Newsela: Leveling Reading Difficulty

Just a quick post about a new online service called Newsela. It presents (text) news stories and allows users to change the reading difficulty. In other words, stories are changed on the fly so that complex sentences are replaced by one of more simpler ones.

When you open a story on Newsela website, you can change reading difficulty using a blue menu on the right hand side. Every article has five different levels of difficulty. Newsela also have quizzes attached to its articles.

Enjoy reading stories on Newsela!

A new paradigm to rally round people with aphasia

God knows my speech therapist worked daily, Monday to Friday, attentively and conscientiously, to help me get my limited speech, by stages, back; I will be beholden to her every day for the rest of my life. She was in the trenches with me and the rest of my aphasiacs sweating out each letter, syllable and word fifty weeks a year. I valued her and her colleagues at Transition of Long Island and the hundreds of other hands on speech therapists and the people with aphasia who shared their experiences, as limited as they were. Over the years I spent more time in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, universities, and other types of community aphasia groups listening, speaking and Skypeing. The worst assembled group programs for aphasiacs and caregivers were those who were presented my therapists who didn’t have daily hands on experiences in the trenches presently or people who didn’t have aphasia but had a script about aphasia; the chutzpah, the audacity, the presumptuousness and pretentiousness when they wring out words that say that aphasiacs are bright but the organization somehow couldn’t  find one person, one person, with aphasia to present the program and the other speakers who have aphasia. Continue reading the full article…

How I Explain My Stroke To My Son…

I had a stroke a week after giving birth to my son, Aidan, he is now seven. When he was between two and three years old he began noticing I was different. How do you explain a stroke to a child? While playing with Aidan, he wanted me to do something with both hands. I told him, “Mama’s one hand doesn’t work,” for a while that satisfied his curiosity. Continue reading the full article…

The Pain When an Aphasiac Mourns For His Son

From the time I had my stroke in February 2002, an embolic cerebrovascular accident with severe aphasia, I struggled for my freedom, to be seen, heard and listened to by businesses, governmental agencies and religious institutions. In the main they dealt with me as invisible, voiceless, and politically isolated. In the continuum of raw passions I experienced a gamut of emotions that desecrated me, my spirit and my memories, when I wasn’t able to pray for my son, Robert, in a respectful manner because of my aphasia and the time limitations placed on the religious services; it seems sacrilegious.

The most impious action was caused by the nicest people because they misunderstood aphasia and heartbreak felt by aphasiacs when they couldn’t pray for their love ones. These were not the Fools of Chelm, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Nobel Prize-winning Jewish writer in the Yiddish language; on the contrary their leaders were competent and normal; and it occurred this past April 16. That day I wanted to pray, to memorialized and recall my son Robert, his legacy to me, and the beauty when he was a little boy, the times we played basketball, baseball, and football. We went bike riding. He was a proficient skier. My son was sweet, sensitive, and bright. He was a good researcher, enjoyed books by David Baldacci and was knowledgeable about politics. The last few years we had breakfast together at least once a week when possible, we had a smer of vegetable cream cheese, an onion and a tomato on a whole wheat bagel. We were political junkies, Obama, the economy, Afghanistan, the military-industrial complex and the government’s role in the drug traffic during the Reagan administration. He joined me in his teen years for the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rob was fiercely loyal. But he was not able to protect himself from life and people.

He is my son and I miss him intensely every day so I commemorate his yahrzeit, the Jewish anniversary of his death, by reciting the mourner’s version of the Kaddish prayer in a conservative Synagogue or shul. The truth be told I can’t pray in the shul at this time because my aphasia holds me back as does my Hebrew. But with time I know that I could read again the Hebrew words; it will take time but it is doable. But the speed by which the other congregants say the prayer makes it impossible for me to say each word distinctly so it has meaning for me. Although my religion allows me to recite the mourner’s version of the Kaddish prayer at home at my own pace it is preferable for me to join in the minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations including mourner’s version of the Kaddish prayer. I know that Rob would want that respect for him and me so it is essential for me to say the mourner’s prayer each word distinctly at my own pace. I could work hard on my Hebrew but congregants would have to slow down immensely; isn’t it sacrilegious if they don’t do this?

The spirit and soul of an aphasiac is tried every day by business, agencies and religions. What are the other substantive issues that aphasiacs hardly talk about but means a lot to them?

Using the Internet Safely, part 2

Internet benefits and dangers

1) Many people use the Internet in everyday life.

  • Family and friends keep in touch using the Internet.
  • We use computers and the internet to learn new information.
  • We also use computers for personal business like shopping or banking.

Continue reading the full article…

Let’s Get the Word Out About Aphasia

In response to the flood of calls, texts, postings and emails we have received from people in the aphasia community in the US and around the world, the National Aphasia Association would like to offer information about this condition to the general public in an effort to correct an error of omission in ABC’s coverage of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery.

First, we would like to express our heartfelt congratulations to Gabby for her recovery so far and offer her, Mark Kelly and their family any ongoing support they might need as they face the challenge of aphasia.

While ABC did an accurate and comprehensive job of explaining aphasia, the program inexplicably never mentioned Gabby’s condition by name. It is aphasia – the inability to read, write, speak or communicate after a stroke or other sudden traumatic brain injury, such as the one Gabby tragically experienced. Continue reading the full article…

Using the Internet Safely, part 1

Internet safety = Cyber safety

1. Many people use the Internet in everyday life.

  • Family and friends keep in touch using the Internet.
  • We use computers and the Internet to learn new information.
  • We also use computers for personal business like shopping or banking.
  • E-mail and digital social networking is a way for people to stay connected with family, friends, and the world around them. Continue reading the full article…

On Gabby Giffords: ABC News Fails to Find the Words…

While last night’s ABC News telecast with Diane Sawyer about Gabby Gifford’s struggles and her promising progress was nothing short of miraculous, ABC News did a disservice to the almost two million Americans who suffer from aphasia, the communication disorder brought on by traumatic brain injury or stroke, from which Giffords suffers. Not once was the word aphasia mentioned. For many of those struggling daily with this language deficit, aphasia may be only one of their many health issues, but it’s a vital one. For many of us who work daily with people who have aphasia, we too struggle to “get the word out” about the meaning of aphasia. Continue reading the full article…

The Treasure Hunt

Entering the Society for Neuroscience video contest was a wonderful opportunity to provide information about aphasia, particularly for children. The video tells the personal story of people with aphasia and their families, and the poem allows the power of words to bring the whole story together. It is called ‘The Treasure Hunt’ because we wanted to help people understand how something so precious could be lost and what it might be like to try and find it again.

Continue reading the full article…

Your Brain At Its Best

Following is a handout with tips that I use with people with aphasia to make speaking, reading, and writing as easy as possible. Continue reading the full article…