Amanda has now been taking 2 capsules of the Voluntastrols botanical supplement every morning for the last 6 weeks. In the last two weeks (and bearing in mind 16 months post – stroke), she has demonstrated further improvements.
Self – motivation continues to show signs of improving.
I set her a task to tidy the kitchen drawer containing the herbs and spices. While I was at work she removed the contents, cleaned out all the dust and dirt and then neatly replaced the various containers. Unprompted she then moved on to the drawer next to it which holds various kitchen tool and implements in 3 compartments which years ago we decided to categorize from ‘blunt’ to ‘sharp. Once again she emptied, cleaned and correctly returned each item to the correct compartment.
A few months ago she would not have known where to start on this kind of task and certainly would not have kept up a level of concentration required to complete both drawers.
One afternoon last week I came home from work to find all the ingredients for a cake laid out neatly on the bench. I presumed she had been making a cake with her support worker.
“No.” She said, “I want you to help me make one later.” Amanda had found all the correct ingredients and got them ready. So we made a cake later that evening.
We had a brief chat about her current ability compared to how it was a few months ago, and also pre-stroke. She said she sometimes felt like an imposter in her own body, or that she had been transported to an alternative universe where people knew her and knew what to expect of her but she had no idea how to live up to those expectations; the written language was all different, and it was all unfamiliar but she was somehow getting away with being a version of the person people knew.
Watching her favourite TV quiz – The Chase, a question came up about the poem Jabberwocky. She instantly recited the first 2 verses almost perfectly, stumbling only over the last line of the second verse:-
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
We learnt that at school more than 40 years ago- and yet she still sometimes struggles to tell left from right.
This week there has also been a numerical breakthrough using her Constant Therapy app.
Up until today, when doing the arithmetic she has had to physically point using a table from 0 – 9 each time she wanted to add a number to her sum. For example to get to 7 on the chart she would labouriously point and count each one in turn until she reached the desired digit–
But suddenly today – straight to each digit.
The assessment from her recent 4 hours (just 1 per week) block of speech language therapy sessions still points to ‘severe’ reading and writing deficits. But this assessment uses different criteria and does not take into account the clear and demonstrable progress she is making using Constant Therapy, which subtly alters the difficulty of the task in hand and challenges her far more than being asked to write her name and address again and again. As an example her latest 100 questions, spread across 2 hours of a day, scored 97%.
For Amanda, the key is variety; new tasks, mental and physical, gently pushing to try different things and introducing new challenges. Gradually they become the norm until the universe which sometimes still feels like an alternative one, becomes the one she has actually always been in.