Therapy Plateau- Patient or Therapist?

Many of you may have been told that you or your loved one are being discharged from therapy because he or she has “plateaued”.  Many times (not always) what that means is that the therapist is out of ideas of what to do next.  It’s not that the patient has reached his limit, but the therapist has reached his limit of knowledge or ideas.  I’m not trying to slam therapists by any means, I am one.  And yes, there are times that I’ve done everything I know to do with a patient, yet another therapist may be able to shine new light on the situation.  I’ve spoken to many individuals on the phone who their loved ones suffer from severe aphasia and after 2-3 months of therapy are being discharged from therapy (and not b/c of insurance limitations-that’s a whole other issue).  But because they aren’t making the progress.  What that tells me is that they need another therapist.  As therapists, we need to be able to admit, “hey, I’m all out of ideas” and refer to someone else; not just discharge from therapy all together.

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month.  How many people know about aphasia?  Not many.  Mostly only those individuals who suffer from aphasia or those who personally know someone who is affected by aphasia.  How common is aphasia?  Well, as of now, over 1,000,000 Americans are affected by aphasia.  That number is expected to increase in the next few years.  But for some reason, you just don’t hear about it.  Right now I am treating 6 individuals in an outpatient facility and of those 6, all have some degree of aphasia.  I would say from a professional standpoint, that it is pretty common.   So let’s do what we can to raise awareness of aphasia!!

The Aphasia Challenge

June is National Aphasia Awareness month.  Recently the National Aphasia Association put forth a challenge in honor of this month to those of us who do not suffer from aphasia.  The challenge is simple, to “stand silently” with those affected by aphasia.  How?  Remain silent for ONE HOUR sometime during the month of June.  You may not use language for one hour.  Hand gestures, nodding your head and pointing are ok, just no spoken words.  Challenge yourself to do it at a time when  you would normally be interacting with others.  See how others interact with you and how isolating this disorder can be.  So I challenge you to stand silently in honor of those affected by aphasia.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Many of you have heard of the term “neuroplasticity” in speaking about stroke or brain injury recovery.  Briefly, the term refers to the brain being “plastic” in that it can recover once damaged.  This is quite different from what used be believed, that once a particular area of the brain was dead, it was gone forever.  The brain actually can reconfigure and send signals around the damaged area(s).  This can occur even years after a stroke.  It is important to help your brain in its recovery.  How you ask?  One way is by repetition.  When you practice a skill over and over, you are giving your brain the ability to re-route that skill.  Much like an athlete practicing the same skills over and over, he is developing the brain maps of the activities he needs to be skilled at.  Stroke patients are the same way.  When you practice a skill, whether it be moving your arm, leg or speaking, you are helping your brain figure out new ways to map around the damaged area and send new signals to the body.  Look for different outlets of practicing whether it be speech related or physical:  apps, aphasia dvds, exercise dvds, gyms, support groups, for example.

Aphasia and Intelligence

Many people call me with questions about aphasia and often say their loved ones have “forgotten” what things are called.  I quickly correct them, saying they have not forgotten, they just can’t get the right words out.  Having aphasia does not mean a person’s intelligence has been affected.  It’s just difficult for them to form the words correctly.  Imagine knowing what you want to say, but your mouth just won’t form the words.   You haven’t forgotten what an object is; you just can’t say its name.  It’s not a memory issue.  It’s a language issue.   This is so important when dealing with someone affected by aphasia.