Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Aphasia, Wouldn't Dragon Speak Work?

I don't know how many times over the past two year that someone has asked me if Dragon Naturally Speaking or some other speak instead of typing software would help me write my books. I know I'd be rich at a dime for every time I answered no. I wish it would.

Yes, as far as not having to type everything with a keystroke onto the page, it would. Typing is a challenge one handed but doable. But my difficulties with writing are more complex.

I have aphasia. The inability to transfer thoughts into words or even carry thoughts for very long. Luckily I don't have a problem with comprehension for the most part. I can write a blog because there are previous words or sentences to keep me on track. In this I'm very lucky indeed. Many can't. I'm also fortunate that I can recognize that something is not right with what I'm about to say and tell the listener. I'll say that this isn't the correct word but it's all I can recall at the time. They can easily do a substitution for the right word or play twenty questions with me to get the right word.

My problem with comprehension comes into play when I read. For example, a story with multiple characters often finds me flipping backwards to recall who a character is or what they said. It really takes the enjoyment out of reading fiction. This is where my second stroke hit me the hardest. So mostly I read subject based nonfiction. Biographies are in the same boat as fiction for me.

Getting back to speak-typing programs. With voice recognition software they will have you repeat certain phrases to get a baseline of how you speak. How I speak words in the morning, afternoon and at night sound different depending on what has gone on during the day and my level of fatigue. First thing in the morning and late at night (the usual time I write), my speech is slurred more than if I've been awake and vocalizing for a couple of hours. My mouth will form the right letters but the sound is off than my usual voice. Which has almost totally changed since my stroke.

My voice has to wake up and be exercised before I'm clearly understandable. That's a blessing of being alone in the house with my lip-reading hubby. Sound doesn't matter. Unfortunately for me, this is the same time I'm most creative. Focusing on how I'm pronouncing my words is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. I can't do it anymore. My multitasking and juggling skills rank right down there with the average male and I used to be a master at it. No offense meant, but it is a proven fact that women can multitask better than males.

At five AM and after nine PM, the simple phrase, "I'm having a good day" sounds like "I ma hasing a goo a." But between seven AM and eight PM it's clearly understandable. This does not include the first half an hour after a nap. So you can see the difficulties with voice recognition software. Also my speech is constantly improving. How I speak now is infinitely better than even six months ago. I would constantly be upgrading the voice recognition. In fact, I'd probably be spending more of my time upgrading than actually writing. I'm still getting jumbled between the English-English pronunciations and the American-English. I guess I've reverted to my previous English language lessons.

This point was brought home today with my sister in law's visit. I haven't seen her in a year.  She exclaimed today, "You are doing so much better than the last time I saw you."

My first thought was kind of nasty..."Well what did you expect after a year of getting better?" Of course I answered considerably more cordially and thanked her. You know that look that dogs get when they twist their head to one side when they hear something strange? Well I saw her do that more than once during her 45-minute visit so it must have been something I said or how I said it.Yep, aphasia can be a real witch with a "b" in normal conversations no matter how well you think you are doing.

Now that she's gone and I can breathe again, I look back at the improvements I have made and am thankful. There's something about trying to play catch-up after a year's absence that is totally draining. I need a nap. But after this long winded blog...No, I can see no sense in getting a voice recognition software program to assist me in writing my books. I have to fix my mind first. Now if I was thinking entire scenes and dialogues within a couple seconds like I used to...maybe, but for me right now, I'll pass.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. {{{{hugs}}}} Jo, I hear you about Dragon. I have trouble with my wrists (long story) and everyone thinks Dragon would be *perfect*! Only it's not. I set it to Southern American, but My Southern mouth is a mix of Piedmont South and Appalachian. Add being a *very* emphatic speaker and you have a varying speech pattern that Dragon just wasn't made to handle. Sigh.

  2. I get that question all the time, too.

    That said, I do know some people w/aphasia who use Dragon. I've done some courses at Boston Univ. specifically for aphasics. I love the courses, partly because I get understand the range of problems. Each person is so different, even though we all have aphasia.

  3. Bummer the software doesn't work for you, but I can certainly understand why. Glad you continue to improve. And hope you can laugh at yourself first thing in the morning when you're not making sense!

  4. Well you're still moving forward and making progress. It wasn't so long ago that the software was new so hopefully soon it will become more responsive to individual needs.


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