Therapeutic Writing

Posted on Friday, June 22, 2012

In 2006 Rachel Eagly (BSW ’03, Social Work) had a beautiful baby boy, a good job, and no intention of writing a children’s story. However, one incident changed her entire life. Eagly suffered from a stroke one week after her son, Aiden’s, birth that left her with many challenges—including aphasia. Eagly had to relearn everyday activities, such as how to walk and read.

Aphasia is a language disorder that affects the way a person communicates. Individuals with aphasia have trouble forming and processing language because access to the parts of the brain necessary for expressing ideas and needs has been damaged.

In 2007, Eagly began work with the Aphasia Communication Enhancement group (ACE) in the Charles Van Riper Language, Speech, and Hearing Clinic at the WMU Unified Clinics—after her health insurance ran out. While working with ACE, she participated in individual therapy and interest-based therapy groups to improve communication interaction.

In one of her interest sessions, Eagly began to write as a form of therapy to improve her written language skills, but it turned into much more—a book.  

Momma, Just Shake It!, is a children’s book about parents who have had a stroke. The title is a reference to Aiden’s idea that his mother only needed to shake her paralyzed arm to ‘turn it on’.

National Aphasia Association (NAA) Executive Director, Ellayne Ganzfried caught wind of the story and has since ushered along the publishing process, helping Eagly access an online resource for self-publishing. She also obtained an external editor and illustrator for the book.

Eagly is looking forward to her future. She has plans to write another aphasia-related book for adults, marry a man she met in ACE, and move into a house she helped build via Habitat for Humanity. Eagly would like to go back to work soon, but for now she volunteers at the WMU Center for Disability Services as a support coordinator.

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