Prosody is what makes speech make sense. It's the intonation, stress, and emotion that help us to understand what words really mean when somebody says them. If you've been lucky enough to be around Neil or to speak to him on the phone since he got his voice back in that magic moment on April 19th, then you know what it sounds like when prosody is missing. Although he has made some great improvements over the past weeks, he is still lacking the ability to show much emotion in his speech. His voice sounds monotone--without inflection. By the same token, he also has trouble understanding prosody in the speech of others. He may not be able to detect sarcasm or humor in your voice. That's one reason why jokes are hard to get. (Although, he did crack another funny himself the other day!*)
Without the understanding of prosody, or the ability to read non-verbal communication, it can be hard to develop or foster relationships. Neil's conversations are very literal. He often says just what he's thinking, and seems to be missing some of the filters that help to keep comments socially appropriate.
That being said, he's enjoyed some fun times with understanding friends recently--graduation parties, outings to favorite fast food joints, and just hanging out playing games or watching movies. Food, friends, and collecting Blu-Ray movies are his current passions as the recipients of his text messages are aware. Once again, I need to express my gratitude to those loyal companions who remember the other Neil and are cherishing this new young man, in spite of his social awkwardness. They are finding, as we are, that he still has an endearing innocence and charm.
* On Friday, Neil and I met with the school's child study team to plan for some evaluations this summer. After discussing some of the difficulty Neil has had trying to regain functions on his left side, the learning consultant expressed her appreciation that Neil was making progress and moving in the right direction. Neil quietly remarked that he wished things were moving in the "left" direction. Without facial expression or prosody, everyone missed the joke but me. Of course I had to share it, and it was fun to see him smile when his sense of humor was acknowledged!