Feel like you’re in a rut on your road to recovery? You’re not alone. It’s normal. Keep going, because things WILL change.
You may have heard about the “one-year myth” – that stroke and brain injury survivors have one year during which they can make improvements, and after that, things are as good as they’re going to get. We know from scientific evidence that this just isn’t true. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience proved that patients using Constant Therapy improved on cognitive and language tasks post-initial-therapy – and that even patients who were 15 years post-stroke STILL made improvements. So we know – you have way more than one year to make improvements.
Still, even with a great therapy program you are going to hit “roadblocks” or feel stuck in the same place for a while. It’s frustrating. But those are the times you need to reach deep within for that inner strength to keep going!
Why the “plateau” happens
In the beginning, recovery tends to happen a lot faster, and may not necessarily require as much effort. This is due to something called ‘spontaneous recovery’, where the brain is basically healing from the trauma of the injury, and as a result, physical, cognitive, and language difficulties may improve very quickly. This is especially true in the first days, weeks, and even months after brain injury.
So what happens after that first year? What happens when the brain has done its initial healing? That’s when neuroplasticity comes in. We know that our brain has the capability of reconfiguring its network – our brains can learn to work around damaged areas and begin to compensate.
How do we do this? The answer is targeted, evidence-based therapy, individualized and tailored to your personal goals. Apps like Constant Therapy, and folks like speech pathologists, neurologists, occupational therapists and others can help develop a therapy plan that will guide brain injury survivors in productive exercises to help make progress on their speech, language, and cognitive skills.
When you feel like you’ve hit the plateau, here’s what to do
- Ask yourself if you are doing too much? Sometimes plateaus are caused by overwork – ask yourself if you need to cut back a little on your recovery efforts; make sure you’re getting enough sleep and being kind to yourself. Reach out to friends and family for support, and make sure you’re taking care of your mental health as well as your physical health.
- Are you doing too much of the same exercise? Sometimes it’s time to mix things up. Think about trying a new app, or a new therapy approach, or new goals. Check in with your local university and see if there are any studies going on which need participants. You can also try different types of therapy – group therapy can be a great approach, so look around for any aphasia, stroke, or brain injury book clubs or support groups in your area.
And, remind yourself of how far you’ve already come!
During a plateau, it can be easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve already made – but don’t let go of that! Use that progress to motivate yourself to push past your plateau, and move on to your next phase of improvement!