Speech pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speech, language, social communication, swallowing, fluency and voice. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech and language. (Speech Therapy Australia)
My cognitive functions have been of some concern to me since I had my incident. I started noticing changes in 2013 whilst I was going through a self awareness journey however these issues got progressively worse as time went by. Such issues were as follows;
- Word Pronunciation – words such as “cinnamon” and “similarity” are just two words that I have trouble with however like word meaning, my mind doesn’t discriminate between simple and complex words for simple words can also be a struggle dependent on the day.
- Word Finding – words do not come easy for me when I am having a conversation. So many of my conversations result in a non-fluent and paused state. My fluent conversations result in mental fatigue due to high concentration levels. A double edged sword!
- Letter Switching – “you need to put the boast on the toard” (toast onto the board)
- Word Opposites Switching – “make sure you don’t burn yourself, that waters cold” (hot)
- Word Meaning – I no longer know what some words mean but are familiar. Some may be simple and others may be more complex. As is pronouncing words, my mind doesn’t discriminate between simple and complex words it just depends on the day.
- Word Context – “I’m not sure “weather” you know where you are going” (whether). I understand word context when it is spoken by others or when I am reading however there are times where I may communicate verbally out of context or write out of context.
- Complex Information – I have difficulty understanding information that is complex and has large volumes of words. Listening to a conversation with complexity and volume combined will result in me shutting off. If I am reading, I will only get so far until I will need to stop and start again. When reading, I need to repeat reading sentences and paragraghs numerous times until I can absorb what has been written and to understand the context. Usually I will need to ask my wife or kids for further clarification.
I have found a strategy that works best for me when Im reading which is to read out loud and sometimes use my finger to follow the flow of the sentence. I try to do this in private whenever possible for I know it drives my family crazy. I have reflected about this strategy a lot lately and often think back to when I was very young or when my kids were very young learning to read. As young little people, we tend to learn by reading out loud to either our parents or educators and sometimes use our finger to guide us along each word in a sentence to ensure we do not lose our position. During my reflection on this subject I also came to think about how much extra work the brain must take on when it is trying to process or multi-skill if you like whilst learning new information? So it makes sense to me now that my strategy for reading is actually “my natural instinct” to go back to my early learning journey and to switch back to how it all started for this learning style allows me to use more than one of my senses. We obviously use sight to read the words but when reading out loud it also allows me to use sound. I have since been reading an article on one of my favourite websites BRAINSCAPE which asks the question, “Does reading out loud cause you to remember things better?” To share just one snippet of this article to provide you with some insight is says, “When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud and so not only form visual but also auditory links”. Art Markman Ph.D.
In October 2015, I was referred to a Speech Therapist who has provided me with many resources and learning tools that I can utilise at home to assist with my rehabilitation. Computer based exercise Apps such as Word Match (Synonyms & Antonyms) and Word Association to name a couple, whilst are very strenuous on my brain I can understand the potential long term benefits. Another App which I have been provided with is Voice Record which allows you to read a story from a newspaper or something you may have seen on the news (anything really) and then repeat in your own words what you have read or seen whilst Voice Record records what you are saying. When I play back the recording, I can listen to how I have communicated the story and if I choose, I can re-record as many times as I like until I am happy with the final product. The App also allows you to keep as many recorded messages as you like so you can look back in history in order to hear your progress. Again, I have successful days and not so successful days recording these but as they say, baby steps.
Paper or vocal exercises provided to me are also helpful tools designed to get my brain and speech working together such as reading out loud sounds, tongue twisters and multi-syllable words. Well one thing is to read them out loud but to read them fast at the same time…” Houston, we have a problem” ha ha. I’m not sure what my neighbours are thinking when I am reading out loud as fast as I can such as, “patakapataka” or “red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather”. I swear they must think a crazy guy lives next door to them…hey, guess what ha ha? Thankfully we have great neighbours.
In addition to these, I regularly read newspaper stories or watch the news and then recite them back to my wife or kids as a conversational piece. I actually don’t mind this for this is no different to what every person in life does naturally during normal conversations however my stories may change slightly along the way…in a good and funny way that is. Cant picture what I’m attempting to explain? Well think about two different stories on the news, one being a robbery at a petrol station overnight and the other being an Apple Growers Festival in a country town. My story would sound something like “an apple robbery occurred last night at a country town festival”. I have exaggerated the example here but I’m sure you understand what I’m trying to convey.
If King George VI (The Kings Speech) can master the art of speech then I too can have a voice.