Graham is 65 years old, a former deputy principal and head of a university department. He developed aphasia at the age of 52 as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage. This left him unable to speak, read or write.
For Graham, whose professional life involved highly developed communication skills, the loss of his ability to communicate was a shattering blow. He has since rebuilt his communication skills and has learned to read, write and speak and touch type on the computer keyboard.
What self management means for Graham
Many people become extremely isolated as a result of aphasia, which can be caused by head injury, stroke or a haemorrhage such as Graham’s. As a result, there is a big risk that they withdraw from society or are effectively sidelined by family and friends as a result of their communication problems.
Aphasia can be a devastating condition.
At the time of his illness, Graham was not a computer user. It was a colleague who first encouraged Graham to use a computer to help re-build his communication skills. Graham learned to touch type on the computer keyboard and then learned again how to read and write.
Graham’s experience prompted him to assist setting up the Edinburgh group of Speakability. One aspect of the group’s work involves helping people to use computers, from turning them on and getting started to online shopping, speaking with friends via email and getting all the benefits of the internet. It also uses software that ‘translates’ written material into the spoken word and vice versa so that computer users can receive and respond to written correspondence.
We’ve developed training programmes to help our members communicate again.
Graham has developed a unique initiative designed to help people with aphasia overcome the isolation and lack of autonomy that they often experience because of their communication difficulties. The Speech and Hearing Sciences department of Queen Margaret University are partners in supporting the project – leading the design and development of course materials, evaluation resources, providing facilities and practical support from language therapy students which formed part of their clinical training. The project is funded by the Self Management Fund, run by the Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland.
In his experience, Graham believes that aphasia is often not all that well understood by professionals. But he is convinced that people with aphasia can be helped to regain some control over their own lives using computers, which can be an important tool for self management.
Graham’s experience with self management has attracted the interest of professionals. He has been invited to talk to doctors, nursing and speech and language therapy professionals to help them better understand how they can best support people with aphasia.
I’m fortunate – I’ve made a lot of progress, but there are a lot of people at the beginning of their struggle, and they need support wherever they can find it.