Remarkable recoveries even after formal speech therapy has ended

Our multisensory techniques won an award from Johns Hopkins University--there were over 2,000 entries.

NEWS - Sensory Trigger MethodTM works well with LENS neuro feedback and Neuro-Gen treatments. The article, "Stroke Family" by renowned author and neurotreatment practitioner, Stephen Larsen, Ph.D. is featured on page 23 in NeuroConnections Magazine neuro feedback enhances the effect of STM, expanding the mental and physical resources for stroke and brain injury by creating more recovered brain areas for STM to build upon.

Barbara Dean Schacker - founder

Barbara discovered the Sensory Trigger MethodTM in 1972 when she started working with her father, an untreatable global aphasic. For 9 years, Vernon Keller Dean could say only 9 words, even after 2 years of speech therapy. She invented a picture and paper based therapy that brought back his understanding of spoken language, then his ability to say and repeat words and then to copy the words in long hand in his notebooks. 18 months later, he said his first spontaneous word. After that, new words came back one-by-one. At the time of his death, Vernon could say over 700 words, go to the store, the bank and the post office and ride on the bus by himself. He also became an artist with his left hand. During this time period, she traveled to New York to research at the New York Public Library, and meet with Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, a top neuro linguistic psychologist at New York University at Stonybrook. Gazzaniga was impressed with what she had accomplished with her father that he introduced her Roger Sperry and Norman Geshwin and then referred her to Howard Gardner and a group of scientists working on a symbolic language program at MIT. She visited this group in Boston, but decided their approach was too different from the direction she was going. Dr. Gazzaniga invited her to come to New York and get a degree in neuro linguistic psychology. She seriously considered it, but having no financial resources to do it, she returned to work with her father. It was a good thing she did that--Vernon had not yet started to say spontaneous words at the time.

Later, Barbara worked with speech therapists to make a computer program that duplicated what she did with her father. The design specification took 3 years finish and was evaluated by the Speech and Hearing Department at Goldwater Hospital in New York City in 1985. She hired a programmer and this first program was published in 1988. It was the first program that used a natural-voice for speech therapy and home applications in 1988. She was honored in 1991 to receive the John's Hopkins University Certificate of Achievement Award for improving the quality of life for the disabled through technology. Reader's Digest featured her father's amazing speech recovery and her life story, “Prisoner of Silence”, written by Geeta Dardic, in the June issue of 1991. Since then she has continued to research the brain, alternative therapies and approaches for speech recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury. Between 1988 and 1995 over 50,000 people were helped by her programs.

With the internet boom, Barbara created the first online talking software for aphasia and was very successful, publishing the Let's Talk program and later Speech Tree and Speech Bridge. These new programs were based on a Core Words lexicon of the most frequently spoken words that she researched and developed. The words, found in the Core Words Talking Dictionary are the easiest to say words, the most frequently used words in everyday conversations plus words especially needed by the speech disabled. By using the Natural Readers excellent text-to-voice app, this dictionary can "talk". She also authored a new guide, Pathway to Speech Recovery, that teaches the method and trains therapists and family members. This extensive guide explains how STM is done using the hand to imprint new words and pathways during normal daily activities and how to "trigger" speech in conversation and when the speaker is "stuck". It is especially useful for those who do not have access to a computer or are not able to use a computer. Based on her research in neuroplasticity, she realized the importance of combining in-the-moment techniques with specific speech practice (i.e.the programs) and found that this could break through apraxia and related cognitive problems like memory loss and other speech blocks--areas outside of normal speech therapy. Her new STM technique has been able to get people to say their first words or sentences within 15 to 30 minutes. The new STM technique was developed as a result of the work with her husband, Michael, to bring back his speech and makes it possible for him to say complex words and full sentences. One-on-one STM training and speech practice is available on the phone and using Skype, a free video phone service. The combination of the programs plus the new "breakthrough STM technique" is proving to be the most effective approach yet. Applying what is gained in the programs and applying it to speech in everyday life--not just depending on the computer makes STM a more powerful tool for speech recovery. It can be done by family members who learn the method and works with people of almost every age and at almost all stages of recovery.

In 2008, she saved her husband, Michael, from a near-fatal major aortic dissection. As a result of the high-risk operation to save his life, Michael’s left hemisphere was almost completely wiped out. The neurologists showed her the CAT scan and said "There will be no speech". When she asked about speech therapy, he repeated, "There will be no speech, it just isn't possible. The damage is too great to the left hemisphere and there is also damage to the right side." Ignoring this dire prediction, she started the Sensory Trigger Method when he was still in a coma and continues to this day to work with him and document his extraordinary progress.

