Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Gold Medal for Speaking?

May 28th 2015

There Ain’t No Shortcuts to Greatness
Aphasia Speech Therapy

The Olympic athlete trains for years to become a champion. It takes days, months and years to do so. It does not happen immediately. It is a slow, arduous challenge that takes desire, persistence and fortitude.

Why do many think they can become an winner without putting in the work? Many soon find out there are others who also wish to be champions, who are better and more skilled. Skill occurs when there is practice. The more one practices, the better one becomes in a given discipline.

Take speech therapy for example, especially for a severe to profound speaking difficulty. For some reason many believe they can go to therapy a few times a week for 30-50 minutes and become a medal winner.

Many believe they don’t have to practice or spend numerous hours dedicated to the process of speaking. They think sitting down with comprehension exercises, tablet, apps, or fill in the blank work sheets will help return them to speaking. Others believe singing happy birthday, or reciting Mary Had A Little Lamb, will actually improve the ability to speak and converse.

Others believe they should sit down and memorize vocabulary until it is learned and place great emphasis on recall of a set list of vocabulary items. Some care-givers think the cure is occurring behind the therapy doors when they are not invited in by the therapist to participate in the therapy process.

To improve speaking one must train. Could you imagine an Olympic figure skater practicing a couple times a week for 30-50 minutes? Would the skater be able to do all the miraculous things he or she does with a training regimen like that? How about any expert? Did they get that way by practicing their given art or discipline in the typical way speech therapy is provided and practiced?

For the person with the severe to profound speaking difficulty there is no difference. Should they be given an electronic device and told to “go home and use it?” Should they buy lots of expensive equipment like computers, tablets, I pads and the like and think that will improve their ability to engage in speaking with others?

Let’s face it kids, there is no replacement for speaking improvement like TALKING;  TALKING WITH ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

For one to really improve in talking, talking must be emphasized as the way to do it. Talking every day and throughout the day. You can’t get improved talking without talking. Just like you can’t be an Olympic Skater without skating. You can’t become a great pitcher in baseball without pitching. You can’t be a great tennis player without playing tennis. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

You have all read the stories of famous athletes and Olympic participants. They started young. They had parents who were as committed to the goal as the children. You had great coaches who took no BS from athlete or parents of those who aspired to greatness.

Guess what? It takes that same training schedule, mind set, parent or caregiver support and coaching to become a proficient talker, for those who do not speak or those who lost that ability.

THERE AIN’T NO SHORTCUTS, no machine or technology that will make one great other than hard, dedicated commitment to TALKING. That’s what happens when someone decides to cut the BS and get down to work on TALKING with another person.

That’s what happens when one decides that their loved one or child will speak again. It will require that mindset. No Shortcuts! Only daily, dedicated commitment to conversing in a way that is simple and fun. Does it require stimulating speech all through the day? Yes.

Does it require stimulating speech and language when you would rather be kicking back in the easy chair, and watching your favorite TV show? Does it require stimulating speaking when you’d rather just be quiet?

Does it require speaking when you’d rather be 5 o’clock somewhere with your favorite beverage?

Look at the greats; the champions, and the Olympic hopefuls. They often dedicated most of their day, each and every day to training. That’s how they became great, and the best at what they did.

The same principle also applies to the improvement of speaking whether child or adult. The Teaching of Talking Method and expert coaching can take you there. There is really nothing else to be said, other than the person who receives the training must be stimulable or able to imitate or repeat sounds or simple words.

Oh….I almost forgot something!

The parent or caregiver must also be dedicated to assuring home and arduous practice and dedication to speaking each and every day, just like the parents of the Olympic athletes who spent hours in the car or on the playing field supporting their child through practice sessions, competitions, track meets, and Coaching sessions. They must have no other thought other than excellence, achievement and dedication to making the endeavor of improved speaking a reality. They will need to be trained in speech and language stimulation methods. Caregivers are learning how to stimulate speech and language like a professional with over 40 years of practice. And you know something else?

Is there occasional frustration? Yes. Does it seem sometimes like the person with the speaking difficulty does not want better speaking as much as the caregiver? Yes. Are there times when one would rather throw in the towel, and do what seems to be what is most expedient? Something that is so much easier and less intensive? Yes.

So what does it really take to begin recovering from a mild to profound aphasia or an inability to speak? It will take training of the caregiver to learn methods of speech and language stimulation. There are no shortcuts here either.

It is a major life commitment for caregivers to learn how to stimulate speech and language at home, which is where it should be stimulated, and the method is learned by the caregiver, to use throughout the day, everyday with the person who has a speaking difficulty.

There are those who win medals. There are those who recover the ability to speak. There are some who make great strides and improvement. The caregiver and person with the speaking difficulty undergo rigorous training and develop a combined mindset:

(It is NOT for the weak at heart)

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Mark Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP is a senior speech language pathologist who has been helping people speak with clarity for over 40 years. He has spent years in direct one on one speech therapy with those with brain injury, aphasia and children who have not developed speech and language normally. He has worked in nationally renowned rehabilitation hospitals and has developed specialized programs for those who lost their speech due to aphasia. Those programs involve training family members, caregivers and speech language pathologists who are looking for new and vibrant approaches to help others improve speaking.

Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP
Senior Speech Langauge Pathologist
Author, Trainer, and Coach
Teaching of Talking Method and Training Course

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