Grad students work with individuals with dementia to emphasize preserved abilities, not disabilities

He struggles forming words, but has no trouble sweeping an Illinois master's student off her feet when a swing tune is on the radio.

Illinois master's student Leticia Hernandez is involved in LINC, a program that pairs graduate students in speech-language pathology with an individual with dementia.

This man’s type of dementia results in extreme and frustrating difficulty forming words and sentences, Department of Speech & Hearing Science at Illinois professor Clarion Mendes said. His ability to complete everyday motor tasks, however, is pretty well retained. During a recent visit a swing tune was playing on the radio, so he took Leticia’s hand and twirled her around the room.

“The expression on her face is pure joy and surprise," Mendes said. "His smile was just as wide.”

During their twice-weekly meetings, students engage in personalized activities with their partners that emphasize preserved abilities—not disabilities. For more on the LINC program:

Photo courtesy Department of Speech & Hearing Science at Illinois

elderly man dances with young woman, who is laughing