Jerome Kaplan

History of the Community Group of Boston

The Aphasia Community Group of Boston was founded in March, 1990 by a group of interested persons--aphasics, family members, caregivers--because, at the time, no group existed specifically for persons with aphasia. There were many stroke clubs but no aphasia groups. Approximately one stroke in eight results in some form of aphasia. But aphasia can also result from other neurological disorders such as traumatic head injury, brain tumor, or progressive neurological disease.

The mission of the Aphasia Community Group of Boston is to offer education and support for persons with aphasia and related disorders, families, friends, and interested professionals. Many of our activities have involved the performing, visual, and multi-media arts. This is because many of our members have come from these backgrounds and because it is our belief that the performing arts can serve as a natural bridge to personal dignity and public awareness.

The group meets monthly, on Saturdays, for three hours. Each session is typically divided into three sections. The first hour is for informal socialization. Beverages and and snacks are provided. It is a time for people to connect and share.

The second hour is more structured. First timers are welcomed, announcements are made, future sessions are planned. Presentations on diverse topics--research, music, dance, travel, psychological issues, computer technology, and nontraditional forms of therapy, support, and education--are held.

In the third hour, the group divides in two: persons with aphasia and family members. These sessions are held in separate rooms. For me, this is the most challenging portion of the meeting. Working with with diverse group of aphasic individuals, I try to facilitate communication in every way. I try to maintain focus, afford everyone an opportunity to participate, and encourage the less assertive members to contribute. It is a challenge to maintain a balance. At times, pragmatic issues such as interruptions or tangential discourse must be addressed. It is important that everyone is included and feels safe.

In recent years the Aphasia Community Group has developed projects to raise community awareness about aphasia. In 1998 multimedia artist Ellent Driscoll created "Mum's the Word," a public art project which was displayed in the Boston area and nationally at conferences and conventions. A companion set of postcards depicting the words and images created by the artist and eleven members of the Aphasia Community Group was distributed. In February, 2000, "Faces of Aphasia," a program of music, poetry, and theater was performed by members of the group and visiting artists. It was widely publicized in the local media. Mezzo-soprano Jan Curtis performed for the first time in public since her stroke in 1995.

A documentary film entitled "After Words" premiered in the June of 2003 at the Wang Center for the Performing Arts. Directed by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Vincent Straggas, "After Words" features members of the Aphasia Community Group. It also features internationally known celebrities whose lives have been touched by stroke and aphasia.

In March, 2005, the Aphasia Community Group of Boston begins its sixteenth year. We are very proud of our accomplishments and look forward to building more bridges to our community through advocacy, education, socialization, and the developent of an Aphasia Community Resource Center.

For more information, please contact:

Jerome Kaplan, M.A.jCCC-SLP Phone: .617 499-5011