As my mother regained normal function in her right arm and leg and had some resolution of her other medical problems, it was evident now to everyone, that expressive aphasia ( the inability to speak and formulate language) was to be her most disabling condition. And, while some thought it a blessing that I was a speech-language pathologist, I thought it a cruel irony that my mother should have to suffer an impairment in communication, and put my therapy skills to the test. Although providing speech and language therapy has been the focus of my career for over 30 years, I was not sure I was up for this very personal challenge.
On March 17, 2012, my mother flew with me to my home in Florida to begin several months of further rehabilitation, including speech therapy, with me as her daily therapist. Little did either of us know how special these few months would be.
I have laughed more with my mother over the last two months than I think I have in a life time. Although usually prompted by some misstep in her speech, a funny twist on my dog's name or in the re-telling of a story, it seems to always bring tears of laughter to our eyes.
Post stroke, a gentleness and ease in my mother's personality has emerged which has allowed us to more easily meld into each other's lives. Much in the way I imagine a new mother must incorporate a growing child into her womb, my mother has become embedded into my day to day life. And the subtle accommodations I have had to make in my life's routines somehow seem to be for the better.
My mother's speech and language has continued to recover, and this recovery is at least in part a testimony to the result of daily drills and speech practice. She practices with audio tapes I have created, the Lingraphica (R), a speech generating device, and the CHAT (R), program, a computer assisted home aphasia program. Even she wonders, if the outcome would have been different had she been home alone or in a nursing facility with minimal interaction from others. She is able to make her own phone calls now, and I hear the exclamation of joy on the other end of the phone when her friends, who have not seen her for months, hear her voice again. I have witnessed first hand, what I have always preached to my patients, and that is the need for daily, at home programs to support the work that is done in speech therapy. While not every person with aphasia has a child who is a speech therapist, most individuals can take advantage of some of the tools and technology that are available for independent, daily practice at home.