Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Engage, Challenge, and Have Fun

Helping someone with Aphasia can be tiresome.  Recovery is hard work.  Some days are better than others. 

During the recovery process, it is important to continue to challenge your stroke survivor.  I have a couple of ideas that might be fun and will require time spent together (or in a group, maybe). 

Find a topic (hobby) that your Aphasic person likes.  Try to craft a word naming game around that topic while working on something together.

For example, if your loved one likes to cook,  cook something together.  While preparing the meal, choose an ingredient - like pasta.  Put together a list of food dishes that contain pasta - ie. spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti.   Or list the different types of pasta - ie. vermicelli, penne, spaghetti.  You don't need to write anything down.  Keep it casual.  Have fun with it. 

If your loved one likes cars, go for a drive together.  While driving choose a manufacturer - like Ford.  Try to name all the Ford models you can see - ie. Taurus, Explorer, F-150 (that is a mouthful).  Again, keep it casual and have fun. 

You can make bets with each other on who can name the most.  The point is to engage with one another and challenge the aphasic while having fun.  If you can do that, you will really be doing something. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Park an Aphasic Person in front of the TV 24/7

I spoke with a person yesterday who wanted to purchase my Aphasia Therapy DVDs.  She told me it was for a family member because that person's caregiver parked the person with Aphasia in front of the television all day - everyday.  They didn't know what else to do. 

When you run out of insurance benefits, options for Aphasia therapy get harder to find.   You can go to my website http://www.communicationpartner.com/ and find DVDs that help with lower level expressive aphasia.  (Pardon the shameful plug for my therapy).  But, other options can get expensive. 

If you want to try something 'unscientific' and less expensive, I suggest going to your local Knowledge Tree and purchasing some resources.  Knowledge Tree is a store filled with resources for school age children.  If you have a little imagination, you can find some inexpensive items in the store that might help be of help for someone with aphasia.  Of course, you will have to do some work with the aphasic individual. 

But, please do not sit a person recovering from Aphasia in front of the television all day.  That stroke survivor needs stimulation in the form of conversation and interaction.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Great Magazines for Stroke Survivors

Please forgirve me if I insult your intelligence by stating the obvious, but I want to tell you about two great magazines for Stroke Survivors. 

Stroke Smart is a great magazine published by the National Stroke Associaton.  The subscription is a free one for United States residents.  Simply go to http://www.strokesmart.org/ and click on Subscribe. 

Stroke Connection is another great magazine published by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.  Again, the subscription is free.  Go to http://www.strokeassociation.org/ and follow the instructions on how to Subscribe. 

Both magazines are filled with stroke survivor stories, tips for caregivers, product introductions, etc.  I find them to be very informative and helpful to stroke survivors and families.

I hope you find this helpful. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Be Patient - Don't Frustrate the Person with Aphasia

Last week, I spoke to a woman with an adult son suffering from Aphasia.  He had a stroke about a year ago and had been living again with her and his father while continuing his recovery. 

The lady told me that her son wanted to move out because he couldn't stand to around her husband anymore.  The father frustrates the son on a daily basis by being impatient.  He won't let the son talk.  He tries (unsuccessfully, apparently) to finish the son's sentences.  The son just wants to recover.  He doesn't want therapy at home from his dad.

As a therapist, I hear similar stories more than I like.  If you want to support a person suffering from Aphasia, Let them talk.  I will repeat that, "Let them talk".  I know it sometimes takes a long time.  To be honest, sometimes it seems like it will take an eternity if you let the person finish a sentence. 

Be supportive.  Be attentive.  Learn to be a good listener.   Let them finish.  Don't frustrate them by trying to guess what they want to say.  Don't finish sentences for them.  Relax and listen.

We all want to communicate.  We all want to share and be heard.  Sometimes, the toughest thing a caregiver can do is Nothing. 

Listen more and you will be an even stronger support to your loved one with aphasia. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Resources to Help Find a Support Group close to You

Many times help is closer than you may think.  If you are looking for an Aphasia Support Group and don't know where to find one I have a couple of suggestions.

