Therapist talks about Giffords speech progress

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's just 31 words long and took only 30 seconds to recite, but many watched in awe at a January 8 vigil Sunday night, as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords energetically led a crowd in saying the pledge of allegiance-- one year after a bullet was shot through her brain.

Speech therapist Pelagie Beeson talks about what it took to come this far and what work still lies ahead.

Crowd members at the University of Arizona January 8 vigil knew they would see Congresswoman Giffords on stage, but they weren't expecting to see her recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

It is something so simple yet so remarkable, considering what happened one year ago.

"It was a great choice for her to be able to do that," said Pelagie Beeson from the U of A Department of Speech.

Pelagie Beeson heads the speech department at the U of A. She hasn't worked with gabby, but through studying similar cases, she says the congresswoman's making good progress after one year.

"The thing that is the most challenging is being able to put words into complete sentences, grammatically correct sentences and you'll notice that's still somewhat difficult for her, but she certainly is doing well," said Beeson.

Beeson says reciting the pledge or counting numbers, verses ingrained in memory are both something Gabby, or someone with similar injuries, is most successful at in the first year.

"Sometimes we take advantage of that in therapy and then what you're ultimately working on is to make those spontaneous sentences or things you would be talking about in a conversation," Beeson said.

Gabby's therapists have also used music and writing to help bring back her speech.

"Sometimes if someone can't say something they might be able to write the beginning of it and that can sometimes help in their own retrieval," Beeson said.

Beeson says there is still a long way to go, but with intense therapy and a positive attitude, Gabby is on the right track.