American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

MEDIA ADVISORY: Building Gabby Giffords' Road to Speech Recovery

In Rare Interview, Speech-Language Pathologist Nancy Helm-Estabrooks Discusses Helping Giffords Regain Her Speech, Urges Greater Access to Speech-Language Treatment

(Rockville, MD - June 5, 2012)  

According to Gabby Giffords' husband, Captain Mark Kelly, speech-language pathologists "have played a critical part in Gabby's recovery and helped her regain her ability to communicate."

In that regard, a central figure is speech-language pathologist Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, someone Kelly himself recruited to head his wife's speech-language care team. In an interview in The ASHA Leader—the award-winning newsmagazineof the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Helm-Estabrooks gives a first-hand account of the major role speech-language pathology treatment has played in the former congresswoman's recovery from a gunshot wound to her head.

In the interview, available in June for Aphasia Awareness Month, Helm-Estabrooks salutes Giffords for her stamina in achieving communication triumphs big and small, from early incremental progress during long, intense days of speech-language treatment to ordering lunch independently in a restaurant. She also explains how integrating music into treatment helped Giffords' recovery, though she notes that "music alone isn't the thing that got her to where she is now...A lot of very good language therapy has helped her [Giffords] achieve the very clearly articulated verbal expression she has today," Helm-Estabrooks tells The ASHA Leader.

Helm-Estabrooks knows something about the power of music in speech. Nearly 40 years ago, she co-developed Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT), a groundbreaking speech-language treatment that employs aspects of music such as using rhythm and melodically intoning phrases. She is professor emerita and former Brewer Smith Distinguished Professor at the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences College of Health and Human Sciences of Western Carolina University.

She calls for care like what Giffords has received to be more widely accessible to the public. "That Gabby is on such a good road to recovery is a testimony to our field, to occupational and physical therapies, rehab medicine, and what a lot of therapy can do. I'm hoping her case brings to public attention how little rehab people with strokes and aphasia are getting or are allowed."

Nancy Helm-Estabrooks is available to talk to the media.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
ASHA, www.asha.org, is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 150,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders.

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