Meet member and 2018 FAPA Gold medalist, Dr. Tom Broussard
Dr. Tom Broussard
Prior to his stroke, Dr. Broussard was the associate dean for Admissions & Career Services at the Heller School for Social Policy & Management at Brandeis University for five years. Previously, he had owned and operated Career Prospects, Inc., a staffing and career counseling company for fifteen years. He graduated from the US Naval Academy and earned his Ph.D. from the Heller School at Brandeis University. The focus of his doctoral studies was workforce development and the employment of people with disabilities.
He had his stroke and could not read, write, or speak well … still, he kept a diary. How did he do that? He couldn’t write, but he “recorded” his diary by using drawings, graphs, charts, and metaphorical pictures. The recovery from damage of his language progressed from individual words to fragments to sentences to paragraphs to pages. He also recorded his voice which, with his diary, eventually provided the documentation required to assess and rebuild the different modalities of his deficits. He started with what the nurses called “word salad,” and grew to a point when his lost grammar had come back.
Dr. Broussard is a middleman between different poles: between therapists and educators, and between neuroscience and education. He is part of the therapeutic community, yet is not a therapist. He is part of the educational community, yet not a teacher. He understands that therapy is learning and learning, therapy.
As a stroke survivor, he finds that his situation has positioned him on the therapy/learning continuum with therapists and educators, sharing the same neurological underpinning of learning: the adaptive capacity of the central nervous system called neural plasticity. Neural plasticity is the ability the brain uses to encode experience and learn new behaviors.
Tom Broussard is an educator who has become both an accidental therapist and an aspiring neuroscientist. His experience with his stroke and aphasia have taught him the languages of neuroscience, education, and therapy. His experience is its own Rosetta Stone, translating among three different languages to common effect.
Stroke Diary: Just So Stories, How Aphasia Got Its Language Back (Volume 3)
Practice is more than just practice. Practice is the prescription for improvement. People with aphasia must become more aware that practicing is the cure. The book sections include Words, Language, Awareness, Memory, Thinking, Timing, Neurons, and Plasticity. The brain requires a special kind of “food”—activities and experiences which induce plasticity. These stories were part of the process of engaging the environment to “light up” learning, on the way to getting my language back.