Making new speech areas in the brain?

I am not a speech therapist and have no real training in speech therapy… and yet I think about speech rehab all the time.  I see clients who post one year have not yet regained their speech following a stroke and I wonder if maybe the wrong approach is being taken.  Instead of trying to “regain” speech, maybe they need to learn speech again.  Like learning a foreign language!  Building new speech centers in the brain!  I have had several clients tell me that they benefited from foreign language tapes and from programs like Rosetta Stone.  The language they “learned” was English.  Yep, just as if it was a foreign language.

I would love to hear what others have done for their speech therapy and recovery.  The more we share with each other, the more empowered all stroke survivors will be.

Getting the fingers working again!

So, I have decided that getting the fingers to work again after a stroke is one of the greatest challenges.  I would love to hear from people about what worked for you.   Fine control and dexterity are so uniquely human!  I have recently been studying the literature about how babies and young infants gain control of their finger function. Truly amazing how the brain and body interface goes from shoving a fisted hand into the mouth, to tying shoes, playing the piano, typing, and having unlimited motion and control at our fingertips.  Tell me your story so that we can then share it with other stroke survivors!

“Discharged from Therapy” does not mean you are done.

Today, I received 3 phone calls.  All from individuals who had their stroke less than 6 months ago.  They were worried because they had been discharged from Physical and Occupational Therapy.  The therapists told them that “they had reached her goals”.  Problem is, they had not yet reached their own goals!!  So, three different calls, three different people, all asking if their was any chance that they could continue to improve from their stroke.  The answer: YES.

I talk a lot about this in my book.

“Highs, Lows, and Plateaus: a path to recovery from stroke.”



There are many options and resources for the stroke survivor and their family.  Recovery takes time, effort, and direction.

I would love to hear from stroke survivors who have improved months, even years after their stroke.

Small Improvements Make a Huge Change In Life

Earlier this week, I received a phone message from a client I haven’t seen for years because I moved away from that area.  His message was “Today, was the first day that I woke up and didn’t feel paralyzed.”  WOW!  It has been several years, but he is still changing, still making small improvements, still recovering.

Sometimes recovery from stroke is defined by very small improvements that make a huge change in someone’s life.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard statements such as “You know, he doesn’t really need his left hand. He does fine with his right.”  OR ” Your daughter will never walk again.  You will have to push her in a wheelchair the rest of her life.”  I think to myself…”Oh my gosh!”.  By denying the need for recovery, one denies the potential for recovery.”

Sometimes it is the small improvements that make a huge difference.  Being able to feel your hand after years of nothing, being able to hold the car keys in your left hand while opening the car door with the right, being able to hold your baby in two arms, being able to go to the toilet by yourself…

We know that the brain is always changing!  This ability to change and to learn, this neuroplasticity, is true of the young brain, the old brain and the damaged brain.  Change takes longer in the damaged brain, but research has repeatedly demonstrated the power of neuroplasticity.

Is it possible to have a full and total and complete recovery after stroke.  Maybe not. But it is possible to have a gradual continuum of small improvements that add up over time.

My inspiration for writing “Highs, Lows, and Plateaus”!

The brain is amazing and the strength and resilience of the human psyche is equally as amazing.  In writing this book, I hoped to provide a framework for understanding the stages and process of recovery to inspire stroke survivors and their families to move along the path of recovery. There will be highs, lows and plateaus.  It is a long path, but the resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

It is not at all uncommon to hear a doctor or other health care provider tell families that most recovery takes place in the first six months.  That is true, but most of the swelling and irritation of the brain decreases allowing the brain to recover some function.  Also, in the first few months, patients tend to have the most intensive rehab.

Unfortunately, too many survivors are told that they have reached a “plateau” in their recovery. Often it sounds like a bad word – like something terrible has happened. Nobody wants to hear that they have “plateaued”!

This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: “Since improvement is not expected, let’s not work toward more improvement.”

To this I say, BUNK!!  Our knowledge base has increased, the tools available for rehabilitation have proliferated, and our society has come to expect more.

A plateau is not a bad thing. A plateau is a point in the recovery when the nervous system has reached a stable state.  The nervous system is consolidating its’ learning and preparing for the next stage of recovery.

This book summarizes a series of lectures that I have presented for many years to health care professionals.  I have found that they listen with great intent but then do not share the information with the people who need it the most – stroke survivors and their families.  So, with in writing this book, I wanted to help people to understand the process of recovery and to provide them with resources to direct their own recovery. I wanted to engage the reader in a conversation, to empower them with information, and to provide hope and inspiration.