You are going to see a lot about the number 35 this year because it is the NAA’s 35th anniversary! Back in 1987, Martha Taylor Sarno, MA, MD, formally established the organization as the first national organization dedicated to advocating for people with aphasia and their families.
And we have been growing ever since, providing year after year of support and resources.
Dr. Sarno’s work brought together our enthusiastic and dedicated board of directors, who have been guiding the organization since its inception. Of course, those members have changed over the years. Darlene Williamson, current president of the NAA, remembers when famed neurologist, Oliver Sacks, was part of the organization. “Dr. Oliver Sacks was so impressed with the work of the NAA that he agreed to sit on our board of directors and retained his seat until his death in 2015.”
She continued by explaining the current board’s role in the organization:
Every board of directors is tasked with the management of the organization, but the leadership of the NAA is especially passionate about fulfilling the mission of our founder. This has been consistent throughout the history of the organization — leadership that consists of experts in the field of aphasia, including individuals living with aphasia and care partners.
That board has taken the organization through difficult times, positioning the NAA as a sustainable, enduring resource for individuals with aphasia. Williamson remembers a few ups and downs along the way:
In 2014, the difficult decision was made to close our offices in New York City. This was done to conserve financial resources and to be certain that donor support was directed to our families living with aphasia. After a period of reorganization, the NAA became all virtual allowing it to reach our community more efficiently and effectively for much less cost. This has proved very successful — particularly during the pandemic when those living with aphasia keenly felt the isolation. The mission of spreading awareness and supporting our families has continued uninterrupted since 1987 and will not only continue but will grow in 2022.
That growth includes supporting research in aphasia, expanding services to our community, and starting major initiatives related to outreach and education.
Throughout this year-long celebration, you will keep hearing about the number 35. We may challenge you to try out 35 new speech activities from home, join us in learning 35 word-finding tricks, or build 35 new communication habits. Who knows how many ways we can weave 35 into community-building activities? We are excited to find out in 2022.