Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Article by Moody Neuro

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we remember all the many ways that Dr. King helped raise people up who were experiencing difficulties and fought for everyone’s rights. Many people remember his famous “I Have A Dream” speech given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963. However, Dr. King was a man of much wisdom, and we can grow today by also focusing on his words from his other speeches. 

Dr. King gave a sermon in 1957 at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church that speaks particularly to the experiences of individuals recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries and other forms of acquired brain injuries.  Titled “Overcoming an Inferiority Complex”, he discussed how many people suffer from feelings of inadequacy due to their various situations in life.  As he stated:

“Now throughout life we see these conditions quite similar to that of Zacchaeus. Many people express it in different forms, and this sense of inferiority is caused by many different things. Some people feel a sense of inferiority because they are physically handicapped. And some people feel a sense of inferiority because of ill health.

Other people feel a sense of inferiority because they lack social charm. Others feel a sense of inferiority because they are not attractive externally. And others feel a sense of inferiority because of love failures and because of moral failures. There are many things and manifold reasons why individuals fall down under the load of an inferiority complex. And one of the great challenges of life is to properly overcome a sense of inferiority.”

Many survivors of brain injury struggle with the changes due to their brain injury, leading to low mood and depression.  Some survivors even report that they avoid looking in the mirror because they cannot bear to see themselves in their changed state.  This “inferiority complex” can be one of the key areas that survivors need to work on to lead a healthier life post-injury. 

Dr. King goes on to discuss how this “inferiority complex” causes people to feel low and can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as drinking.  Despite the dangers that substance use can lead to post-injury, such as magnification of deficits and seizures, a significant number of survivors will mis-use substances post-injury.  This is especially true if they had a history of substance abuse prior to their injuries.

Dr. King identifies self-acceptance as one of the keys to overcoming the “inferiority complex”. As he stated:

“Now it seems to me that that is the first way to overcome an inferiority complex—the principle of self-acceptance. That’s a prayer that every individual should pray: “Lord, help me to accept myself.” Every man should somehow say, “I, John Doe, accept myself with all of my inherited abilities and handicaps. I accept those conditions within my environment which cannot be altered or which I cannot control. And after accepting these I go back to myself and see what I can do with myself.”

And this is a healthy attitude of life. So many people are busy trying to be somebody else, and that is what accounts for their frustration. There is within every man a bit of latent creativity seeking to break forth, and it is often blocked because we are busy trying to be somebody else. So this is the first way to overcome an inferiority complex: accept yourself. That means accept your looks.

It means accept your limitations in every area. It means what it says: “Accept your actual self.” And where the conflict really comes is that individuals find a sort of impassable gulf between their actual selves and their desired selves. And that is when an inferiority complex breaks out in morbid proportions—when individuals come to see that there is such a tremendous gap between their actual selves and their desired selves.

And the thing that every individual should pray to the Almighty God for is to give them that sense of acceptance of the actual self with all limitations and with all of the endowments that come as the results of our being born in this world.”

Dr. King was not expecting people to be successful at every skill possible or to be in full health at every moment, but that people should be able to acknowledge their real skills, issues and abilities and accept themselves as they are, at this moment.  That self-acceptance, leading to a love and appreciation of oneself today, is a key to healthy adjustment after a brain injury.  

Some may mistakenly think that self-acceptance is a way of giving up on recovery and rehabilitation.  This is a false notion.  Self-acceptance is about acknowledging the reality of today without negative judgement of oneself.  This is often known in the field of psychology as “radical self-acceptance”. 

This type of self-acceptance allows one to deal with the reality of the moment without becoming bogged down with negative emotions, which are often obstacles to recovery.  Further, it is important to recognize all the skills, abilities and benefits that survivors bring to the world in spite of their injuries.   True self-acceptance cannot be solely about accepting the negative but must also be about acknowledging and embracing the positive.  Dr. King thought very highly of embracing one’s positive skills and fostering dignity in one’s skills.  As he stated:

“All of the people of the world cannot do the so‐called big things. Some of us will have to be content to do the so-called little things, but we must do the little things in a big way. We must do ordinary things in an extraordinary manner. And we overcome our sense of inferiority by doing just this—by somehow accepting what we must do and doing that thing well. No matter how small you consider it, you can dignify anything.”

