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Sunday, November 29, 2009

ECU works to get word out about aphasia

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Sherri Winslow, left, clinical supervisor in the ECU Department of Communication Sciences in the College of Allied Health Sciences, distributes material during an aphasia awareness training session Monday at the Greenville Fire-Rescue Department. Aphasia is difficulty or loss in communication usually caused by stroke or brain injury. The program aims to introduce aphasia to emergency responders and how to improve communication interactions with people with aphasia. ECU provides the training by request.

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ECU's speech language and hearing clinic is giving patients window and windshield decals to display so first responders will know someone has aphasia.

ECU News Services

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ECU has partnered with the Greenville Fire-Rescue Department to get the word out about aphasia, which is difficulty or loss in communication usually created by stroke or brain injury.

Sherri Winslow, clinical supervisor in the ECU Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Mary Beth Woody, a second- year graduate student, have been leading aphasia awareness training for emergency responders to make them cognizant of the acquired language disorder and how to improve communication interactions with people with aphasia.

The training has been so successful that there are plans to take it to rescue agencies across Pitt County.

On Monday morning, more than 15 city fire and rescue personnel gathered in a station conference room. Close to 140 will receive the training in three sessions, said L.R. Hines, battalion chief of safety and training for Greenville Fire-Rescue.

"The brain is very complex, so there are lots of ways aphasia can manifest itself in patients," Woody said.

Some people may be able to speak clearly, but have trouble understanding conversation. Others may comprehend everything, but may only be able to speak a few words. The disorder does not affect a person's intelligence, although it can affect reading and writing. About 40 percent of people with stroke, and about one-third of people who suffer severe head injuries, will get aphasia. North Carolina is in the nation's stroke "belt," and eastern North Carolina is the "buckle" with the highest rate of death due to stroke in the nation. An estimated 625 people in Pitt County, and about 37,000 in North Carolina, have been diagnosed with aphasia.

Emergency responders may come in contact with people suffering aphasia during emergency or service calls or vehicle stops. In general, Woody suggested that they look for halting or garbled speech, or someone who is groping for words or uses nonsensical words.

Emergency responders are most often interacting with people during a stressful time, whether someone has aphasia or not. Those with aphasia may become frustrated because of their inability to communicate easily and will need time to answer questions. She suggested making sure to have the person's attention before speaking to them, using a calm, unhurried voice, eliminating background noise as much as possible, and asking simple, direct, yes-and-no questions.

"We can't tell you what will work with every patient, every time," Woody said.

ECU's speech language and hearing clinic is providing aphasia patients identification cards and windshield and window decals to let emergency responders know about their condition.

Woody got the idea for doing local training after attending a North Carolina Speech-Language-Hearing Association meeting. She heard about a traffic stop in another state that resulted in someone with aphasia spending the night in jail because the officer mistakenly thought the man was intoxicated. Materials, including a quiz and video, were provided by the National Aphasia Association.

Hines said the training has been beneficial and is an important reminder to rescue personnel.

"It may be something other than what it first appears," Hines said.

For more information on the training, contact Winslow at 744-6142.

Professor's book looks at fundamentalists

Religious fundamentalists around the world sometimes create great mischief, according to Calvin Mercer, ECU religion professor, therapist and author of the work, "Slaves to Faith: A Therapist Looks Inside the Fundamentalist Mind."

"What I do in this book is explore the structure of fundamentalists' thinking and the emotional life that goes with it," he said.

Author or editor of four books, Mercer has expertise in biblical studies, and he has also been trained in and has practiced clinical psychology.

His book, published in May with a foreword by church history scholar Martin Marty, is a psychological analysis of fundamentalists.

"Unfortunately, traditional and moderate adherents of religion often get a bad name because of the misdeeds of fundamentalists," Mercer said. "I'm trying to help us understand the history and beliefs and, ultimately, the mind of fundamentalists who are outside of mainstream religion."

"Since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, there has been a great interest among scholars in understanding fundamentalism around the world," Mercer said.

"But little attention has been given to the psychology of fundamentalists."

Mercer's analysis draws upon the widely used model of cognitive therapy to suggest that the fundamentalist can be driven by anxiety.

"Fundamentalists' anxiety has serious implications for their well-being and explains their intense rejection of modernity and strong involvement in national political and cultural issues," Mercer said.

"My goal is to promote understanding and dialogue between religions and between the different theological camps within the religions," he said.

"It's not an easy task, but there's a lot at stake and we should do all we can to have religion be a positive, rather than a negative, force in our world."

Mercer earned his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill in journalism and psychology, a master's degree in clinical psychology at ECU in 1997, and doctorate in religion at Florida State University. He also holds master's of divinity and master's of theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mercer, who joined the ECU faculty in 1985, is director of the Multidisciplinary Studies Program at ECU.

For more information or to order "Slaves to Faith," visit the publisher's Web site:

Education on health benefits of nut urged

In a first-of-a-kind study, ECU nutrition researchers have uncovered a lack of understanding of the health benefits of peanuts and tree nuts among consumers. The researchers see opportunities for health professionals, government feeding programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others to educate the public.

Published this month in Nutrition Research and Practice, Dr. Roman Pawlak and Dr. Sarah Colby, assistant professors of nutrition at ECU, and graduate student Julia Herring report that despite the many recent scientific studies showing that peanuts and tree nuts have protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, no study to date has been published about individuals' perception of eating nuts.

So, they conclude, it is not clear how the recent studies have been translated by the public.

The researchers studied the perceptions of individuals of low socioeconomic status from a rural community, since this population is shown to have higher rates of mortality from health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, and may especially benefit from increased intake of nuts.

They surveyed 124 participants of the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental feeding program in a rural North Carolina county about beliefs, benefits, barriers, attitude, intake, and knowledge of peanuts and tree nuts. They found in general that participants' beliefs about the health effects of nuts are inconsistent with the most recent research findings.

For example, only one-third of the participants believed that eating nuts may help lower cholesterol; only one-fourth believed that nuts can lower the risk of heart attack and diabetes; and more than one-third believed that eating nuts causes weight gain.

"In spite of almost two decades of research showing that nuts are important foods to include in a healthy diet, it appears that the general public may not be aware of the relationship between nuts and health," said Pawlak. "This study suggests that more education is needed on the health benefits of nuts."

The survey asked participants if they would eat nuts on most days of the week if their doctor recommended doing so; a majority responded "yes."

The researchers see this as an indication that physicians could be influential in communicating the health benefits of nuts to their patients.

Also adding nuts to a list of foods included on WIC vouchers could be a cost effective and simple way to improve the health of WIC clients, Pawlak said.

Upcoming events:

Dec. 3-5: The annual School of Art and Design holiday sale and exhibition, 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4, and 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Dec. 5, Wellington B. Gray Gallery. Call 328-6336 for more information.

See for times, places and more information on these events and other ECU upcoming activities.

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