Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 update!

Happy new year, everyone.  

It's refreshing to step forward into the new year with the anticipation of new goals and challenges that lie ahead, but I believe it's just as valuable to stop and evaluate the accomplishments and achievements from the past year.  My dad has come to realize, more than ever, that goals involve time, commitment, and patience.  Oftentimes they are not concrete or immediate; they're a process.  

And here are some of the most recent, significant advances and accomplishments in his healing process.

He continues to work diligently on his speech, attending speech therapy 3-4 times a week and music therapy 2 days a week.  My dad is focusing primarily on forming complete sentences, really sharpening his grammar skills, and successfully piecing together words and ideas.  He's focusing on active and passive sentences and verb conjugations.  Besides structured therapy every week, he is also plugging away at speech-based learning programs and grammar exercises.  And we like to have conversations together that force him to really think about full sentences and grammar structure.  Speech continues to be his greatest challenge and primary focus.

He's been reading a couple of literary pieces, he just got I Am Malala for his birthday, which should be a difficult but rewarding read, as well as D-Day, a World-War II era book that he's working on for a while now.  This not only helps his information-processing skills but his critical reading and general concentration as well.

My parents will be flying to Chicago this weekend for a second evaluation with Northwestern University, where he is involved in a research study on syntax.  He recently finished up a summer of occupational and physical therapy at the Courage Center in the Twin Cities.  Both he (and the rest of the family) were very impressed and pleased both with the incredible staff as well as the results of the therapy program.

On the side, he continues to work on recuperating finer muscle movement in his arm, hands, and fingers; he uses the Tailwind arm exercising machine, exercise stretch bands, cowbells, and the occasional Wii workout in the living room.

The exciting news is that both my mom and dad will be flying down to Costa Rica at the end of the month for an extended vacation in Central America!  They're excited to swap the snow and cold for some sunshine and palm trees; the warm weather will make physical exercise, like the long walks my dad likes to take, easier and much more enjoyable.  The change of scenery will be a refreshing and a much needed respite but will also give my dad a new chance to really dig into therapy in a new environment.  My dad's absolutely fantastic speech therapist here in Montevideo has also figured out how to continue her speech therapy sessions with my dad via skype during his time abroad, which will allow my dad to continue to really plug away at speech despite his absence.  My husband, Victor, and I are more than excited to have them in Costa Rica with us so that we can drag them along on lots of wild adventures.

Coming home and spending time with my dad really gives me a chance to see the improvements and accomplishments that have taking place during my absence.  These 3-4 month periods of not seeing him give a clearer picture of what he's been focusing on and the areas where he's been improving the most.  It frustrating for my dad because the simple act of responding to a question or making a general statement, something we normally do so effortlessly, is a difficult, conscience action on my dad's part that requires thought and deliberation.  It is so impressive to see his deliberate effort to find the words and form a perfect sentence.  Despite it being much easier to just continue to use words or short phrases to convey his ideas, he's disciplining himself, slowing down and taking the time to challenge himself to form a full statement through complex sentences.  But it's not just the fact that he forces himself to do this, it's his ability to make the sentences come out RIGHT, an incredible feat!

The process continues; his invaluable discipline, patience, and determination show through with every new day of healing.

-- Maggie