Learning from Dr. King, we can hopefully progress to healthier ways of approaching life following a brain injury. 

To read Dr. King’s sermon, click on the link below:

Strokes are medical conditions that affect millions globally. In the United States, more than 795,000 people have a stroke each year, with about 610,000 cases being first or new strokes. 

These can lead to a wide range of physical and cognitive impairments. Speech and language disorders are among the most common and most challenging consequences of strokes, occurring in about a third of stroke survivors. 

Understanding Stroke-Induced Speech & Language Disorders

Stroke-induced speech and language disorders significantly impact communication abilities. Among these, aphasia, dysarthria, and apraxia of speech are prevalent. Understanding how they are diagnosed and their specific symptoms can aid in prompt and effective management.


Aphasia is a common outcome of stroke, manifesting as difficulty in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. There are many different types of aphasia, depending on the affected brain area, and are categorized based on the symptoms present:

  • Expressive Aphasia (Broca’s Aphasia): Characterized by broken speech, limited vocabulary, and difficulty forming complete sentences. Patients often understand what is being said to them but struggle to verbalize responses.
  • Receptive Aphasia (Wernicke’s Aphasia): Patients can produce fluent speech but may lack meaning or include nonsensical words. They often have significant difficulty understanding spoken language.
  • Global Aphasia: A severe form of aphasia where individuals have extensive difficulties with both speech production and comprehension.
  • Anomic Aphasia: Individuals have difficulty finding words, particularly nouns and verbs, making their speech sound vague.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder that affects 20-30% of stroke survivors. It occurs when stroke impacts the muscles responsible for speech, leading to slurred or slow speech that can be hard to understand. It is typically diagnosed through a physical examination and a series of speech evaluations conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). 

It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand
  • Monotone or robotic-sounding speech
  • Difficulty controlling the volume of speech, which may be too loud or too soft
  • Challenges with the rhythm and flow of speech, including rapid speech that’s hard to interrupt or slow, drawn-out speech
  • Respiratory issues affecting the ability to speak loudly or for extended periods

Apraxia of Speech (AOS)

Apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty sequencing the movements needed for speech. This is caused by the impact of the stroke on the brain’s pathways involved in producing speech. 

Patients with AOS know what they want to say but struggle to coordinate the muscle movements to articulate words correctly. This results in distorted speech, difficulty initiating speech, or the inability to accurately produce speech sounds or sequences of sounds. 

How Long Is the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time?

According to one study on post-stroke speech and language therapy, approximately one-third of stroke patients experience speech problems after a stroke. Many of these individuals begin to recover within a few months, with significant progress typically observed within three to six months.

In another study, 62% of subjects had speech challenges after suffering from a stroke. By six months post-stroke, 74% were able to completely recover their communication abilities. 

However, the figures above provide a general timeline for post-stroke speech and language recovery. Stroke speech recovery time is highly individualized and can vary depending on several factors. These can include the following:

  • Severity of the Stroke: More severe strokes often lead to extensive brain damage, resulting in longer and more challenging recovery periods for speech.
  • Location of the Brain Injury: The brain’s specific regions control different speech and language functions; damage to these areas directly impacts recovery complexity and duration.
  • Age and Overall Health of the Patient: Generally, younger patients with better overall health before the stroke tend to experience faster and more complete recoveries.
  • Pre-existing Conditions and Comorbidities: Conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can slow down recovery by complicating the overall health scenario and rehabilitation process.
  • Individual Variability and Resilience: Personal resilience, the support system’s strength, and the individual’s motivation significantly influence the pace and success of speech recovery efforts.

The first three months after a stroke is a crucial period for recovery, as a majority of stroke patients see the most significant improvement during this period. However, it’s also important to note that, although at a slower pace, recovery can continue well past the 6-month mark with continued therapy and practice. 

This underpins the importance of early intervention and ongoing rehabilitation efforts, including speech therapy, to maximize each patient’s recovery potential. 

What Does the Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Process Look Like?

The journey to regain speech and language after a stroke is multifaceted and varies significantly from one individual to another. Understanding the structured phases of recovery can provide insight into what patients and their families can expect during this challenging time. 

