12 January 2016

Aphasia and Annual Updates

Occasionally it disturbs me that I have taken the name of a serious medical condition and used it as the title of my blog.  When I started The Paraphasic, it was called "Paraphasic Manifestos", the idea being that I frequently express myself poorly and fail to think things through to the extent that I should, so that the blog would be a collection of over-serious ideological declarations ("manifestos"), riddled with errors of speech and mis-expressed ideas ("paraphasic").  The wryness of the title doesn't really match the seriousness of actual aphasia and paraphasia, though, which makes it seem (perhaps once a year or so) like it might be irreverent.  I hope no one has been offended by it.

This morning I discovered several videos on YouTube dealing with forms of aphasia.  First there was this video of Byron Peterson, who suffers from Wernicke's Aphasia, a condition in which he speaks fluidly (and with normal intonation and gusto, even) but the words his mouth produces have little connection to the thoughts he means to express by them ("word salad").  Mr. Peterson's account of himself in this video is wonderful.  I hope that, should I ever lose language, I am half as easygoing and cheerful as this man.

Mr. Byron's video led me to a bunch of other videos, including several by a woman named Sarah Scott.  Ms. Scott suffered a stroke at the age of 18, with resulting aphasia.  Over the past six years she has recorded annual video interviews in which she discusses her progress, current difficulties, and what she's doing.  Here are the first and sixth of these update videos.

Ms. Scott's videos led me to another series of update videos, done by a man named Jack Hurley, who suffered a stroke at age 15, resulting in Broca's Aphasia, from which he has largely recovered.  Here is the first of Mr. Hurley's update videos, in which he gives an account of his stroke and personal difficulties.

These update videos seem to be common among people who experience aphasia.  It's a great idea because, as Ms. Scott explains above, progress can be very slow, and can seem non-existent, but it's relatively easy to notice differences in a video record.  The videos function not as diaries or annals so much as recorded demonstrations of a person giving an account of himself, so that one can see "where I was" in terms of speaking ability and fluency at a given stage.

It would be interesting to do the same thing, not on account of aphasia, but just to track one's life — once a year, a general account of oneself, one's difficulties, and one's present occupation.  Could be worthwhile.