Go to http://www.aphasia.org/aphasia_community/aphasia_community_groups.html.  This link is posted on the National Aphasia Associaton's website.  Look for your state and see if a chapter exists close to where you may live. 

Another idea is to visit http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=support_groups.  This link is for Stroke Support Groups which is different than an Aphasia support group.  But you may find these helpful as well. 

Local support groups are great.  I visit several in my local area throughout the year and they are great for survivors and caregivers.  Check them out. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Persistence Pays

Persistence pays off when it comes to Aphasia Therapy.  I know that sounds like such a cliche, but the fact is true. 

Tonight, I spoke to a woman who had bought Communication Partner's Level 1 DVDs for her son.  She called to order the Level 2 programs.  Her son has been watching the video programs everyday for the last 3 months and has seen some real progress in his aphasia recovery. 

Quite frankly, I would have a hard time watching those DVDs everyday and I created them.  Therapy is hard work and requires persistence and perserverance.  This man has seen benefits slowly over the course of time by doing simple (perhaps boring) tasks on a daily basis.

If you or a loved one are trying to recover from Aphasia, be persistent.  Progress takes time.  If you can encourage someone with aphasia, do it.  Therapy is tough.  Encouragement always helps. 

For more information on Communication Partner's DVDs, go to http://www.communicationpartner.com/.  These programs have helped people all over the world. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Maintenance is Required

In today's disposable society, few people like to talk about maintenance. In a disposable world replacing things is easier than taking the time and spending the money to maintain them.

But some things in life are too important not to maintain.

If you are helping a person recovering from stroke or brain injury you need to realize that maintanence is required and vital to maximize recovery.

What do I mean?

After the chaos has ended and the reality of a different life has become common, holding on to who we are and what we do is important.  As part of the recovery process (whether speech, physical or occupational therapies) incorporate things that were important to the person before the stroke. 

I suggest bringing in photos, personal items, or other items of significance that can be used during the recovery process and will 'remind' the person of who they were and what they did prior to their current condition.

Maintenance of one's self will be required in order to get back to who and what a person was prior to their life changing event. 

These are my thoughts and suggestions.  Let me know what you think or if you have any comments. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Need for Stimulation

Yesterday I spoke to a woman regarding her mother in law. The family thought that the mother had recovered as much as she could and yet she was still unable to say single words.

The mother in law was no longer receiving any speech therapy, due to insurance limitations. The mother in law was fully aware of what was being said to her, but she could not respond with words - this is expressive aphasia. It seems that most of the family is okay with this situation.

The woman I spoke to wanted to do more for her mother in law, but was confused on what options were available.

There are many options available. My first suggestion was to find an Aphasia Support Group.

Other suggestions would be to find some Aphasia Therapy on video (see my site at http://www.communicationpartner.com/) or on software packages ( see http://www.parrotsoftware.com/ or http://www.bungalowsoftware.com/). Find some photos of family members and practice saying names. Find photos of well known places or things and help practice saying those words.

I think the most important thing is to provide Stimulation. Recovery is not static. Recovery is either moving forward or back, but it never stands still.

Let me know if you have other suggestions.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How long does Recovery Take?

Last Friday I spoke at a Stroke Survivor's Club meeting. I spoke about aphasia and other speech therapy related topics.

The talk went well and at the end I opened the floor for questions. One of my first questions was from a lady (sitting next to her daughter) who had suffered a stroke 1.5 years ago.

Her question was, "How long does it take to fully recover from a stroke?". I looked at her and her daughter and said you both know the answer. I am sure you have heard it before.

The answer is - Recovery time is different for each individual.

No one and I mean no one can tell you how long recovery will take and to what extent full recovery can be achieved. The second part of that sentence is really important.

I spoke to someone yesterday who told me that a doctor had told them that their mother was too far post stroke to benefit from speech therapy. I disagree.

