Liz Wager: Speechless with admiration

Liz WagerLosing your power of speech is the stuff of nightmares but is a reality to many people after a stroke. I’ve just been on a one-day workshop run by Connect, a charity that works for people with aphasia, and it was inspiring.

Exactly why I was there is too long a story for this blog, but let’s just say I wasn’t sure what to expect and was rather daunted to be surrounded by speech & language therapists and professional carers – but being unprepared and at the bottom of the class is an experience that an extrovert and disgustingly confident trainer like me probably ought to seek out at least once a year.

But my initial apprehension was nothing compared with discovering that part of the training was to have a 20 minute conversation with a volunteer with aphasia. What a rewarding experience this turned out to be.

My volunteer trainer couldn’t say a single word, and her writing skills were limited as she had lost the use of her normal writing hand, but thanks to her skills (definitely not mine) and the techniques and resources recommended by Connect, I found out about her and her family, we exchanged views about US cities we’d both visited, and discovered we share a love of gardening and the same taste in handbags.

I’ve had many far less enlightening chats with people who can talk. And when, with the help of the Connect trainer, and a specially devised evaluation sheet, my conversation partner indicated that she’d enjoyed the conversation too, and that I’d managed to remember to do at least some of the things we were told to do in the lectures, I was over the moon. (And hugely relieved that the feedback didn’t pick up on the way I kept lapsing into daft gestures and improvised sign language in the way that one finds oneself whispering to somebody who’s lost their voice – but perhaps that added to the entertainment factor for my conversation partner.)

I’d warmly recommend the Connect training to anybody working with people who have had a stroke or have lost all or part of their speech for any other reason. You can find details at

About Liz Wager
Liz Wager is a freelance writer, trainer and publications consultant who works
for a number of pharmaceutical companies, communication agencies, publishers and academic institutions. She is also the Secretary of COPE (the Committee On
Publication Ethics) and a member of the BMJ’s Ethics Committee.