Speakability Sidcup launched at Queen Mary’s

Paul Meaton, left, helps new member Adrian Tatters to read out loud
Paul Meaton, left, helps new member Adrian Tatters to read out loud

Speakability Sidcup, an aphasia self-help group run entirely by people with aphasia for people with aphasia, was launched at Queen Mary’s Hospital yesterday.

The group was founded by four members of the Wednesday Aphasia Group held at the Oval Clinic, Sidcup. This followed a suggestion by Speech and Language Therapy Technical Instructor Sarah-Jane Mahoney. It aims to create a new community resource for people with aphasia to meet regularly with others with the same condition. An independent branch of the aphasia charity Speakability, the group is the first of its kind in Bexley borough.

 Aphasia is a communication disability which occurs when the communication centres of the brain are damaged. It is usually caused by stroke, but can also be caused by brain haemorrhage, head injury or tumours. It can affect people's ability to speak, read or use numbers. 

The meeting was chaired by Paul Meaton, one of the group's founders. He asked people to introduce themselves and while some were clearly well on their way to recovery, for others this was just the start of their journey. Paul encouraged each person to speak, was patient and reassuring when they faltered and was backed up by encouragement, including rounds of applause, from other members of the group. 

Sue Almond spoke about the problem of other people's expectations: "I had a stroke three years ago and people looking at you think you're ok, but from talking fast I am now quite slow. It's like learning to drive a car again - everything goes back to the fundamentals, especially when I meet new people. I get my 'stroke head' and get muddled. People think I don't look old enough to have had a stroke and seem ok, which can be difficult. I've got lots out of attending a group - just being able to talk in a quiet room is really helpful." 

Paul praised the help the group has received from Oxleas: "Some of us have had lots of help but there are many people out there who have no support. We're passionate about helping others with aphasia and our aim was to find a venue where we could welcome people from both within and outside Bexley borough. I contacted Oxleas' Chief Executive, Stephen Firn, and explained that we wanted to set up a self-help group but couldn't afford the £50 - £70 that we were being quoted to hire a room. Oxleas has been really helpful and lets us have this room for free. It's perfect for us as it's quiet with no interference from outside noise. They even sent us complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits to celebrate our first meeting." 

The next meeting is on Thursday 5 December. Please contact Sarah-Jane Mahoney for more information on 020 8319 7138 or sarah-jane.mahoney@oxleas.nhs.uk

Published on 22nd November 2013