Welcome back to Marla’s site. It’s been a while since the last update, but not for lack of activity on Marla’s part, that’s for sure!
Marla recently completed her second session at the University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP). She was in Ann Arbor from
late December through mid-February. Marla and Mary had to scramble to make their flight out before one of those December
Denver blizzards blasted through, but they made it to Michigan frazzled from travel, but safe and sound! Once in Ann Arbor,
Marla again celebrated in her independence, living on her own in Michigan during the six-week program. This time,
she insisted, no visits from family during the program–she was definitely on her own the whole time! Again, the program
included around 5 hours of speech therapy each day, including individual therapy, group therapy, computer therapy,
as well as art and music therapy. Fun outings during the evenings and weekends included a trip into Detroit for a Red Wings
hockey game, bowling, and a visit to an international ice sculpture festival!
Ever since Marla’s UMAP session in May - June 2006, she has been working three to four days each week with a number
of dedicated tutors (A heart-felt thank you to tutors Dendy Heisel, Jeannette Davidson, Jeannette Abshire, and Mary Jay,
Jan McClintock) in the Glenwood community. In their sessions, they work with Marla on speech, reading and writing.
Following her sessions, Marla spends at least four hours each day practicing and doing homework on her own. The UMAP
therapists were all impressed at the dividends that Marla’s efforts have paid in the dramatic improvements in her speech
upon returning for a second session of the program!
Marla was supported in attending this most recent session by the State of Colorado Vocational Rehabilitation services. To that end, the
focus of her efforts at UMAP was upon improving speech skills to facilitate work force re-integration. Vocational Rehabilitation
developed very specific goals for Marla: she was to focus on speech vocabulary and skills that she would need in a customer/retail
situation such as she might encounter as an employee of a scrap-booking store. As part of her UMAP program, Marla had to develop
and present a scrap-booking/cardmaking class to her fellow students. In order to measure progress, at the beginning of the
UMAP session, Marla was tested both verbally and in writing on the skill sets identified with Vocational Rehab and UMAP
therapists. At the start of the session, Marla’s scores were in the 20 to 30 percent range. By the end, she was scoring 80 to 90
percent for the vocabulary and reading/writing skills for her scrap-booking presentation! Marla gave a card-making
presentation to her fellow students and therapists, who were amazed at her ability to communicate the steps and goals
In early March, Marla was asked to talk to PEO (a women’s service organization) in Glenwood Springs. The local chapter
donated funds to her trip to Michigan, and wanted her to tell them what the Michigan program was all about. Marla had initially
been really nervous about the presentation, but when she and Mary walked into the home, the hostess asked Marla if she would like to
use the podium. Marla said, “yes”, and put her small page of notes on it. She also had photos, and several notebooks of
her Michigan work, and an assistive picture dictionary. Mary sat out of her sight, so that Marla was on her own. Marla blew
everyone away, as fluently as she talked. She kicked back into her natural teacher mode, was funny, used the picture
dictionary to show how it helped her find the word, and how she could then say the object. She showed them the
Valentine card presentation she did at UMAP. She spoke about her accident. Several of the PEO members were
choked up. Then they asked her 5-10 minutes of questions. Mary was sitting in front of two elementary school teachers, one
who won the teacher of the year for the Glenwood district a couple of years ago. They both exclaimed about
HOW MUCH WORK Marla had been doing after looking at her handouts. Marla ended by saying that she
was no longer nervous talking to them, and that she was DETERMINED, MOTIVATED AND WOULD ALWAYS
WORK HARD. Marla has since been asked to talk to other PEO chapters in Colorado about her experiences.
Mary is currently working to set up a Community Life Vision program for Marla. This is a program that seeks to
draw upon the many resources present in a supportive community to help individuals such as Marla identify
and attain new goals in personal growth and recovery. A recent success story of this program in Glenwood
Springs was with Kara, one of the members of Marla’s brain injury support group. Basically, a broad spectrum of
community members, many, but not all of whom know Kara and her family, came together for a half-day of
brain-storming and strategy development to help identify ways that the community can support the individual
towards new goals for life, employment, activities and friendships. The goal of the group is to provide ideas
and then follow through those ideas with support for the individual and his or her family in meeting those goals.
Kara’s goals focused on employment, new friendships, and independent living. Kara’s love for knitting gave
rise to an idea for her to make and sell hand-made knit items. Kara was able to get a special knitting
machine that helps her to make scarves and other hand-made knit products. She now sells hand-crafted knit products
at several places in the Roaring Fork valley. A new computer scheduling program helps keep her on task and
on time. She will soon be moving into her own house with the support of her parents, and has made tremendous strides
towards her personal goals of having a job and living on her own. Mary is working to set up a similar process for Marla,
with similar goals–Marla has a strong desire for more independence in her living, and she certainly has the skills and
drive to be successfully employed! Stay tuned!
In the meantime, Marla is back in the swing of things in Colorado, working hard with her tutors each week. Everyone
she meets is impressed at how fluently she is talking, and at how much she continues to improve.
Thank you again for stopping by, and Marla would love to hear from everyone! Please feel free to to send her an e-mail. Marla and her family sincerely appreciate everyone’s continued support and interest in her progress.