What I Learned From a Wounded Warrior A soldier who suffered a TBI in Iraq aims not only to regain speech, but to speak on behalf of other wounded warriors. First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page  |   November 01, 2014
What I Learned From a Wounded Warrior
Author Notes
  • Darlene Williamson, MA, CCC-SLP, is founder and executive director of the Stroke Comeback Center in Vienna, Virginia. dsw@strokecomebackcenter.org
    Darlene Williamson, MA, CCC-SLP, is founder and executive director of the Stroke Comeback Center in Vienna, Virginia. dsw@strokecomebackcenter.org×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Traumatic Brain Injury / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   November 01, 2014
What I Learned From a Wounded Warrior
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 68. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19112014.68
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 68. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19112014.68
Darlene Williamson uses a tablet-based app when working with Patrick Horan, an Army veteran who has aphasia from a traumatic brain injury sustained in Iraq.
All the members of the Stroke Comeback Center are inspirational in their own ways. These survivors of traumatic brain injury or stroke are striving to recover precious speech, language and cognitive skills. They continually remind us about the skills we take for granted and, most important, about the power of the human spirit and perseverance.
U.S. Army Capt. Patrick Horan is certainly no exception. In July 2007 he suffered a TBI after being severely wounded during a routine patrol in Iraq, resulting in significant aphasia. He had multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation to get to where he is today. But he has not reached the finish line.
When Pat first returned from Iraq, he received therapies focused on physical and language recovery. Seven years later, he is still making progress in his communication. He continues to strive for improvement and has set an enormous goal: He wants to give back to his community by serving as a spokesperson for other wounded warriors and brain injury survivors. To reach this goal, he needs to be able to speak confidently in public, a momentous task that has required continued effort.
Pat works diligently at his weekly visits. No doubt his incredible attitude, kind and friendly nature, positive outlook and supportive family have been critical to his recovery. He has been fortunate to have this strong support network helping him regain his speech and language skills.
The high bar that Patrick has set for himself and desire to give back testify to the progress he has made. But he wants more: He wants to take charge of his own rehabilitation to meet his aggressive goals, and with new mobile tools, he can.
One of these tools is a tablet-based app that allows stroke and TBI survivors to access speech, language and cognitive tasks anywhere and anytime. He uses it at home to perform individualized tasks based on his linguistic and cognitive profile. Perhaps the most important aspect of this program is the immediate feedback on his performance. As Pat improves, he can see objective measures as evidence of his progress. Patients’ ability to see their progress is very motivating, builds confidence and keeps them engaged to strive for the next level, which might just be as important as the treatment itself.
This confidence-building aspect is a very strong component in recovery, because patients can push their boundaries and not be held back by their own (mis)perceptions. Seeing where they have come from and performing tasks that were once challenging, serve as visceral reinforcements of patients’ progress and stimulates increased effort and progress.
Pat’s family can also monitor his progress and support his efforts. They can see his confidence grow as he improves. They are thrilled to see him step forward and manage his own care.
We can offer our clients so much more by infusing this kind of technology into our treatment. We can ensure that treatment does not stop at the clinic’s doors, but continues at home. We can empower our clients to set goals for themselves and take charge of their rehabilitation
What have I learned from this special wounded warrior? He stands as a constant reminder of the power inherent in patients taking control of their own treatment—and their own lives.
November 7, 2014
Darlene Williamson
Clinical work with apps
I have been flooded with emails asking which app I refer to in working with this gentleman. It is Constant Therapy. We use both Constant Therapy language and cognitive tasks extensively at the Stroke Comeback Center. Thank you to everyone who followed up with me.
December 2, 2014
Lisa Haynes
TalkPath Therapy
Lingraphica also offers a language and coginitive app called TalkPath Therapy. Designed by SLPs and aphasia scientists, the app is focused on rebuilding speech and memory skills after a stroke or TBI. It’s a free options available for both clinicians and patients.
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November 2014
Volume 19, Issue 11