She brought in catalogs of musical instruments for him to discuss. His speech began to take off. But it was at this point that his insurance no longer would pay the 130 cost of hourly sessions. Today, Ms. Hervey, a 62-year-old retired lactation consultant, can recount the entire episode herself, clearly, in her own words. Ms. Hervey's experience is a common one among people suffering from "aphasia" - the inability to speak or sometimes even read, write or understand speech that can be a side effect of stroke or other brain injury. It was once thought that we lose neuroplasticity after we reach adulthood. But neurologists increasingly believe it can continue throughout life, offering hope to stroke patients and others with brain injuries that healthy cells can learn the function of damaged adjacent cells - such as those that control speech.
Some involve matching words with pictures that help them in shaping sentences. Advanced students work on recording words in their own speech and shaping sentences with them that will be of use in their lives, whether they be artists, doctors or politicians. Several say they've become far more motivated to talk by the approach used at the Adler center. Group discussions predominate. One recent group focused on Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois. The six participants talked about his background and the likelihood of his pursuing the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
For instance, Ken Albrecht, a borough councilman in Haworth, N.J., who had a stroke in March 2005, worked with a computer program to help him shape sentences about public policy and politics.
Oscar Ravina, 76, attends the Adler center regularly with his wife, Ruth. Mr. Ravina for 40 years was a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. The morning of May 15, 2003, he couldn't turn off his alarm clock.