The National Aphasia website describes Broca’s aphasia:
Broca’s aphasia results from injury to speech and language brain areas such as the left hemphispere inferior frontal gyrus, among others. Such damage is often a result of stroke but may also occur due to brain trauma. Like in other types of aphasia, intellectual and cognitive capabilities not related to speech and language may be fully preserved.
Broca’s aphasia is named after the French scientist, Paul Broca, who first related a set of deficits associated with this type of aphasia to localized brain damage. He did this in 1861, after caring for a patient who could only say the word “tan”.
It was striking to read how Unai has grown accustomed to writing upon his phone and showing the screen to provide his side of conversations. The messages are inevitably stilted and generic. While personality occasionally breaks through what he enters needs to be quick, clear and concise.
I thought of Kevin Brace in Old City Hall, the first novel by Canadian lawyer Robert Rotenburg. Brace was Canada’s leading national morning radio show host. Charged with murdering his wife he will only communicate with his lawyer in writing.
Brace’s communication is far more awkward than Unai entering words on a cellphone and using WhatsApp. Rotenburg skilfully concealed the reason for the written communications until the end of the book. It was an “oh my'' moment as I felt I should have figured out there was a reason for not talking to your lawyer beyond quirky stubbornness.
I have had clients and other lawyers who want to only communicate by text and/or email. I resist limiting communication to writing in some format. Even if it is by telephone there is more nuance in oral communications than written words. For important meetings I want them in person to get the full benefit of seeing expressions and body language in addition to the words delivered.
Unai’s speech therapy was fascinating. Learning to speak again involved exercises and repetitions that needed to be done before his face lost the ability to form and say words. He had delayed going for therapy.
He spends up to 5 hours a day “doing the exercises in front of the mirror practicing with the apps Doctor Korres had recommended”.
His grandfather, impatient with his lack of progress towards speaking again, seeks to force him to move ahead by tossing his cellphone into a small pond.
Unai starts by speaking single syllable words. More can be expressed with a single word that I would have expected.
Later he progresses to planned short sentences.
He carefully learns common sentences he can use in conversations.
Later his instructor has him singing.
At times of great emotions he finds he can speak more readily than when he is calm.
It was fascinating to read how Unai communicated when he could not speak and how his speech improved through the book.