Let’s start a Speech and Communications Disorders Book Club. Why? Because I’ve had the same conversation at least four or five times with friends from my graduate program.
I’ve also had similar conversations with interns and speech language pathologists assistants just finishing school. It usually starts with, “I’m so happy to be done with school so I can start reading for fun again!” and is followed by the trading of book recommendations.
At first, we pointedly read anything and everything completely unrelated to our field. However, most of us eventually start picking up speech-related books again. After all, we chose this job because it’s interesting and we love it. I’m particularly interested in books written by people with speech and communication disorders. There is a real power in hearing people’s stories in their own words. In addition, I feel like I learn so much both as a clinician and a human being.
Because I think these works are so important, I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you. Clink the title of each book for a direct link to Amazon.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
By Jill Bolte Taylor
Jill Bolte Taylor experienced a major left-hemisphere stroke at the age of 37. This book chronicles the changes she experienced during her recovery and how she came to embrace some of the changes she experienced after being forced to rely on her right hemisphere. Taylor recalls her stroke itself and her attempts to get help for herself in greater detail than I’ve ever heard, and it is both fascinating and professionally relevant for those of us who work with stroke survivors. Her recovery process lasted eight years, and she effectively describes both the initial stages when the most basic tasks were a challenge and the later stages of returning to work and resuming her day-to-day life activities. Taylor is highly intelligent and her words radiate with humor and insight.
Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice
By Katherine Preston
The information provided on the dust jacket and by amazon.com about this book indicates that the author interviewed a variety of stutterers, speech therapists and researchers for the book. While this is true, it’s somewhat misleading. The book itself is not an overview of perspectives on stuttering, but rather the story of Preston’s process of gaining understanding and acceptance of herself and her speech. In traveling from England to America to explore the world of stuttering, her desire for a cure at any cost changes and she eventually falls in love with a fellow stutterer who joins her in her travels. This is a wonderful book for those of us working with people who are coming to terms with the fact that their speech and/or language may never be “typical.”
Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s
By John Elder Robison
Robison is the brother of author Augesten Burroughs. If you’ve ever read or watched Running With Scissors, then you will know that their childhood can only be described as unconventional. Robison’s parents struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, and they alternated between physical abuse and neglect. They showed very little awareness of their son’s struggles. Although he knew as a child that he had difficulty making friends and following the rules at school, he was not diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his late thirties. At that time, he had worked a variety of jobs (including traveling with the band KISS to engineer their pyrotechnic guitars), fathered a child and was on his second marriage.
Robinson describes the relief he felt upon realizing there was an explanation for some of the difficulties he was experiencing. But at the same time he is honest about things that still do not make sense to him. His description of why he does not understand the constant need to greet people by asking after their families is particularly compelling. He reasons; if someone is my friend, wouldn’t I already know if his wife were seriously ill or injured?
The Man Who Forgot How To Read: A Memoir
By Howard Engel
Engel is an author who experienced a stroke overnight, and upon waking up, he found himself unable to read. After his stroke was diagnosed, he discovered various other cognitive symptoms. This book chronicles his process of becoming aware of his deficits and the rehab he undertook in order to recover from them. Engel eventually regained his reading abilities and went on to continue his career as a writer.
This is a quick, enjoyable read. Engel’s dry humor comes through very clearly and he paints a fascinating picture of the idiosyncrasies of brain trauma. His descriptions of the oddity of being able to write, but not go back and read what he had written, are particularly interesting. I have a great deal of sympathy for him, and for patients I see who have lost the ability to read, because I would choose to lose almost anything else first myself.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice Of A Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism
By Naoki Higashida
Naoki Higashida used facilitated communication to write this book about his experiences as a student with autism. He has an incredibly unique voice and the book is engaging and eye-opening. While it is important not to dub one boy the official voice of a complex and highly variable condition, Higashida provides a perspective that we simply don’t get from research or academics. Many misconceptions about autism persist. I recently read a supposedly scientific book about brain plasticity published in 2007 that unequivocally stated that “autistics” don’t experience human emotion. Unfortunately, I was taught similar, if less harshly-worded, ideas in school. Books like this are important to dispel these sorts of myths. I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about someone with autism. It has been passed back and forth around my family for this reason.
So these are just a few books that I have found interesting, funny, touching and meaningful. Even in such a specific genre, there are plenty of others. If you have any favorites, please share them in the comments! I’m always looking for something new to read.