. Tetnowski says there’s no telling when a person will feel like they have their voice back.

“It seems that people with a larger social network and a better support system adjust to their post stroke identity much quicker,” Dr. Tetnowski said.

Through the Aphasia Center of Acadiana, Shuff said she hopes those with aphasia will feel less alone during their treatment and therapy.

“Give them time to talk. Don’t finish their sentences for them. They have to formulate in their mind before it comes out of their mouth,” Shuff said.

The Aphasia Center of Acadiana is hosting a Summer Aphasia Project – an intensive treatment program with group support.

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