Avi is a stroke and aphasia survivor. He was an New York City paramedic and about to start medical school when he had a stroke. Prior to his stroke, he loved many outdoor sports like horseback riding, kayaking, sailing, bicycle riding, snowboarding, etc. Now, post-stroke he has aphasia (difficulty communicating) and can’t use one arm, but still enjoys many of the same thrilling activities.
Avi completed his Bachelor of Science in Biology at Towson University, in Maryland, USA.
1. As someone with aphasia, what can you share about this condition that you think will help other people?
Everyone is different. For example, I have Broca’s aphasia. There’s also Global aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia, and different levels of ability or difficulties that each person may have. Working hard with a Speech Language Pathologist is very important. It may take a long time to make progress.
2. What treatment program did you find most helpful in your particular case?
I had individual therapy and then I also participated in a group. At first, I could only say the word “Michael”, and it’s funny now because I didn’t even know anyone named Michael! It’s important to socialize with others who have aphasia and have some fun, too. When a Speech Pathologist leads the group, the person with aphasia might not know they are working on communications skills when they are in that group.
3. What advice would you give someone with severe aphasia?
Don’t give up. There are alternate ways to communicate if speech is very difficult. You need to trust your Speech-Language Pathologist and work with them.
4. What advice would you give family members of someone with aphasia?
Families need to learn some of the best ways to help out a person with aphasia. Sometimes waiting without filling in words for them is better. The Speech Pathologist can give the best advice for each person.
5. How does aphasia affect your daily life right now and what technologies do you find most helpful, if any?
I have some trouble with writing. I use speech-to-text dictation software. My cell phone is a great help. When I can, I go speak to groups along with a Speech Pathologist. I have a PowerPoint presentation, and it includes pictures of me doing sports and activities you might not expect.
6. As an aphasia advocate, what improvements would you like to see in the health care system in your country?
It is important to educate people, especially first responders, so they can have an idea of what to expect when they see a person who has aphasia in a medical emergency. The National Aphasia Association says that about 1/3 of all strokes result in aphasia. There are 2 million people in America who have aphasia, but many people never even heard of it.
7. What are the common misconceptions people have about stroke patients with aphasia?
It is not a loss of intelligence. It is a problem communicating, and people can be helped even 10 years after they first were diagnosed. Recovery and progress is different for a younger person than an older person.
There are new studies showing that the brain can make new networks and heal, which can improve the communication ability of a person with aphasia.