Six Months with Foreign Accent Syndrome and counting

It has now been six months since I first contracted Foreign Accent Syndrome.  Here is a fascinating video where I discovered that there was another person in a nearby area who had a similar manifestation in which her normal speech was replaced with a strongly accented way of speaking.

Next, let me say, that the video below is NOT staged. In fact it is extremely impromptu as evidenced by our lack of fine attire and makeup. Nonetheless, I think it is important to show this video to people in order to bring to light an extremely rare medical condition.

Fran found me via a local radio station who had interviewed me from time to time. “Fisher Fran” as we affectionately refer to her has  episodes of a few days with it. Her case, waxes and wanes with a good deal of normalness in between. She has other body weaknesses that resemble multiple sclerosis whereas I do not.

My foreign accent has continued for over six months now without relenting. Although, I have noticed improvement in some words as I apply tricks that I have developed through speech therapy. Another difference in our two cases is that I am able to sing in my “normal” voice, whereas, Fran cannot sing at all when she becomes accented (even though, she to sings for audiences).

Here is a video taken of me (Eastside Ellen) and Fisher Fran back in June 2009. At that point I had been speaking with foreign accented speech for a month and Fran was in day two of an exasperation of her symptoms.

This video was captured by Fran’s daughter and so is not exactly framed as well as a more experienced photographer would have done. PLUS… she and I were both in our grubbier clothes as we rushed to meet with one another without the benefit of clothing changes or make-up. We were just so happy to discover that we were not the only one with this problem that we couldn’t wait another moment. As you see in this video we are quite happy to have found one another and are enjoying our ability to joke about our situation in a unique way.

However, let me stress this. Foreign Accent Syndrome is NOT a joking matter. Rather it is an extremely rare medical malady involving the Broches'(speech) area of the brain. It is reported that only 39 medically documented cases have been reported…ever…in the whole world.  Because it is so rare, there are not many doctors who even know about it. Therein lies the problem. If they are unsure what causes it, how to fix it and it is so rare. There is not much help for a person who has it.

In fact that is the main purpose of me documenting as much as I can about it. Researchers could learn a lot about this if they applied themselves. Because it is such a rare occurrence the argument may be made that there is not much point in researching it from a cost benefit analysis standpoint. However, since it involves the study of the brain and speech/accent production, I think that this is a pioneering area that some university or speech pathology school would want to investigate more.

As one who has now endured it for six months, I am learning that I am teaching my speech pathologist at the same time she is teaching me. This is unchartered territory here. So it is going to take the willingness of all involved to recognize that we do not have all the answers. In fact, we must admit that we have far more questions than answers. Yet, since I am the one living with Foreign Accent Syndrome,  I am a self-made researcher trying to document for the benefit of medical knowledge and hopefully to bring a sense of understanding to both the sufferers and their loved ones.

I am going to try to get another video with Fran and me together within the next few days. This time I WILL at least look better for the camera : P


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2 Responses to “Six Months with Foreign Accent Syndrome and counting”

  1. Sharon Snavely says:

    Wow Ellen. I know you’ve told me about this while we were playing FarmTown, but I had no idea what it really was. Quite fascinating to watch, but I am so sorry you and your new found friend have to go through this.

  2. Frank Garrity says:

    Hello Ellen,
    I’m a casting producer working on a new medical series called Syndromes. We’d very much like to do a story on F.A.S. and as such would love to speak to you, and possibly, Fran, about your experiences with this affliction. If interested in speaking further about the show you can contact me, at your earliest convenience, at the below number. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.
    Best regards, Frank Garrity
    Casting Producer for Syndromes

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