Myth #3 deals with what professionals call “time post onsent” or TPO. This is the number of days, weeks, or years since your stroke or brain injury occurred. There is a myth flying around out there, and often miscommunicated by your medical personnel, that you can only make gains within the first few months after your stroke, and that you are finished by one year. This is not so, for either physical deficits or for aphasia. While there is such a thing as a “spontaneous recovery period”, research has shown by neuroimaging (functional MRI generally) that the brain can continue to make recovery without therapy up to two years after a stroke. The spontaneous recovery period is that time from your stroke up to two years in which your brain will re-wire itself, clean out the dead cells, form new pathways, and form scar tissue. It will do this with or without treatment. Getting therapy during this time is a bonus, since this is the time in which you will earn the quickest gains.
However, this in no way should be interpreted to mean that after this spontaneous recovery period, you can no longer make changes to the brain or make gains in therapy. This is a common myth. While it is true that you will make faster or larger gains during the recovery period, you can continue to make gains no matter when your stroke occurred. These gains may not be as fast or as large, but they can definitely add up. We have seen gains in persons who have been living with aphasia for 14 years, 5 years, 20 years, etc. The key is to keep going and to keep teaching yourself. After all, if brains couldn’t make changes, none of us would ever learn anything! We continue to learn throughout our lifespans because of neural plasticity. Loosely translated, this means the brain has the ability to change and form new connections = learning! If you are able to learn new things after brain damage, which you are, then you are able to continue to improve your speech, language, memory, arm strength, walking, and anything you can think of.
The moral of this story is–don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get any better. It may take more time and effort, but it can be done. Get started now! Go!