The Adler Aphasia Center in Maywood, the only facility of its kind in the world, will soon have a sister facility in Israel.
According to Karen Tucker, gerontologist and executive director of the center, the institution established in ‘003 to give people with aphasia new communication skills is working with Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem to help the school launch a similar program.
Aphasia is a brain disorder that most commonly affects a person’s ability to communicate. According to Tucker, about 1 million Americans have this condition, whether from a stroke or an injury to the brain. The Adler Center, created by Elaine and Mike Adler after Mike Adler suffered a stroke that left him with aphasia, serves 85 aphasics and offers support to some 40 caregivers. Tucker said that the center was featured last week on CBS News during a segment on unique treatments for strokes.
Nava Ben-Zvi, president of Hadassah College, met the Adlers in ‘005, when she visited their Franklin Lakes home to discuss the creation of a college scholarship in the name of late community activist Miriam Josephs. Hearing about the work of the aphasia center at that meeting, Ben-Zvi told the Standard, "I became excited by what they were doing."
Hadassah College has a department of communication disorders, and the college president thought it might benefit from the expertise being developed in New Jersey. The program in Jerusalem includes both theoretical courses and "hands-on" experience in clinics, said Ben-Zvi, who sent Dafna Olenik, one of the Hadassah clinicians, to observe the workings of the Adler Center. "She came back and said it was amazing," said Ben-Zvi.
Following up with a visit of her own, Ben-Zvi met with Elaine Adler and the staff of the center that August, learning not only about their work but of the difficulties she was likely to face, particularly, she said, "in the initial phase, working with different medical organizations to identify those with aphasia."
"Elaine explained the risks and the obstacles," she said. "One difference is that the Adler center is suburban, and ours will be embedded downtown in the campus. Not everyone here has a car, but we have a good transportation system."
In Israel, she said, her center, still in the planning stages, will deal with two groups: senior citizens and those touched by terror and a variety of medical conditions. She said she is still looking for donors, pointing out these kinds of services are not paid for by medical insurance. Ben-Zvi said the Israeli center will employ the skills of the Hadassah College teachers, instructors, and clinicians and that clients are likely to come from the Jerusalem area.
"You can’t always identify [people with aphasia]," she noted, adding that the percentage of people with the condition is the same in Israel as it is in other developed nations. The Hadassah College president also said it is her intention to make service in the new aphasia center "part of the students’ schooling."
According to Tucker, the Maywood center continues to move forward as well. The group, which educates doctors about aphasia, has expanded its outreach, bringing in residents and interns not only from Hackensack University Medical Center but from Englewood Hospital as well.
In addition, said Tucker, center members are now going with staff on these training sessions. "It works wonderfully," she said, illustrating that "there are so many levels of aphasia" and showing that "rehabilitation is possible."