Aphasia. What exactly is this brain condition? What causes it? How does it impact a person’s life? Most Americans, including medical professionals, know almost nothing about aphasic stroke, an illness that renders its victims unable to speak, read, write, or even understand language. Yet, one of every 250 of us has been affected by aphasia. The book documents the remarkable story of the author’s own three-year struggle to overcome “the void”—a world without words.
As an outdoor education teacher and ski and canoe instructor, Carol seemed the least likely person to experience a stroke. Unaware of her congenital heart defect, Carol and her husband had just returned from a vigorous, second canoe trip in the Yukon. When she awakened the next morning, her husband said: “She was lying there with a blank, vacant stare on her face and emitting some faint, guttural grunts.” Carol had had a stroke.” The crisis had begun.
Permanent brain damage means every aspect of language must be relearned, a painfully slow process. Everywhere she turned for help, Carol confronted her own inability to speak as well as the lack of understanding by medical personnel, social workers and speech therapy staff to adjust their speaking to accommodate her condition. People just need to slow down, Carol advises. She offers a couple of suggestions for professionals dealing with the aphasic stroke patient: “Talk slowly in short phrases. Give the patient time to respond to you; be sure she understands you.”
In fact, the entire book provides an educator’s insights to assist others to grasp the basic elements of this medical, social and psychological disorder. In addition to the step-by-step visionary story of recovery, the Appendices are remarkable. The glossary is a compendium of terms essential for grasping the rudiments of aphasic stroke.
Advocates can benefit from the extensive list of guidelines for interaction. Other principles for relearning language include a consonant sound key, spelling through phonics (samples), the language of numbers key and identifying and working with forty key sounds. Readers will discover that English is not the simplest language to learn, much less to relearn in middle age. This book is a must–read for anyone working with those affected by aphasia and the families of aphasic stroke victims.