David Dow's Aphasia Tips (Stroke at 10)


When I was a little boy, I dreamed of becoming a doctor like my father. That dream died – when I was ten years old. I had a massvie stroke. And diagnosed with global aphasia – no reading, writing, or talking.

That was nearly twenty years ago. I went to speech therapy for nearly fifteen years. Today, I can read, write, and talk again – although it isn’t as easy as before.

When I returned to public school – they moved me from the gifted program to a classroom with children with mental retardation. I knew I was still smart.

At age 13, I wanted to quit school. Teachers and other kids didn’t know how to deal with apahsia.

So, with the help of Dr. Audrey Holland, my mom found a school for me that had only 80 students and 5 full time speech therapists. It has small classes, patient teachers, and visual teaching styles.

Today, I am an adult. I’ve learned a lot about aphasia over the years.

First, it is incredibly lonely and isolating. The world, in general, doesn’t seem to get it. I guess they can’t understand how someone can be impaired – yet still very smart.

I’ve learned that people should connect. Staying isolated isn’t healthy I don’t think. People should join a support group, an aphasia center, or find support online.

I also think caregivers should be trained. I was lucky. My mom got training and learned tips like slowing down, being patient, offering visual cues.

I think there is no stop sign on the road to recovery. People can continue to make gains. But – you can’t be a couch potato. You have to find tools and work at it.

Today, I am an aphasia advocate. I wrote a book, Brain Attack: My Journey of Recovery from Stroke and Aphasia. (on Amazon)

I started the Aphasia Recovery Connection (ARC) on Facebook with another young stroke survivor, Christine Huggins. She was working as an attorney and had a stroke at age 26.

I am now a speaker. I will speak on June 22 at the Rehabiliation Institute of Chicago.

When I was a little boy – I wanted to be a doctor to help people. To understand their needs and give them direction. That dream died in 1995 when I had my stroke.

Now, as a man – I realize I can still understand peoples needs and help give them direction. My experience taught me a lot.

My dream may have died. But new dreams formed.

I think it is important that people focus on what they CAN do – not on what they CANNOT Do.

Sure, aphasia is frustrating. And emotions can be a rollercoaster. But – life moves forward. And we need to pick ourselves up – and move in ways that bring joy to our lives again.

Communication isn’t just about words out of our mouths. It is a smile, a hug. A look that says, “I understand.”

Come visit us on the Aphasia Recovery Connection (ARC) site. We have a Facebook Group & page and we have a website. We do ARC conferences and cruises too.

Aphasia isn’t easy. It is helpful to connect. Meet others. And get out of your comfort zone.

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  1. Posted by Allison Baird, at Reply

    Dear David, There are lots of really great doctors in the world and you would have been one but you had a stroke. They are not lots of great advocates for people with aphasia.You, Christine, and your mom are fulfilling an amazing destiny, however painful. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping people with aphasia. I will use your post in therapy and dang it I have to get some people signed up with you!.

  2. Posted by Coaching, at Reply

    Oh,I’m so sorry,I know just what that’s like. My grandmother who riaesd me had the same thing happen but with cancer. It’s perfectly ok to feel like that,when you see a loved one in pain you don’t want them to have to continue like that. It’s wonderful that you understand there’s a time for everyone to go and this is your mother’s time. Pray God will take her to a much more wonderful place soon,and in the meantime spend as much time with her as possible,let her know how much she means. Best wishes to her and you.

  3. Posted by Talythea Ann Wilson, at Reply

    I’m glad I found you. My husband had a brain stroke in June. He has aphasia and apraxia . Do you have any suggestions to help him? We live in Oregon . Thank you for time