No one knows to what extent recovery can be made and no one knows how much time is required to achieve a full recovery.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage

I spoke to a woman today that is married to a man with Aphasia. She had purchased a set of my aphasia therapy dvd's and wanted to return the dvd's. I have a money back guarantee so I didn't even ask why she was returning, but she volunteered the information.

She said her husband would not watch the video programs. I asked, "Did he not like them?". "No", she said, "he just wouldn't watch them.". It turns out that the husband refused to watch the programs. He had not even watched a minute of one of the dvd's.

We sometimes forget that nobody enjoys doing something they are not good at. Do you like to experience frustrations and failures on a daily basis?

Therapy is not much fun for people with Aphasia. Therapy is hard work and progress comes very slowly. Therapy is small victories in the midst of countless challenges.

If you have a loved one with Aphasia, encourage them daily. Find concrete, noticeable things to complement. Make your encouraging words meaningful. Do everything you can to help them stay motivated to keep making progress.

I encourage you to be an encourager.


Monday, May 31, 2010

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month. The National Aphasia Association has designated June as a time to highlight this language disorder faced by approximately 1 million Americans.

If you have found this article, you are probably very aware of the affects of Aphasia and do not need anyone to highlight this language disorder.

I work with Aphasic persons everyday. I know firsthand that Aphasia affects the communication and not the intellect of the person suffering from Aphasia.

Please help me this month to inform the American public of what Aphasia is and is not.

Please tell people that Aphasia affects about 1 million Americans. Anyone can experience aphasia. Aphasia cannot be prevented. Currently, there is no 'cure' for Aphasia. Speech therapy can help, but the therapy does not guarantee a cure.

Most importantly, tell the public that persons suffering from Aphasia are Okay. Please tell people to allow a little more time to speak to persons with Aphasia.

Ask people to talk to Aphasic persons as much as they can. If this would happen, June would be a happier month for everyone. Happy June!

Kimberly Robbins, MS CCC-SLP,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tips for Communicating with a Person with Aphasia

When your loved one is finally home again, you may need help in communicating with them. I know you have probably heard this a thousand times, but Aphasia does not affect intellect. Your loved one is the same person. They are just challenged when trying to express themselves.

Here are a few tips that may help you communicate easier:
  • Minimize distractions as much as possible. Don't try to talk over a blaring television. Don't try to have a conversation in a room full of people when hearing or concentrating may be a challenge.
  • Encourage any and all types of communication. Whether the communication is speaking, gestures, pointing, grunting, etc., let the person communicate. Be ready to adapt to their needs at the moment.
  • Be generous with your praise. Let the person know they are doing a good job and that you understand them. Avoid the urge to correct their speech.
  • Include the Aphasic person in your conversation. If the person has expressive aphasia, they understand every word you speak. Do not ignore them - include them. Let them know you want to communicate.
  • Allow the individual extra time to talk. An individual with Aphasia may need 2 to 3 times as long to communicate. Give them time. Let them finish.

These are simple techniques, but so easy to forget. Practicing these simple techniques can make a huge difference in the life of a person recovering from Aphasia.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How much Therapy is needed to Recover?

How much speech therapy is needed to recover from Aphasia? That is the magic question.

Of course, each individual is different and rates of recovery will always vary. But in my experience talking to individuals across the country, few people are getting more than an hour or two of therapy per week. In most cases, that is just not enough therapy.

So, how much is enough?
  • Some researchers say that an Aphasic person should receive at least 9 hours of therapy per week until 'fully' recovered.
  • Some researchers propose short bursts of intense therapy such as 3 hours of language training per day for 10 day sessions. In short, no conclusive answer exists.
Aphasia survivors and caregivers need to realize a couple of realities. These cold realities can be hard to accept.
  • First, progress can and does happen after the first six months. No matter what anyone may tell you, progress can be made even years after a stroke or brain injury.

  • Secondly, progress depends on you. Healthcare providers can only assist and encourage you. They are not responsible for recovery. You are.

I still haven't answered the title question. I know each of us wants a concrete answer. But, I would say that you need enough therapy to get you back to a level of functionality that enables you to enjoy life.