I had originally been told that I had neurogenic stuttering due to my brain injury. The stuttering began at the end of June in 2012. I guess the increased pressure from my hydrocephalus had damaged my language centres enough for the stuttering to begin. When I was released from rehab, I began speech therapy at the Medicine Hat Hospital. It was there I worked with some great therapists. We worked on speech techniques, word finding, categorization and a variety of other speech related things to do with muscle control and rhythm. I remember that I learned of one the two damaged cranial nerves that was affecting my speech. The Vagus (wandering nerve or tenth cranial nerve) is important for many functions other than speech such as heart rate, sweating, digestion and blood pressure (mmm so many answers are now coming to light).
A damaged vagus nerve can cause issues with muscle control and swallowing in the mouth and neck. I am no expert at any of this but it was explained to me simply that speech comes from the brain figuring out word to diaphragm with the air flow up, to voice box (larynx) where the vocal cords vibrate. From there the sound then is resonated into nose, mouth area. Speech can be disrupted anywhere along the process. I know that I still have trouble swallowing quickly and sometimes choke on water etc…if I drink or eat to quickly. I have noticed this more since I had SJS as my mouth was so beat up and sensitive with blisters, open wounds. It feels like there is a large marble around my adams apple. I am guessing that I have muscle weakness and lack of control on the right side of my neck and mouth that was similar to every where else on my right side. As part of my therapy I had to work on my breathing, hold my hand up on my neck and face to feel certain muscle movements when I said certain words. I know that my stutter comes out with certain letters or letter groupings. It also can come out when stressed, overwhelmed, sick or if I am stuck with the cognitive process of what I wanted to say. Thus I love social media or online interaction more than in person.
Along with speech therapy, I also attended an Aphasia group at the mall that was run by the speech therapists at the hospital. This was a very good group because we played games and did activities that not only worked on speaking but on word finding, grouping of words and rhythm of having a conversation again.
I had started out with really one word answers of either “fine” or “good” for my conversation depth and breadth. Then I was able to pre-plan a sentence that I would knew would get a person talking so then I wouldn’t have to talk anymore. From there the amount of pre-planned sentences went up. I would also have a stash of questions to ask. I knew if I asked questions, I would not have to talk much and lessen the chances of me having to stutter. This went on until about mid-way last year. I stopped going to speech and began going to the Brain Injury Re-Learning Service (BIRS is a part of REDI enterprises), the big red building with paper planes flying. We began cognitive, memory, visual-spatial, awareness and attention rehabilitation. By the end of last year my speech had improved greatly. My stutter was almost non-existent and the biggest thing that no one probably noticed was that I was having conversations that were less and less planned. I was able to be more spontaneous and talk more freely. I had volunteered with the Kindergarten class to help with reading January 2014. I remember reading the Dr. Seus book “Mr. Brown Can moo, Can you?” So everything was going along just perfectly with no verbal glitches. The kids were repeating all the sounds in the book. I was having a great time until and then I got verbally stuck on a word. Here I was stuttering on a stuck word with 16 kindergartners repeating the sounds as they thought it was a part of the book. Both the teacher and teaching assistant are cracking up at the back of the room and I am now cracking up laughing with my little parrots doing the same thing. I had tears running down my face as it was so funny and priceless. I loved those kids, they just went with the flow, like I did!
I think the reasons for my improvement are re-connection of brain pathways due to neuroplasticity, lots of practicing in front of mirror, breathing exercises, word finding exercises, luminosity, word puzzles, boggle, volunteering, helping my kids read, helping my kids with their homework (last year I found some grade two homework hard), speech therapy, Aphasia group, BIRS, becoming slightly more cognitively aware, not giving up, not being afraid of failure, time (as slow as this process is), getting pissed off, frustrated and not settling for a brain injured status quo. I am have also been helped by the wonderful support that I have found on Twitter. There are so many people that I have connected to. Just supporting one another with ideas, suggestions and strategies has been very meaningful for me. Some days my fellow #TBI #ABI tweeters are the only people outside my family I connect with. I was fortunate to meet up with the founder of #ABIchat. This is an online support group on Twitter that I have participated a couple of times to. I just need to find out when the chats are again (in the brain and out the brain syndrome). I really think healing and recovery of the brain is being re-defined. Hearing from other high-functioning brain injured people has given me hope that I will find my niche and happy place being a productive member of society again. It really bothers me of the negative stereotypes and judgements that happen when you are labelled disabled and on disability as a form of income. The flippant comments and the poor treatment is often jaw dropping. I know that I shouldn’t let the comments hurt but they do. And it is often just general comments from people who do not even know that I am on disability. I have kept that mostly to my self and immediate family until today. I have to just shake my head and wonder what education level and knowledge where the people with these comments are coming from. I have to remind myself that it is not me but them that is broken.