Imagine a program where people with brain injuries can practice the social skills learned in rehab to equip them to thrive in a work or community setting.
Speech & Language Pathologists Karen Salamon and Kathy Yoshida, who have worked together for 13 years at Columbia Speech and Language Services Inc., have been talking about running a program like this for years and finally put their ideas into motion.
The two created a brand new initiative called Social Communication Program for Young Adults with Brain Injury. Their mission is to provide evidence-based treatment and long-term support for young adults who have challenges in their interpersonal communication skills due to an acquired brain injury or related disorder. It’s geared for people who are at the stage in their recovery where these issues are a major obstacle into meaningful participation in life.
Kathy describes some of the challenges her clients face, like missing subtle social cues, struggling with timing in the flow of a conversation, struggling with maintaining a conversation, difficulty picking up clues during a conversation to ask questions.
The program objective is to address these challenges in order to decrease social isolation and its consequences, such as depression, and to increase participation in life events and meaningful activities.
Karen says the program is intended to fill a gap that currently exists for a lot of the clients she sees.
“There are a lot of times when I think, ‘Gosh, I wish we could send this client to a social setting to practice the communication skills we’ve been working on.’ Well, this program is that place to practice.”
Kathy adds that without a place to practice their communication skills, clients often revert back to their old routines where social interaction is lacking.
“We scoured the research to determine what kind of social communication group is most effective,” says Kathy. “We are excited that our group offers long-term followup and ongoing support to ensure the skills being worked on are put into practice.”
She describes their program’s unique two-pronged approach. The first six weeks will target the skills involved in good communication. They will incorporate video taping to view both good and bad interactions. The group format will offer a safe place to give and receive feedback. Each client will set individual goals and is encouraged to bring a coach, family member or mentor to help them through the program.
“We will provide education for the support person to help them with the work they will do in this process,” says Kathy.
The second part of the program is all about life participation where the skills developed in the first phase can be practiced and honed through community participation.
“We will encourage participants to practice their skills in a volunteer role they may have, or by joining a community group of some kind,” says Karen.
Some of the participants may go on to become mentors for future groups attending this program.
Phase One: Active Training Phase, runs for three hours every Saturday from November 7 to December 12. Phase 2: Monthly Practice Phase, runs one Saturday per month from January to July.
To register and for more information, contact Columbia Speech & Language Services at 604-875-9100 or email@example.com.