While working to rehabilitate people at Catawba Valley Medical Center, speech-language pathologist Elizabeth Morrison had an idea sparked by a stroke patient.
Morrison works with those who have difficulty speaking. Often this means stroke patients, some of whom struggle with aphasia – an inability to say the words they want to say, or to interpret or hear words correctly.
One of Morrison’s first patients was about to leave the hospital after spending time in rehab. The patient’s family needed help explaining the aphasia to the patient’s grandchildren, Morrison said.
Morrison went online, looking for a book or guide to explain the condition to young children. She couldn’t find any resources, so she decided to create her own.
In January 2021, Morrison began work on a children’s book to teach children about aphasia, how their grandparents’ lives might change, and what they can do to help.
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In July of that year, Morrison published “I Know She Still Loves Me: Explaining Expressive Aphasia to Children”, with her cousin Erin McGillivray, who illustrated the book.
Since then, several patients and families have asked for resources to help young children understand the disease. Morrison is able to hand them a copy of his book.
“That’s the main reason I created the story. It’s encouraging to know it’s being used,” Morrison said.
The book tells the story of Frankie and her grandmother, who has a stroke, aphasia and struggles to say a few words. The book depicts a black family, a choice Morrison made to be inclusive and because black people are at higher risk of having a stroke, she said.
The story depicts the grandmother with a sagging face due to loss of muscle control on one side of the body. Illustrations also include the grandmother using a wheelchair and walker, meeting with a speech therapist, and using visual aids to communicate when she struggles with words.
The book was a solution to a problem Morrison faced, an educational tool and a way to advocate for people with aphasia, she said.
Morrison is often motivated to solve problems, she said. She became a speech therapist to help with people’s speech problems. She learned to love working with stroke and aphasia patients to see their progress.
The job can be tough at first, but milestones like a patient saying “I love you” to their family for the first time make the job rewarding.
“It’s heartbreaking at first but ends up being a good feeling at the end. … I’ve learned to love patients with aphasia and how every little step and achievement is celebrated,” she said. is a constant journey.”
Morrison’s book is available on Amazon. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the Triangle Aphasia Project, a North Carolina nonprofit that supports people with aphasia.