Clinicians Team With Facilities Staff To Aid Patients | Eastern North Carolina Now

The purple and gold faces of 72 pansies are brightening up a clinic entry way thanks to East Carolina University's aphasia therapy group

    Publisher's note: The author of this post, Crystal Baity, is a contributor to ECU News Services.

    The purple and gold faces of 72 pansies are brightening up a clinic entry way thanks to East Carolina University's aphasia therapy group.

    The beautification project isn't just for the enjoyment of west campus visitors; the eight patients who helped plant the flowers are benefitting too.

    Aphasia is difficulty or loss in communication, usually the result of stroke or brain injury. ECU's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders hosts a weekly meeting that helps participants engage in a variety of activities to improve communication skills.

    "We're always trying to think of new projects for our group," said Sherri Winslow, clinical instructor in the College of Allied Health Sciences.

From left to right, Ervin Harris, Ashley Ritter, Matt Anderson, Holly Gosnell, Mally Fisher, Richard Brown and Warren Matthews stand next to a flower bed planted by patients and graduate students involved in ECU’s aphasia group. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

    The gardening idea took root in late summer when Winslow talked with ECU facilities supervisor Michael Cox, who said his crew would prepare the area and buy the flowers for the patients to plant next to the entrance of ECU's Speech Language and Hearing Clinic, where the aphasia group meets.

    "They'll see the fruit of their work and know they did it, they were a part of that," Winslow said. "You can see the cooperation that's involved in planting the flowers. It's not just about verbal speech but being together and communicating in any way we can that promotes group unity."

Graduate student Holly Gosnell helps patient Richard Brown plant pansies next to the entrance of the ECU Speech Language and Hearing Clinic.
    At least two patients have backgrounds working the soil, like Warren Matthews of Williamston. He farmed peanuts, corn, soybeans, cotton and tobacco, and still likes to get out on his tractor.

    On a warm and sunny Oct. 28, Matthews and others helped and watched as speech language pathology graduate students arranged the flowers next to 60 liriope or Aztec grass that the group planted in early October. ECU horticultural specialist Steve Bruce and his crew designed and installed a rock wall and irrigation system before the group began their work.

    Ashley Ritter, a second year graduate student also from Williamston, is in her first semester working with the aphasia group.

    "I think the group members enjoy the social aspect," Ritter said. "They are with people who are going through the same thing as they are."

    Besides gardening, participants play games, watch videos and talk about current events as part of therapy. "Any means of getting them to express their communication, either in a single word, response or phrase," Ritter said. "Some even use sentences."

    Irvin Carsten, a longtime group member, said before the plantings that the area looked like "zilch." Now "it looks nice," he said.

    Contact Winslow at 252-744-6142 or for more information or to join the ECU aphasia group.
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