Programs

Big Sky Aphasia Programs

All of our services are delivered by graduate student clinicians from the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders Masters of Science Speech-Language Pathology Program at the University of Montana under the supervision of ASHA-certified and state-licensed speech-language pathologists.

Speech-Language and Cognitive-Communication Evaluations

We offer comprehensive evaluations to assess the speech, language, and cognitive skills of individuals who have sustained a stroke or traumatic brain injury, or have other neurological disease or damage. Both formal and informal assessment tools are used to examine speaking, understanding, reading, and writing abilities. Attention, memory, planning, and organizing skills may be assessed as well. A critical component of the evaluation is to determine if the individual will benefit from use of compensatory strategies to improve communication and cognitive skills. These components result in a comprehensive picture of the individual's skills and needs. Evaluation results are discussed with the client and family, along with specific recommendations for therapy and suggestions for home practice. Evaluations typically last a minimum of three hours. Evaluations may be scheduled across multiple days.

Individual Speech-Language Therapy

We offer individualized speech-language and cognitive-communication therapy that is based upon the best current evidence and principles of nerobiological recovery that optimize brain plasticity and maximize rehabilitation. Individual speech-language therapy serves both the individual with the acquired disorder and the family and/or caregiver(s) who support the individual with the acquired disorder. Our individual speech-language therapy is designed with input from the client and family to increase the individual's participation in activities of daily living and social communication. Therapy sessions are dynamic and may include community outings, role play, paper-and-pencil tasks, and computer-based activites. Individual therapy occurs 1-3 times per week. Given the current best evidence, we strongly encourage clients recovering from stroke or head injury to attend a minimum of two therapy sessions per week.

Telepractice Services

Persons with acquired communication disorders in Montana represent a unique population. Montana is a large, rural state with few resources and/or speech and language services. Barriers that may prevent access to outpatient services may include: (1) geographic obstacles including distance, difficulty of travel on rural roads, and severe winter weather, (2) financial obstacles including lack of insurance or out-of-pocket funds for services and transportation costs, and (3) physical limitations including reduced mobility and comorbid health conditions. As a result of these obstacles, individuals in Montana do not always receive the services they need to improve and maintain their communication skills and their participation in social, vocation, and/or recreational roles.

The Big Sky Aphasia Program is pleased to offer high-quality, individualized speech-language and cognitive-communication treatment through the use of HIPAA-compliant telecommunication. We require an initial in-person, on-campus assessment before beginning of telepractice treatment services.

Aphasia Community Group

We are pleased to announce that we offer a weekly group session for individuals with aphasia during the fall, spring, and summer academic semesters. Group treatment includes small and large conversation groups and support for the person with aphasia. The Aphasia Community Group occasionally hosts guest speakers or therapists from other disciplines. Periodically, we offer a caregiver support group that occurs at the same time as the Aphasia Community Group. We expect to offer an ongoing, regularly scheduled caregiver support, training, and education group in the near future. We are also pleased to announce that we now offer a weekly Aphasia Book & Game Club. The Aphasia Book & Game Club allows our participants to engage socially with other individuals with aphasia with the support of our graduate student clinicians. Please note that we follow the University of Montana Academic Calendar for all of our group sessions.

Intensive Comprehensive Aphasia Programs (ICAPs)

Intensive Comprehensive Aphasia Programs (ICAPs) are a relatively new service delivery model for stroke rehabilitation. The number of ICAPs across the country is increasing as a result of a desire to approach aphasia rehabilitation from a holistic and bio-psychosocial background, while also implementing intensive treatment. Currently, the evidence suggests that intensive treatment yields the most effective treatment outcomes. The overarching goal of an ICAP is to maximize communication potential and improve the life participation. In short, ICAPs are multi-faceted and take into consideration the many aspects of communication needs faced by those affected by aphasia.

ICAPs provide a minimum of three hours of treatment per day for at least two weeks, with some programs providing as many as four to six hours per day over a period of four to five weeks. Daily treatment should include individual sessions, group sessions, and computer-based or technology-based treatment. Patient and family education should also be provided. Persons with aphasia and their carers who are enrolled in an ICAP may receive as many as 120 hours of focused language treatment over the span of one month, whereas a person who is enrolled in a standard treatment model will receive approximately 8 to 12 hours of treatment in the same time frame. While research of the ICAP model is in its infancy, initial efficacy studies indicate positive patient outcomes across a variety of impairment-based and psychosocial domains.

The Big Sky Aphasia Program's ICAP is designed to meet the criteria for an ICAP and has been intentionally designed with clearly defined intensity parameters, a concern for client, carer, and clinician perspectives, and a focus on comprehensive treatment that addresses multiple modalities using strategies and recreational opportunities that are individualized to those affected by aphasia.

The Big Sky Aphasia Program currently offers and ICAP for individuals with aphasia and/or apraxia of speech (and their carers) resulting from stroke or traumatic brain injury. ICAPs include individual, small group, large group, and techonology-based treatment, as well as weekly caregiver education and support meetings. During our ICAPs, participants receive speech and language treatment four hours per day, four days per week, for three to four weeks, depending on the specific program. Prior to beginning the ICAP treatment program, participants receive a comprehensive speech and language evaluation to determine their individual strengths and needs. The ICAP culminates with post-treatment testing and a final family conference during the final week to discuss progress and to make recommendations for home programming and further services. The cost of the program fluctuates from year to yera. Total costs include pre- and post-treatment assessment, all treatment and caregiver educational and counseling sessions, weekly recreational outings, and weekly hosted lunches.