Here’s a closer examination of each phase in the stroke speech recovery process.

Initial Assessment and Diagnosis

Before recovery can begin, a thorough evaluation is conducted by a team of healthcare professionals led by an SLP. This assessment aims to identify the type and severity of the speech and language disorder, be it aphasia, dysarthria, or AOS. The evaluation may include cognitive-linguistic assessments, comprehension tests, speech production analysis, and functional communication measures. 

Based on this assessment, a personalized therapy plan is crafted to address the patient’s specific needs.

Acute Phase

The acute phase typically occurs within the first days to weeks following a stroke. During this period, medical stabilization is the primary focus, with healthcare teams working to manage the immediate effects of the stroke. 

Speech therapy may begin with simple exercises or assessments to gauge the patient’s abilities. However, intensive therapy usually does not start until the patient is medically stable. During the acute phase, the goal is to support overall recovery and prevent complications immediately after the stroke.

Subacute Phase

The subacute phase generally spans from two weeks to three months post-stroke and is characterized by more intensive speech therapy interventions. As the patient’s medical condition stabilizes, the focus shifts to active rehabilitation. Therapy during this phase is tailored to the individual’s specific speech and language deficits and may include:

  • Exercises to improve articulation, fluency, and voice control for those with dysarthria.
  • Language therapy to enhance understanding, speaking, reading, and writing skills in patients with aphasia.
  • Motor speech exercises and strategies to improve speech planning and production in apraxia of speech.

The subacute phase is crucial for taking advantage of the brain’s natural recovery processes and neuroplasticity, where the brain begins reorganizing and adapting to the loss of function.

Chronic Phase

The chronic phase of recovery extends from several months to years after the stroke. It focuses on long-term rehabilitation and adjustment to any residual speech deficits. During this time, patients may continue to see gradual improvements in their speech and language abilities, although the rate of recovery may slow. Therapy in the chronic phase often includes:

  • Advanced communication strategies to cope with ongoing challenges in daily life.
  • Maintenance exercises to preserve and enhance speech gains achieved in earlier phases.
  • Supportive technologies and aids, such as communication devices, to assist in effective communication.
  • Community reintegration activities to help patients return to as normal a life as possible, engaging in social, vocational, or recreational activities.

What Is the Role of Neuroplasticity in Speech & Language Recovery?

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s fundamental property to change and adapt its responses to new experiences, learning, and environmental changes. This adaptive capacity enables the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.

When the brain, or a part of the brain, is damaged after a stroke, neuroplasticity is what allows the other parts of the brain to take over the functions of the damaged area. Through targeted rehabilitation and therapy, such as speech therapy for stroke survivors, patients can retrain other brain areas to perform the lost functions and facilitate recovery.

Enhancing Stroke Speech & Language Recovery Time

Adopting a comprehensive approach involving several key strategies is vital to enhance the stroke speech and language recovery time. This multifaceted approach can maximize the chances of regaining speech and communication abilities.

This comprehensive approach must incorporate the following strategies:

  • Early intervention to leverage the brain’s highest potential for neuroplasticity in the initial period following a stroke, significantly improving the chances for recovery.
  • Alternative communication strategies, such as gestures, writing, and visual aids, to help maintain communication during the recovery process. 
  • Adopting technology, including speech-generating devices and software applications designed for speech rehabilitation, for personalized exercises and continuous practice, which is vital for progress.
  • Providing continuous support from psychologists, support groups, and therapy to help manage feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety, fostering a positive mindset essential for rehabilitation.
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle to supply essential nutrients that support brain function, along with regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and management of medical conditions.

Begin Your Post-Stroke Recovery Journey With Moody Neurorehabilitation

Moody Neurorehabilitation understands the complexities and challenges that come with post-stroke rehabilitation. We are dedicated to supporting patients and their families through this critical time with specialized care and personalized treatment plans.

Since our inception in 1982, Moody Neurorehabilitation has been a leader in brain injury rehabilitation. Our approach centers on providing comprehensive care tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, to improve overall quality of life.

We invite you to start your recovery journey with us. Contact Moody Neurorehabilitation today to schedule a consultation with our experts. Let us help you navigate the path to recovery with care, compassion, and expertise.