All about keeping communication alive
“Who says a person without a voice can’t be heard?”
Life without a voice can be extra challenging when loved ones are far away. Glynda and Don Deckard found it so when Glynda, 63, experienced a significant speech loss after suffering a stroke in 2005, compelling the Donaldson, Arkansas couple to adopt new strategies for everyday communication – especially during the four-day stretch Don spends on the road each week for his customer service job.
Diagnosed with expressive aphasia, Glynda retained solid language comprehension skills that helped her relearn to write the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, and family and medical information within six months of the stroke. Conversation proved tougher. Glynda could answer questions in single-word utterances, but sometimes confused “yes” with “no” while listeners struggled to understand her vague intonations. Her attempts to convey thoughts through facial expressions and gestures similarly left others perplexed. Yet Glynda remained a hard worker and fast learner in her speech therapy sessions at Hot Springs County Medical Center, motivated by the desire to speak her mind with Don, her husband of 40 years, their two sons and grandson.
“She just wanted to be able to really talk to him and her family, to communicate what she really wants them to know, to be heard,” speech-language pathologist April Watson, M.A., CCC-SLP said at the time.
In a session that restored the Deckards’ hopes of enjoying meaningful conversation, Glynda spontaneously uttered the name of an old family friend that Don did not remember. Their hope grew stronger when Watson suggested that a speech-generating device would best meet Glynda’s communication needs while at home alone or with unfamiliar listeners. After a trial period with a DynaMyte 3100, Glynda got a DynaVox MT4 that Watson and Don programmed with:
- An emergency pop-up allowing Glynda to call 911 by placing the device next to the telephone receiver, dialing then selecting the message “This is an emergency. This is not a prank call. Please help me.”
- A Medications page with starter phrases such as “Did I take my…?”, “I already took,” and “Time for a refill.”
- Comments for social conversation including “No kidding,” “That’s right,” “You’re making me mad,” and “That makes sense.”
- Vocabulary for the Deckards’ frequent long-distance telephone conversations. In includes the phrases “I miss you,” “When are you coming home?” and “I love you” as well as “Can you solve the puzzle?” and “Do you know the answer?” so Glynda and Don so can enjoy a favorite TV game show together though they’re separated by hundreds of miles.
While transitioning to the DynaVox devices, the Deckards purchased their first personal computer so Glynda could become comfortable with current technology. The couple left Watson impressed by their willingness to embrace change while keeping communication alive naturally.
“It’s amazing how you can become so in tune with each other when words are not an option.”