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Have you ever known the frustration of not being able to speak at all? Perhaps you know someone who has aphasia, or maybe you have it yourself.

If you are like me, you know exactly what you want to say, but can’t get it to come out. Sometimes you can't say anything. Or maybe you can talk, but it comes out as gibberish. Is there anyplace on earth where you can go to practice speaking and not be made to feel incompetent?

Toastmasters Club to the Rescue

There is now. SPEAKING ON PURPOSE is a new online Toastmasters club unlike any other. The new club is being formed by Jeff Arnette, a long-time Toastmaster who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a little over a year ago.

Jeff's vision for SPEAKING ON PURPOSE is to create a vibrant and supportive online community where people with Parkinson's disease (or other movement disorders) can come together and practice speaking and learn new skills — and have fun along the way!

What a great idea! This means that people with aphasia and other communication disorders can try Toastmasters without fear. Why is this so important to me? I had aphasia for 3-1/2 years. I tried speaking so I could be heard. I wound up shutting down because I couldn’t get my thoughts across.

National Aphasia Association

The National Aphasia Association’s website says that if you have aphasia for more than three months, you'll probably have it for life. That is a terrible thing for an aphasia patient to read. I didn’t like having aphasia, so I looked around for something that would help me get beyond it.

I started my journey with That is an organization that helps people find new jobs. I've been there before in a previous life, and had found a job that was fulfilling. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that couldn’t help me. My problem was with communication. I needed to find someplace else that could help me learn to communicate at a deeper level. Learning how to find a job and learning to speak are two different things.

Northern Virginia Business Referral Roundtable

Next, I joined a weekly Meetup group for business owners that met in my area, the Northern Virginia Business Referral Roundtable. The group was dynamic, fun, and was full of nice people who let me in (despite the fact that I didn't have a business). I stood up for a minute week . . . after week . . . after a week to give my elevator pitch.

Sometimes it came out fine. Sometimes I didn't say a word. Sometimes it was iffy. I often felt odd when I couldn’t speak well because the people there were on a timeline. They came for lunch, some learning, and a way to meet other like minded professionals. (I would like to thank Darren Marquardt and Marvin Powell for founding a group that had real meaning to everyone who joined. Their focus was to create collaboration, communication, and encouragement, and they did just that.)

My Toastmasters Club Experience

When Donna Hemmert suggested I try Toastmasters, I put it off for a long, long while. She kept bugging me, though, and I'm glad that she eventually got me to go to a meeting. Unlike the Northern Virginia Business Referral Roundtable, Toastmasters gives the participant a block of time to speak. That time is yours, and yours alone. That gave me comfort. The people were friendly and I joined that day.

When I showed up to give my first speech (seven months into my membership), I didn't know if I would speak. I still had aphasia. I got the first sentence out. Woo hoo! I would make it! I just knew it. But then the second sentence didn't come out. I tried six times before I finally made it through that sentence. I made it all the way through the speech and sat down. The speech wasn't good but I was really proud of having finished it. The Toastmasters stood up and gave me a standing ovation.

Micro Current Neurofeedback

I still had aphasia, though, and I continued to look for a way to overcome it. Finally, one of my doctors came to the rescue 3-1/2 years after my stroke. You see, Dr. Fuller had just gotten a Micro Current Neurofeedback device. He told me I needed to try it out. Dr. Fuller gave me the URL so I could do my research. When I went online I was astonished.

The most important piece of information I learned was at 85% of Traumatic Brain Injury survivors got better when they used the Micro Current Neurofeedback device.

I couldn't wait to get started! After 16 sessions I could speak fluently again. To me, Micro Current Neurofeedback is a miracle.

How Did Toastmasters Help?

I still needed Toastmasters, though. I gained confidence as I continued to speak. I got to know a lot of nice, friendly people. And, I got to know Jeff Arnett. He is a person who knows that there needs to be a way to get people with a communication disorder speaking and do it in a fun way.

Are you interested in becoming a Toastmaster? Just email me and begin the conversation.

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