Thursday, September 17, 2009

The unkindest cut of all

Most stroke victims will admit that the most debilitating handicap that they face is loss of speech. Being cut off from the world is a frightening experience. I was lucky that I was saved from the feeling of being buried alive by the communication system that Jaya devised.

But saying the words alone without any non-verbal accompaniment sometimes doesn't convey the exact meaning that I had in mind. Although the role of non-verbal communication is not as great as it was thought earlier, it is undeniable that it plays a major role in enhancing the efficacy of the verbal channel. Gestures convey important information and it is also suggested that it might help us think.

My lack of voluntary hand movements and absence of cues like tone and stress hamper my efforts to convey the exact meaning of some sentences. "Bring the book" can be said casually, with anger, with urgency or with some other emotion but these are not possible for me.

I do have a sort of non-verbal communication. When I get angry or excited, my muscles get stiff, my limbs start shivering and I get paroxysms of cough. Onlookers think I am having some medical problem and wonder why folks at home are not worried. My reactions for both anger and excitement are quite similar so some people think I am getting angry when I am really excited.

I also find it difficult to immediately change my expressions so, for example, if someone has cracked a joke and shifted to talking about some serious matter, I will still be laughing about the joke when a serious expression would have been more appropriate for the matter currently being discussed. He will wonder why I am laughing when he is talking about a bereavement.

These reactions are invlountary and can be controlled only if I sit quietly without saying anything. A person who is not familiar with my quirks is likely to be misled by them.


  1. Your blog is truly an inspiration to everyone. I have worked very closely with many who have suffered a stroke and I agree that not having a good vehicle for communication can be a huge issue. Glad that the communication system that Jaya devised is working well.
    Not sure if you have seen the emotions work board which might help you to express most emotions( work board has sad face, happy face, angry face etc), expressing these could help with the communication and also probably help you from getting to a point of coughing spells
    will wait for more entries

  2. Vinitha,

    I have not seen the emotions work board.

  3. I will try to find one, not sure if it was specifically used by the speech therapists at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, but I will try to look into it