After a 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 daughters and spent his free time with friends and playing 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 a coma three weeks later, he was diagnosed with global aphasia and severe traumatic brain injury, and his life changed completely.

Dealing with the new situation

For years after his injury, Al struggled with not being able to speak, communicate his feelings, and understand others. As anyone can imagine, it was hard for him 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, while Al’s sister investigated alternatives in the meantime. Al completed two rehabilitation programs, and during one of these programs, the specialists told his family that Al would never be able to relearn the skills necessary to live independently, or be to successfully communicate.

A manageable but limited life

Al, of course, still really wanted to live by himself and be independent, and he and his mother decided to give living together another try. While his life became more manageable with the consistency of a repetitive routine and very minimal demands or changes, Al’s world became smaller and smaller. 
 
“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.”
 
At the same time, Al unfortunately hadn't regained most of his abilities, which led to poor self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness. Al’s life continued like this for the next 20 years.

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 some investigation, Kristin found out that Al learned best if through sequenced steps supported by pictures, and being given lots of time to take everything in. Eventually, for the first time after his accident, Al was able to cook independently. This same formula ended up being the foundation to reteaching him each 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. It was actually with the last group that Al had his first success.
 
There was a nurse who would come to Al's home, and he would always need have to have someone around to make sure that they could communicate. Using the app, Al no longer needed someone to help him and the nurse through the appointment, because they were able to communicate effectively by themselves. From here, AI started using the app for all his medical appointments. For him, this meant that he starting getting more involved, is able 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 is sometimes not able to complete 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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