Rochelle Anderson - Zoom-tale
After Rochelle’s stroke, she had to manage her day-to-day with aphasia. Now, she shares her experience as a stroke survivor during the pandemic.
In 2006, I had a stroke and I am still getting better. Over the last year with the pandemic, my life has changed - just staying in my house with my dog and Zooming. I will talk about some good things and some bad things about Zoom, and I hope this blog will help people who have aphasia.
With Zoom, I do two different book clubs. One group is friends that I have known for 25 years, and we read a book and discuss about three times a year. I am the only one that has stroke and aphasia, and all of us are smart and educated. The second book club meets monthly with people who have brain injury and aphasia, and is taught by a teacher.
The last book my friends and I read was very hard because of the many names in the story (which I have trouble with, so I couldn’t keep people straight), and it often jumps back and forth in time. Since my stroke any novel that has flashbacks has become very hard for me to follow. In the most recent book, there were also characters that were in someone’s imagination, and others that are real. I was quite relieved as we were discussing it that most of my friends also had a hard time following the plot of the book, not just me.
My second book club has a teacher that summarizes the story, and then we read it and listen to it, and then we discuss it. We generally have read short stories, including Stephen King and Hemingway and others, but have also read a few novels. This book club is so much easier for me because I can hear the story in several different formats and hear it repeated. I like both book clubs but the one with the teacher makes more sense to someone with aphasia or brain injury.
Another group of friends meet via Zoom and they recently asked me how old I was. I said I was 10 years younger than I was; it was funny once I realized it was wrong. With aphasia, numbers just don’t make sense. It would be so much easier if they wrote it down and showed me on the screen. Again, people just don’t really understand aphasia and how our mind works. Even if they write it down, they don’t leave it up on the screen long enough for me to understand.
Professors over Zoom teach me different things. With one class, I am the only one in the group that has aphasia. In this class, the professor had different people in a breakout room and were talking about some words from an old book. But no one wrote down the words, they just said them. So I couldn’t understand, since no one wrote the word down and showed me. Using multiple ways to understand things really helps, such as audio, visual and description. Many people just don’t understand how aphasia works.
I also am attending Zoom classes about poetry writing. I have three places to help with my poetry. One of them is with people who have aphasia and so there’s a person there that reads it and hearing it so I can understand exactly what people are saying. In the assignments, they say you could write as little as three words, three sentences, or as much as three verses. With another class I am the only one that has aphasia and so that they don’t write it down for me. Since I sort of like not doing everything with people with aphasia, I try harder to understand what is going on in the second group. Sometimes they will post the poems on Google Classroom so I can read them as someone reads it aloud. That works so much better for me. A teacher might start a third Zoom poetry class for those with aphasia and brain injury. My poems have a lot of winter themes since I live in Minnesota, but soon it will be spring and be nice, so I will change my themes.
Another Zoom group with those who have aphasia has a person in charge that knows how important it is to not to have background noise. For those of us with aphasia these sounds make it almost impossible to understand what is being said. So she nicely reminds others to be in a noiseless room, turn off music and TV, no other family members, no washer, dryer or dishwasher. With Zoom especially if there’s maybe 30 people in the meeting everyone needs to be silent.
A group of friends and I have a zoom call weekly. One of them has no idea that Zoom has to be very quiet especially when I am on the call. For example, this person was by the ocean with waves crashing in the background and was on Zoom! She also sometimes joins when there are other people in the room and dogs barking. I can’t figure out how to tell this person that on Zoom, especially for people who have aphasia, they have to be by themselves without outside noise.
Finally, another friend and I talk once a week, during Covid. We used to have lunch a few times per month. Now we Zoom, but when she talks to me her TV is on loudly, so I have a lot of trouble understanding our conversation. I have reminded her many times but she forgets.
I hope this helps somebody!! Does anybody remember Romper Room with the Magic Mirror? Zoom reminds me of the mirror. Zoom can be a great way to meet people all over the world, especially now with the pandemic, and I hope these tips make it better.
(and I am not paid by Zoom)