After devastating injury, Al pushes past frustration to learn to use AAC

For the first 40 years of his life, Al was a hardworking man who was able to do well at anything he put his mind to. After graduating with honors from Queen’s University in Metallurgical Engineering, he immediately found the perfect job and travelled all over the world. Al’s personal life was also very fulfilling; he got married, had two beautiful daughters and spent his free time with friends or enjoying various sports.
 
Then, just a few weeks after his 40th birthday, misfortune struck when he got injured during a baseball game. When Al came out of his coma three weeks later, he was diagnosed with global aphasia and severe traumatic brain injury. Al quickly noticed that everything was vastly different.

Dealing with the new situation

In the years after, Al struggled with not being able to speak, communicate his feelings, and understand instructions from others. As any of us can imagine, it was hard to accept this new reality. Feeling like his life had been taken from him, Al was uninterested in rehabilitation.
 
Al’s mother, who was 75 at the time, insisted on helping her son by coming to live with him. Unfortunately this living situation turned out to be increasingly unsafe, so Al’s sister started to investigate alternatives. Al completed two programs of rehabilitation. During one of these programs the specialists concluded that Al would never be able to learn skills to live independently and he would never successfully communicate.

A manageable but limited life

Al, of course, still really wanted to live by himself and be independent, so his mother decided to give living together another try. While life became manageable with the consistency of a repetitive routine and very minimal demands or changes, Al’s world became smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, Al was also still not regaining any of his abilities, which lead to poor self esteem and a sense of worthlessness. Al’s life continued like this for the next 20 years.
 
“Al was living with our 92 year old mother and she primarily communicated for him. Since they lived together for so long, she really could guess well what he was trying to get across. It wasn't a perfect system, of course, and if Al was unsuccessful, eventually he just gave up. Al was also able to communicate with me,” Al’s sister Trish said. “As our mom was aging, I became Al’s main communicator. Outside of the family (our mom, sister, brother and sister-in-law) and a couple of friends - Al rarely communicated with other people.”

Regaining some independency

20 years after his accident, Al started working with case facilitator Kristin, from Brain Injury Services. She started to understand the rhythms of his speech and quickly became as a successful communication partner as his family. After doing some investigation, Kristin found out that he was able to learn by sequencing steps, using pictures to show the steps, and giving him lots of time. Eventually, for the first time after his accident, Al was able to cook independently. This same formula ended up being the foundation to teaching him all and every skill (including communication).
 
His speech pathologist at the time, Sue, introduced Al to Proloquo2Go. Together with Kristin, he worked on remembering how to find the vocabulary he needed. Al started using the app to communicate with family, friends and medical professionals. The latter was actually the area Al had his first success.
 
Al had a nurse coming into his home and he would always have to have someone around to make sure that they both comprehended each other. Using the app, Al no longer needed someone to help us through the appointment because they were able to communicate effectively. From here, AI used the app for all his medical appointments. For him, this means that he is more involved, he gets to say what he would like to say and he can participate in his own health care.

Reconnecting to himself and to others

Al also used Proloquo2Go for the greatest moment in his life; his daughter’s wedding speech. “It was such an honor for Al to be able to walk his eldest daughter Kate down the aisle. He felt extremely proud during that moment. However, to be able to say a few of the words that he always wanted to say to his daughter on her wedding day was indescribable. It is so amazing that he was able to have done this,” Trish said.
 
 
With the help of his facilitator Kristin and SLP Susan, who had the knowledge regarding human behavior and who understood the key determinants in motivating a person with a brain injury, Al was able to reconnect with himself and the people around him.
 
“With Proloquo2Go his world has opened up, his relationships re-energized and he is no longer fully partner dependent, he transitioned to a new living environment ... the list goes on and on,” said Kristin.

Never give up

Al still has good and bad days. Every day his language deficit makes it difficult for him to express himself. The bad days can set any progress back and Al may not be able to solve simple tasks. His advice? Never give up. Tomorrow will be another day.
 
His sister-in-law Heather really sees the changes in Al, and explains: “What I see is truly amazing. The doctors told us that after 2 years he would no longer progress. But now Al is saying words that I didn't think he could say. He is a much happier fellow and appears settled within himself. He no longer isolates himself from the family and socializes with others.”

 

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