Motivation in Aphasia - What Is the Key?

Motivation to improve aphasia isn’t actually any different than motivation to do anything else. However, it may take a lot longer than progress for other goals. The most important piece in keeping motivation during your family’s aphasia journey? Success. Even a small amount can go a long way. If you are committed fully, then you see some results—wow, nothing can stop you!

Think of the last goal you had, no matter how small. Maybe you wanted to lose 20 pounds or maybe you wanted to save money for a hot tub. Would you be motivated to keep working on your goal if you couldn’t see any progress?

People with aphasia have a hard time seeing their own progress—“last week he could say one word and now he can say three words” you might point out. The person with aphasia may not be impressed. One of the reasons may be that inside their heads, they’re fluent; they can think and understand. They may not have full awareness of what they are doing or saying, so they don’t see what the big deal is. Our clients have often expressed surprise or confusion when I explain to them how far they’ve come in a few weeks of starting intensive therapy. They don’t always know what their language was like when they started. They may be shocked by watching an intake video of themselves. Imagine mentally “waking up” someday and realizing that you have aphasia and may have a long way to go. Persistence and consistency are the only ways to make a difference.

The myth of the therapy plateau can be incredibly damaging to motivation. Some people give up, some people keep working. Some people don’t even know that they have options! We often treat new clients who have been feeling discouraged and hopeless because they aren’t experiencing success in their therapy. Many of these clients find, however, that in a very short period of time we can show them their hidden communication skills.  Success, even a tiny bit, leads to wanting more success. As successes build, so do communication skills, independence, self-esteem, and motivation to keep doing more and more. How can I help motivate my loved one with aphasia? As in an family, your opinion may be suspect–“you’re just saying that”. But if others–friends, family members, your pastor, the guy at the grocery store—comment how well your loved one is doing, it starts to add up. That tiny boost can make a world of difference.

The end result of this story:

  • motivation is good
  • change can and does happen
  • there is no aphasia plateau
  • success breeds more success

“When you’re interested, you do what’s convenient. When you’re committed, you do whatever it takes”–John Assaraf

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About Dr. Bartels

Dr. Bartels is the owner of The Aphasia Center Intensive Aphasia Programs. She helps families with aphasia through communication training, personalized treatment plans and customized home programs.