You Can’t Just Wear Socks Grace Carpenter I have a notebook that one of my speech-language pathologists, Rick Sanders, gave to me in my first week in outpatient treatment after my stroke. He would write down things I was having trouble with, or homework assignments, or snippets of conversations. Somewhere in the second week ... E-luminations
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E-luminations  |   June 01, 2012
You Can’t Just Wear Socks
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Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / School-Based Settings / Healthcare Settings / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / E-luminations
E-luminations   |   June 01, 2012
You Can’t Just Wear Socks
The ASHA Leader, June 2012, Vol. 17, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.EL.17072012.np
The ASHA Leader, June 2012, Vol. 17, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.EL.17072012.np
Grace Carpenter
I have a notebook that one of my speech-language pathologists, Rick Sanders, gave to me in my first week in outpatient treatment after my stroke. He would write down things I was having trouble with, or homework assignments, or snippets of conversations. Somewhere in the second week of therapy, he wrote in the notebook:
“If you’re going to go out in the backyard, you can’t just wear socks!!”
I don’t remember how we got on the topic, but I do remember that he was talking about a pet peeve he had with his kids. As he talked, I remembered that I had had a similar conversation with my 7-year-old son the summer before the stroke. I was often annoyed that my kids didn’t seem to understand why tracking mud and dirt around the house—not to mention the dirty laundry—could be a problem.
By writing that sentence down, Rick injected some normalcy into my life, even just for a minute.
In January 2010, I was a healthy woman, mostly a stay-at-home mom with my two young kids. I was preoccupied with my 4-year-old daughter’s speech, or lack of it. She started talking late, and when she did talk, no one could understand her. And since the fall, she hadn’t spoken at school at all. I was worried about my lack of a job, too. I was doing some freelance writing. I loved writing, but it didn’t pay.
My worries were nothing compared to what was going to hit us. On February 2, I had a hemorrhagic stroke, damaging the left hemisphere of my brain.
I lost movement in my right side. I had trouble swallowing. I understood a fair amount of what was going on, but I could only say a few words. I had Broca’s aphasia. In the hospital, when I had enough energy, I would practice spelling my children’s names with the magnetic letter board my family brought me. Sometimes I was successful.
After nine days in the hospital, I was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. I started relearning the days of the week, names of family members, and the most basic words. After about five weeks, I came home.
About 10 weeks after the stroke, I had enough mobility to start outpatient therapy. That’s when I started to work with Rick and his colleague, Jena Castro-Casbon, on speech. Each session was different. Sometimes we listened to NPR podcasts, and Rick would quiz me afterwards. I had spelling tests with Jena, and she helped me think about organization and technologies that might help. They both asked me to describe photos we were looking at. I worked on worksheets. I practiced reading aloud—articles, poems, and children’s stories. I was so glad they both had a good sense of humor.
But I did cry a lot in those sessions. Sometimes the sense of frustration and sadness would overwhelm me, especially when I tried to talk about my kids, although they seemed to be doing okay. My husband is a devoted father, and an army of family members, neighbors, and babysitters stepped in to help with the kids and showered them with love.
But I, as a parent, was heartbroken. There were so many things I couldn’t do. Even hugging my kids was hard. To not be able to read to my kids felt unbearable. How could I be a mother when I was suddenly, profoundly disabled?
And that was around the time when Rick told me about his kids wearing socks—without shoes—in the backyard.
I knew Rick before my stroke, but not well. We lived in the same town, and sent our daughters to the same preschool. I saw him at school drop-off every so often. I didn’t know what kind of work he did, until he dropped in for a visit at Spaulding. I was so relieved to see him, and relieved to have a fellow parent of young children as a therapist.
When he started talking about the socks-in-the-backyard issue, I think he saw the flash of recognition in my face, and my laughter.
“Repeat,” he instructed me. “If you’re going to go out in the backyard, you can’t just wear socks!!”
I don’t remember all the details of that session, but I’m pretty sure that I did try to repeat the sentence, and I struggled with it. Rick was partly challenging me to work on the phrase, “going to go out in.” The little words, as usual, tripped me up (and still do).
But the conversation that day unearthed those memories of day-to-day parenting: the mud tracked into the house; the squabbles between siblings; the arguments about what to wear. Sometimes healing comes more readily by the back door, with dirty socks and the messy business of life.
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June 2012
Volume 17, Issue 7