Aphasia recovery is a slow road with an often windy path. However, we know that with continued speech and language treatment, progress can be made. According to Kleim and Jones (2008) Principles of Neuroplasticity, if you don’t use it, you lose it. As suggested in the name, if one is not practicing communicating daily, in some way, shape, or form, communication skills can decline. Additionally, if you “use it, you can improve it.” The more you communicate the more your communication will improve, which is why Aphasia therapy is beneficial to clients.
Let’s face it, speech and language therapy can get expensive, especially over several years. How long is an appropriate time to continue to pay out of pocket for Aphasia treatment? We know that insurance does not allot for much Aphasia therapy, so how do we know when it’s ok to stop. What other options are there?
With a little bit of creativity, along with self-motivation and support, one can undoubtedly take control of their own recovery by building their own home practice program. Pursue self-driven therapy by incorporating speech and language activities into your daily tasks, making them therapeutic, without making it feel like therapy. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
Have you ever started an exercise program and abandoned it because you became bored with it? I know I have. If I don’t have enough variety, and continue to incorporate something new and challenging into my workout program, I won’t stick to it. Aphasia rehabilitation is exercise for your brain. In order to make the exercise regimen desirable, there needs to be variety and some unpredictability. Incorporate physical and mental activity into your program. Try doing both at one time. For example, go for a walk while saying the names of what you see, or provide actions of what people or animals are doing while on your walk.
Incorporate a communication task with a different person each day into your program. Send an email, work on flashcards, listen to music, call a friend, write a shopping list, participate in a research study, volunteer for a local organization, participate in an online group, etc.
Consider trying out some of the innovative activities in “Working Outside the Workbook,” which discusses ways to modify task difficulty levels, gives tips for cueing strategies, and provides step-by-step instructions for task implementation. These are really great tasks to do with a care partner!
The opportunities are endless, and the potential for variety is limitless.
Use your environment
There is no need for fancy electronics or expensive applications when creating a home program. Use your environment as your platform. Go around a room in your house or apartment and pick 10 items, generating an action for each item you choose. Pull up a picture in your camera roll and describe what is happening, what the person is doing, what they might be feeling, where it’s taking place, etc. When you’re making your cup of morning joe or cooking dinner, or observing your loved one cooking dinner, try to talk about what you or the other individual is doing. Talk about the ingredients being used in the recipe. Attempt to read keywords on the recipe card, or even the nutritional facts. Send a text or an email to a different person each day. You’re not only practicing your written communication skills, but you’re also maintaining social relationships and continuing to build your support network.
Create a schedule and a routine
Having schedules and routines can help us feel we have a sense of purpose, creating a sense of security as we know what to expect throughout the day. It also provides us with a purpose for our day, allowing us to have some sense of control over our day and our lives, and ultimately providing us with a sense of accomplishment at the completion of our day. Write down a schedule and check off your tasks as you complete them. Create a daily to-do list in your electronic device so you can easily have access to your tasks throughout the day. Try a variety of methods and figure out what works best for you.
Hold yourself accountable
A huge part of being able to maintain and follow a robust home practice program is holding yourself accountable. It is important to know why you are doing what you’re doing, and to remind yourself of those reasons on occasion. Your recovery has become your new full time job, so find ways to measure your progress and acknowledge your ups and downs. Take pictures or videos of what you are working on or what have accomplished and share it with friends and family, or even on social media. Allow yourself to have days where not all items are checked off your list, and reward yourself when you reached a new personal goal, big or small. Involve others in celebrating your victories, because the road to Aphasia recovery is no easy feat and encouragement and support is a crucial element for ongoing success.
For more ideas on how to build your own home practice program, check out our newest resource at https://www.iraphasiatherapy.com/aphasia-education-and-advocacy.