I just saw an amazing video on You Tube of one man's recovery from a stroke. After suffering a stroke on the left side of his brain, Harvey Alter could no longer speak, a condition called aphasia. He understood language but could respond to questions only by blinking his eyes as a code for "yes" and "no." As he says in the video, "Your mind and your mouth don't match." For two years, despite speech therapy, he remained speechless, and without spoken language, he had trouble completing his thoughts. Then, a dedicated and clever therapist decided to try a technique called "Melodic Intonation Therapy." Starting with the simple song, "Happy Birthday," Harvey Alter learned to talk again.
Even though Mr. Alter could not speak the words to Happy Birthday, he could sing them using the undamaged right side of his brain. So, with much practice and discipline, Mr. Alter learned to transfer his thoughts through music into speech. Listen to him on the You Tube video. His speech is completely understandable and clear. He appears to be methodically enunciating one syllable after another, but in his mind, he is singing the words.
I was deeply moved by this video. Mr. Alter teaches us that rehabilitation may require thinking "outside the box." Mr. Alter's recovery was made possible by a creative therapist who would not give up on him and by Mr. Alter himself who had to work hard at a new way of speaking. As with my own vision therapy, I have learned over and over again that a motivated individual, using innovative strategies, can sometimes recover in ways that even the smartest scientists and doctors think impossible.
Note: Harvey Alter is the Founder and President of the International Aphasia Movement.