Helping stroke survivors find their voice
20 June 2023
Every two weeks at Taranaki Base Hospital, stroke survivor Grant Kenny volunteers alongside the Speech Language Therapy (SLT) team to lead a communication group for people who have speech and language difficulties post stroke.
As their caregivers and whānau can come along too, it’s an opportunity for them to be around people who have had a similar experience and work together on regaining their confidence.
Grant survived a stroke two years ago and as a result had speech and language difficulties. He was 63 at the time and had just started the business Taranaki Pet Foods. He says he runs the group for wellbeing and it’s his way of giving back to those who helped him.
“I initially joined the group a year ago because I thought it was a good idea, and now I chair it. It’s about looking at people as a person and not as a stroke victim, we focus on everything else about us and what we’re good at,” Grant says.
“I count myself as one of the lucky ones as I’m doing well with my speech and language now. I owe so much to so many people at the hospital. I know it’s their job, but they do it so well and so caringly. Helping to run this group is my way to give a little bit back.”
The group sessions are different each time, but always start with sharing a positive that has happened in the past week. Grant’s latest update was that he’s started planting mushrooms and it’s going well. Then the group move onto a range of different activities to help improve their language and speech challenges. These include things like reading comprehension with real-world news events, word anagrams, guess the word, story creation, discussion questions and matching tasks.
The idea for the community group and asking Grant as a patient, to help run it, came from Kayley Williamson, Speech-Language Therapist at Te Whatu Ora Taranaki who has seen firsthand the isolating effects chronic speech or language impairments can have on people after a stroke.
“These groups make a real difference in the lives of our patients and their families,” says Kayley. “The benefits we see meeting other people with similar issues are improved mood, increased confidence personally and in a group setting, as well as functional improvements in people’s speech and language skills. It also gives carers and family ideas around how to best communicate with these people to support their conversation.”
Kayley says Grant is a natural leader and helper, so it was a no brainer for her to approach him and ask if he was willing to team up with her and help with running the group.
“This group is also providing Grant with a real sense of purpose as he had to retire young due to his stroke.”
There are now over 24 patients in the North Taranaki group, and one also runs in South Taranaki where they have six patients in the group.
As June is aphasia awareness month, Grant is encouraging anyone with aphasia or other speech and language impairments who might be interested in joining the group to come along.
“It’s a great excuse to get out and about. I’ve improved since coming to the group and notice others have improved too. We have a ball, give each other a bit of stick and there’s always a cup of tea and cake on offer.”
For more information on joining this group, people can contact the SLT Department at Te Whatu Ora Taranaki on 06 753 7748.
Last updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2023