The Cowboy Aphasia Camp Experience

By Ryan Teal

This June, I had the privilege of attending Cowboy Aphasia Camp in Tulsa, OK. It was an experience unlike any other. The camp, hosted by the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at OSU-Tulsa, offers a unique therapy program designed to improve communication skills and boost confidence.

An Unforgettable Experience

I’m incredibly grateful for the remarkable experience at the recent 2024 Cowboy Aphasia Camp. The camp provided an invaluable opportunity for learning and connection. The dedication and compassion of the staff, coordinator, and clinicians significantly impacted all participants. The camp partnered with graduate students with aphasia individuals like myself. These bright, enthusiastic students were like personal guides, helping me navigate communication challenges. The sense of community and understanding that permeated the camp was truly remarkable. Thank you to everyone involved for your tireless efforts in organizing this camp and for your commitment to supporting individuals with aphasia.

From the moment I arrived, I felt welcomed and understood. Here, I was surrounded by a supportive community of people who shared similar challenges and celebrated triumphs together. The dedication and compassion of the camp staff had a significant impact on all participants. The sense of community and understanding was truly remarkable.

About Tulsa, OK

This Cowboy Aphasia Camp where Tulsa boasts a thriving arts scene with world-class museums, rich history, delicious restaurants, beautiful outdoor spaces, and stunning parks. In 2024, Gathering Place was voted the Best City Park in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice contest. This 66.5-acre park is located along the Arkansas River and offers a variety of activities.

Accommodations

I spent a week at Osage Casino Hotel, seeking a fun getaway that combines excitement and relaxation. The hotel features spacious and elegantly appointed rooms, perfect for relaxing in comfort after a day on the casino floor or exploring Tulsa. Osage Casino offers a vast gaming selection, including slots, table games, and a lively poker room. The on-site restaurant provides a range of dining options, from casual to fine dining, and there is also a pool available for guests.

Camp Activities

The camp offered a perfect blend of support, education, and fun activities, all designed to empower individuals with aphasia. Informative and engaging workshops covered topics like computer programs for communication, tablet applications, and individual activities. We also participated in fun activities like playing games (I like match games), dancing, and even singing (“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas). Research suggests that singing can sometimes bypass areas of the brain damaged by aphasia, while dance can improve cognitive function and memory in adults.

The camp offered Tai Chi with Dr. Dolins, which helps enhance balance and prevent falls, especially important for older adults. The meditative aspects helped reduce stress and promote relaxation, while the gentle movements improved flexibility, muscle strength, and overall physical fitness.

Karing K9s, a therapy dog program, provided emotional support, reduced stress, and improved social interaction, all beneficial for people with aphasia. We met therapy dogs like Mademoiselle Fabian (Poodle), Truman (Goldendoodle), Flynn (Bernedoodle), and Spirit (Samoyed).

Campers and clinicians participated in a mocktail happy hour. Mocktails are non-alcoholic beverages that mimic traditional cocktails. The aphasia speakeasy featured beverages like the Tequila Mockingbird (a margarita substitute), the Audrey (an “Old Fashioned” substitute), and the Silver Loudmouth (a martini substitute), along with non-alcoholic beers and soft drinks. Aphasia Readers practiced functional phrases during mocktail hour, focusing on simple, short phrases for communicating basic needs and wants. Practice the phrase, “Do you enjoy non-alcoholic beer, mine, and mocktail.” These are essential tools for people with aphasia struggling to communicate. Thank you!

Campers also had the opportunity to paint on canvas. Some paintings incorporated Japanese characters for courage (勇気), strength (力), aphasia (失語症), and overcome (乗っ切る), along with images of dragons and suns. Painting can be a helpful tool for people with aphasia to express themselves and connect with others.

The campers’ lunches were awesome! Thank you. The lunches included Jason’s Deli, Red Light Chicken Salad, Hideaway Pizza Feast, Taco Bar, and Oriental Feast. The campers and clinicians enjoy eating, chatting, talking, and playing question games together. Aphasia can indeed impact communication during any activity, including lunch.

One of the most powerful moments was the closing ceremony. Hearing everyone share their progress and personal stories was incredibly inspiring. It was a reminder of our collective strength and how far we’ve come. Leaving the camp, I felt more confident, motivated, and ready to face any challenges that came my way.

Final Thoughts

Aphasia Camp in Tulsa was more than just a retreat; it was a transformative experience. It reinforced the importance of community, the power of perseverance, and the joy of connection. I’m grateful for the memories made and the lessons learned, and I can’t wait to return next year. We shared stories, laughed together (even while battling wasps!), and learned from each other’s experiences. It felt like being part of a big, supportive family.

God Bless,

Ryan Teal

 

If you have questions about Ryan’s camp experience, please feel free to reach out to us at info@aphasiareaders.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news from Aphasia Readers! If you haven’t picked up an Aphasia Readers book, order your copy HERE!

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