Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Aphasia- Speech Deficits Revisited

The response from my aphasia blogs have garnered a lot of questions and responses so I thought to revisit this subject today and give you a progress report. Since I am no longer in speech therapy because of best use of my rehab visits, I started a seat-of-my-pants training schedule as you may have read about in previous posts.

In college, I learned for each hour of class time I needed to spend two hours in study time. With stroke deficits, the ratio is more like for every hour of professional time (with the therapist) spent I have to do six hours of study/ practice time. It boggles the mind doesn't it? Especially when you consider the fact that I spend six hours in professional therapy hours a week, it equates to thirty-six hours of at home practice. That's a huge chunk of time.

Is it necessary? It depends. How bad do you want to recover? For me, I want/need to recover all that I can. Do I have the stamina to continue this for the years it may take? I dunno. We'll have to see. I'm almost a year out from my stroke and have continued my therapy program adding new, fun ways to do it to keep it interesting.

James at Easter 2013
When I first struggled with forming words and creating sounds, I used my grandson. Yes, I said used because, being less than a year old, he was trying to form sounds and words also. We were in the same boat. He was learning and I was relearning. Not to mention he's cute and just loves his Oma (the German word for Grandmother). He would sit on my lap in the wheelchair mimicking me. It was fun to watch him as I did my exercises for hours on end. I'm still amazed by the attention span this baby, then a seven-month old, had.

I had to learn how to form the words right with my lips because my husband reads lips. He's deaf. The sounds wasn't necessary except for communicating with the outside world. But we have family which needs to be talked to so making myself understood was important also.

I often forget he can't hear in our conversations until he reminds me that my head was turned away. He'll say, "I can't hear you. Repeat that."

This is just one of my life's little challenges I have to overcome with aphasia. I find the more I practice the better I get. When we go to McDonalds, I'll stand at the counter and order. I remember what my speech therapist told me, "Slow, loud and clear." So I might stumble over my words and get weird looks from the cashier or waitress in a restaurant, who cares? I'm practicing and vocalizing. If I get too flustered I can always point in the menu or make the symbol for the number I'm ordering with my fingers. The point is that I'm making an effort. Not making an effort or letting someone else do the talking for me is easier, but what benefit is it to me and my recovery?

The words are coming easier now without the extremely long pauses in between. I'll still lose words and have to back track when speaking. Using inappropriate words for things- not so much as a few months ago. I'm constantly being corrected by those around me in a loving way. I can always count on my #2 and #4 daughters to correct with humor. My #4 daughter also suffers from a mild form of aphasia. In that case, it's the affected correcting the affected, and we'll poke fun at each other.

The real trick is when both of us can't remember a word. But there are usually others around to play twenty questions. Our oldest daughter will cock her hand at the wrist and hit her chest and go, "D-a-a-a-a-h!" in a totally stupid way. My husband will outstretch his arms in front of him, with palms out clapping, and barking like a seal. Either response brings laughter. Having this kind of loving support is essential to my recovering my speech.

While I have trouble speaking, I found it has been easier to find the words when I type. So increasing to amount I blog is working. At least it is getting easier as I go along. This is also my home therapy regime. I imagine my readers are tired of my constant blogs, but this I do for me. It helps with my strategy and planning deficits too. Having a plan makes it easier on my mind for focusing. This particular blog was written April 10th for example to give me time to find any errors. I read this blog aloud to my husband to practice my vocal and reading skills. It's a relearning triangle that goes full circle. It's how we learned these skills in the first place.

I noticed I have my kitty speaking voice intonations back. When that happened, I dunno. What is a kitty speaking voice? It's that cute, cuddly voice I use towards my cats and young grandchildren. Like what you would use when confronted with the kitten to the right and how would you say it? The higher pitched, sing songy voice we all have and use. So I'm not quite strictly monotone anymore. Yeah me!

I still have not managed humor or sarcasm yet, but I'm confident I'll get those back too.

The cognitive difficulties, I'll address in another post.

Nothing is impossible with determination!


  1. Glad you're doing better, Jo! I do have a question, if it's not too bold of me to ask: did you find that your aphasia extended to your writing, or only your speaking?

  2. Hi JL - thanks for updating us and letting us know you used your grandson - he must have had so much fun! Then your husband being deaf ..

    The strokes my mother had gave her left-sided neglect, slightly gave her a speech impediment which came and went .. but things improved dramatically - and in your case I'm sure will continue.

    Great that you're reading the posts to your husband, and getting that feedback ...

    My mother lost her hearing at one stage - and it was so funny .. not really for her, as she didn't know she'd lost her hearing .. so she could talk, but made up what I said ... a real life tv drama at times. I laughed my way through - she couldn't read properly - words were ok .. but not sentences.

    She was in hospital for a while .. I found her one day muttering D words to herself .. she said she was remembering as many D words as possible - so her brain didn't stultify ... it didn't.

    We had some incredible times .. and I really wouldn't have wanted her to be stroked, but those last 5+ years had some great laughs and learning curves ...

    Thanks for keeping on writing .. I'll pay more attention in future ..

    Cheers and with thoughts - Hilary

  3. Lara,
    With my writing it's a cognitive deficit. While I used to hate the spelling and grammar checkers, I can't write without them now. There isn't a sentence I type that doesn't have red and green squiggly lines in it.

    There is also the word loss. I compensate by filling a description of the word in parentheses and have to go back and fill the word in.

    So it's slow going but I am at least writing. So many stroke survivors have lost their ability to read, write, and even form sentences. I'm lucky.

  4. Hilary,
    I work hard not to have right sided neglect. I purposefully try to use my right arm as much as possible like turning on a light switch. Granted it takes using the whole arm to do it, but I'm preventing the neglect.

    Factors like energy level, stress, and drugs all affect my ability to speak and finding words.

    A stroke survivor friend of mine only remembered how to say "shut up" and another it was "love you." It's funny want the brain remembers.

    Hilary, I'm here almost everyday. Thanks for popping in and commenting.


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