Helping First Responders Understand Aphasia

General, News

Gordon Krainen, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, one of the senior speech-language pathologists at the University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP), recently visited the Ann Arbor Fire Station to inform the firefighters about aphasia. Because firefighters are first responders, it’s necessary to know how to communicate with people with aphasia in moments of crisis.


Gordon shared with the firefighters the specifics on the different types of aphasia and how they affect the brain. Specifically, he focused on how to use the communication board in the firetruck and what communication techniques are best to use with someone with a communication disorder, including speaking slowly and calmly, facing the person, and using gestures.


Joining Gordon at the Ann Arbor Fire Station was Chris Bulthuis, a former client at UMAP. Chris shared his experience with a stroke and receiving the medicine TPA which helped dissolve the clot. Chris emphasized how important it is for stroke patients to get to the hospital quickly. Chris attended UMAP after his first stroke and has since been busy raising his three children with his wife. The firefighters enjoyed meeting Chris because they don’t often get to see what happens to people after they respond to a medical emergency.


Gordon shared, “We just want to get the word out about life with aphasia and why the firefighters’ role is so important.”


In the future, Gordon and the other SLPs at UMAP hope to work with EMS workers and police officers to help build an understanding of the needs of those with aphasia.