On June 28, hundreds of Ann Arbor Summer Festival visitors learned about language and helped the University Center for Language and Literacy (UCLL) raise aphasia awareness. In the KidZone at Ann Arbor’s annual Top of the Park celebration, UCLL offered two sensory language experiences: What Happens When You Don’t Have Words? for all ages, and Interactive Reading and Sensory Experience for children.
Visitors were able to learn about language and how our brains work through several stations. On one side, they explored the insatiable appetite of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle with a story, a craft and a sand table treasure hunt. Older children and adult visitors moved through experience stations to get a first-person understanding of what aphasia – a language disorder that can take away a person’s ability to read, write and/or speak – can be like.
Roughly 1 million people in the U.S. have aphasia, with more than 80,000 new cases a year. Yet, despite the growing numbers affected, most people have never heard of aphasia, and don’t understand the devastating impact it can have on an individual’s life.
Aphasia is a language disorder caused by a stroke or head injury that can take away a person’s ability to read, write and/or speak — sometimes cutting them off from the rest of the world.
What It’s Like to Lose Your Words
Speech and language experts, as well as a former UMAP client, were available to discuss what it’s like to have aphasia. They facilitated experiential learning through three stations that allowed visitors to feel what it’s like to have difficulty in retrieving words, limited vision, and using alternate forms of communication to relay information. After the activity, UMAP aphasia experts explained the similarity between these activities and an aphasia victim’s reality. UMAP’s activities demonstrated that although someone with the disorder may have trouble speaking, understanding, reading and/or writing — they are just as smart, funny and personable as they were before aphasia.
Visitors then learned these tips for communicating with someone who has aphasia:
UCLL and a Hunger for Literacy
On the other side of the ULL tent a sandbox, coloring sheets, reading logs, and a large (hungry) paper caterpillar drew children young and old. Visitors dug into the sandbox for plastic foods and described what they found by using sensory language. The make-it-yourself caterpillars were a hit, with the kids naming their creations and coloring food for them to eat. UCLL language specialists and volunteers took turns reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the very hungry crowd of young minds.