Spring 2017 Communication and Leadership Award Recipient
Frank Austin, Founder, The Expressive Café ®
The ability to communicate is vital – no one understands this better than a Toastmaster.
Now – imagine that your ability to communicate was taken away from you. As a result of a stroke in 2008, this was Frank Austin's situation. The stroke affected the "language centre" of the brain and resulted in a condition called "Aphasia". This condition hampers the ability to connect words to their meaning – in some cases, the afflicted person can`t talk, can`t read, can`t write. Shortly after the stroke, Frank could not even say his own son's name. Within a couple years and with amazing determination, Frank was volunteering as a peer visitor, and speaking at Stroke Recovery groups to share his strategies and struggles – slowly regaining his speaking ability, gaining confidence, offering hope. Frank taught himself to regain his speech by reading to his son.
Four years after his stroke, and frustrated from a shortfall in resources at home in Elmira, Ontario, Frank founded The Expressive Café ® - a facilitated conversation group for people with Aphasia. Toastmasters know the positive effect of having people participate and communicate in a safe and supportive environment. "The Mission of the Expressive Café ® is to improve communication skills using expressive and receptive activities in a safe environment." It helps give people with Aphasia the confidence to try to communicate and reconnect their lives – either by steadily improving their pre-stroke methods or by rewiring their brain's language centres to discover and hone new skills using methods available to them post-stroke. The outcomes through participating in these groups are hopeful return and reconnection to their communities, less isolation, and a happier, positive outlook on life.
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