Later in 2008, she co-founded and created, a joint project with Bill Connors, SLP-CCC, of to bring new approaches, communication techniques, programs and tools to the speech and language and caregiver fields.

"My approach and my programs have a sound evidence base that goes beyond my extraordinary experiences. More and more therapists realize that family members and caregivers can be trained in speech therapy and STM techniques to improve their speech recovery. Providing a combination of compatible basic speech therapy techniques with informal speech practice and self-help programs can deliver an intensive approach that is often missing in speech rehab. This is due mainly to the lack of funding from insurance and government programs and family's often limited financial resources." - Barbara Dean Schacker

(See: STM evidence base)

In addition to Stroke Family, Barbara is the owner of Pathways Publishing, the company that publishes the programs and guides offered at Stroke Family and Over the past 30 plus years she has extensively researched brain research, particularly neuro-plasticity, language development and evolution, as well as global regenerative science and a wide range of subjects. She also now heads and maintains all the web sites and projects that she built with her husband, while continuing to help him regain is life as a writer.

Michael Schacker, cofounder

Michael Schacker is the author of "A Spring Without Bees, how colony collapse disorder has endangered our food supply." by The Lyons Press, 2008 and The Global Curriculum, an online progressive, alternative world high school curriculum that is yet to be published. He headed The Global Regeneration Corporation which is now evolved into The Global Regeneration Network. In addition to being a science and political writer, he has been a musician and composer, composing a musical based on the life of William Blake and recording an album of his world beat music with world class musicians. Michael previously authored and developed an online course for the Rodale Institute on "How to transition to Organic Farming" as well as Crisis Management, Code of Conduct and many other projects.

Currently he is retired and recovering from a massive traumatic brain injury in the spring of 2008. He continues to recover with the help of the special approach to speech recovery, the Sensory Trigger Method developed by his wife, Barbara. He received speech therapy at Sunnyview Acute Care Rehab Center and at Northeast Center for Special Care for over 2 years but regained very little speech. Michael continues to progress slowly but steadily with STM and a combination of holistic approaches. The LENS neuro feedback therapy resulted in his being able to get out of his wheelchair and walk with a hemi-walker and to regain his cognitive skills and personality. neuro feedback alone, however, did not result in speech recovery directly. In addition to Sensory Trigger work, Music and Singing Therapy, by music therapist Rick Shosinsky improved his speech recovery. In addition, Intensive Chinese method of acupuncture for stroke recovery resulted in Michael being able to walk unassisted and without a cane in just the first treatment. Continuing acupuncture boosts his over-all recovery by stimulating new pathways. Acupuncture in itself, however, did not significantly improve his speech recovery in and of itself. This holistic approach continues to significantly improve his ability to continue to recover years post TBI. Last but not least, he would not have this extraordinary recovery if not for the help and support of his family and many friends.

His second book Global Awakening, New Science and the 21st Century Enlightenment released by Inner Traditions publisher in December 2012 is a book about the shift in consciousness that will make a positive future for the planet possible. He had almost finished the manuscript when he suffered his massive brain injury. Dr. Stephen Larsen helped find a publisher for this book. Barbara then finished and updated the content of the book and worked with the publisher to produce the book. She now acts as his spokesperson for Michael's written achievements. Michael currently is regaining his speech and writing by working with his own manuscripts using the Sensory Trigger Method under the direction of his wife, Barbara.

Michael Schacker continued to recover and work on his various projects until he passed away October 30, 2014.

Melissa Schacker, Head of Stroke Family's Future, 2013

Melissa is the new addition to Pathways Publishing and the family business of alternative speech recovery. The role she chose for herself is to revamp and reposition Stroke Family in the speech recovery field and in the marketplace. She will apply her experience growing up with Stroke Family, her knowledge of her mother's work, her personal flair and her spot-on business sense to keep Stroke Family current. She saw firsthand, what a major stroke or brain injury can do to a family and how it drains the life out a family and their livelihood. She also experienced first hand Michael's amazing recovery. She intends to make sure her mother's work will be carried on for future generations, because as she said, “There isn’t anything else out there like The Sensory Trigger Method and the way Stroke Family focuses on families. The Sensory Trigger and what my mother discovered, all the people it has helped to recover their speech, not to mention what we have been able to do for our own family members with stroke—that needs to go on. Thousands of people have benefited from this approach and I am going to make sure it continues to flourish and is updated with the most current applications and technologies.” Melissa is currently pursuing a degree, studying languages and psychology at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She also completed Maria Foleo's "bschool", a innovative business online school for women in the summer of 2013.

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