Category Archives: Groups

The Neuroscience of Stammering

Most of us will likely agree that the brain of a person who stammers works somewhat differently to the brain of someone who is fluent. What is not so clear, is how it is different. Earlier this year Dr Soo-Eun Chang at the University of Michigan spoke to Peter Reitzes from StutterTalk about her research on the causes of stammering. We used this opportunity to discuss the neuroscience of stammering at a recent Open Space session.

Open Spaces provide a forum for people who stammer to come together and share their experiences and views on stammering. At this particular session we chose to focus the discussion on some of the scientific developments being made in the field of stammering research and what we felt this meant for us and the wider stammering community.

neuroscience2Dr Chang’s research has discovered that neural connectivity is a critical factor in producing fluent speech. In her work with children, she has found that those who stammer appear to have slower connections between the brains regions that control speech. Interestingly, this difference is also seen in kids who have ‘grown out’ of their stammers.

This could mean that stammering permanently changes the activity of the brain, or it could show us that children with this type of brain activity are more likely to start stammering. Dr Chang says more data is needed before we can be certain one way or the other.

What researchers do know is that timing is an essential component of speech production. When we speak, we string together a series of movements to produce the right sounds in the right order, and at the right time. In stammering, the timing of these movements appears to be impaired so that the flow of speech is disrupted.

A brain structure, called the basal ganglia, may play a starring role in all this. Buried in the centre of the brain, one of the many functions of the basal ganglia is to control movement. Scientists think that people who stammer could have too much of a chemical, called dopamine, which interferes with the ability of the basal ganglia to provide timing cues for speech. They have shown that when people who stammer take drugs to block the action of dopamine, their speech becomes more fluent.

Dr Chang explained that there is a link between rhythm – a product of timing – and stammering. A study carried out by a different research team has found that children who stammer have a weaker sense of internal rhythm compared to those who do not stammer. When these children are provided with an external rhythm – in the form of song lyrics, for example – they are able to produce speech more fluently. This suggests that independently finding and sticking to an internal rhythm is key to speaking fluently.

These insights into the ‘stammering brain’ were met with mixed feelings among the group. Some people said they felt comforted by having a physiological explanation for why they stammer, while others were uneasy with being labelled as different by science. For me, it was almost a vindication; it has given me something to fight back with against assumptions that I may be partly to blame for my stammer.

I’m aware that a focus on science – and the drugs and treatments that may ultimately arise from it – is helping to feed our medicalised approach to biological difference. It has been argued by some in the stammering community that, instead of fixing people who fall outside the norm of fluent speech, the onus should fall on society to change its expectations of what it means to speak normally.

In an ideal world there would be room for both approaches, with science providing us with knowledge and society offering us change. Indeed, despite the group’s contrasting views, what we all seemed to share was a huge appreciation for the progress being made in stammering research and the prospect of one day having answers to our many questions. My hope is that this will be paralleled by progress outside the laboratory, too.

Cara Steger

 

 

Inside Culture Club

Dom: ‘Post brain injury life is about staying busy and in touch with the world. To that end one of the things I go to is a group set up by my counsellor Cathy that we tentatively call ‘Culture Club’. No, we don’t sit around and discuss Boy George! Once every two months a group of about 6 brain injury survivors plus Cathy sit in a pub in Teddington and discuss anything we’ve been up to. We’re all at different post brain-injury stages; we’re all different ages and very different people. Lotte is the cinema expert; I tell bad jokes and tell Martin I find modern art questionable. He sighs, I’m sure they all do. Cathy tries to stop me swearing. More sighs. The point is it is something to do rather than just sitting at home which seems to be the all too often fate of the brain injured. We have one thing in common, it’s not much, but it’s enough.’

Angela: ‘Everyone is friendly. I look forward to it a lot. I like the variety of topics. I find it funny and Dom makes me laugh. If I could sum up Culture Club in one word, I would use the word “stimulating”. I find the group as a whole, stimulating. I find it hard to communicate which can be frustrating. It helps when Cathy sits next to me as I feel as if I have a friend. I would recommend the group to other people.’

Toby Art 2016Toby: ‘A group for people with speech issues. Although it is called the culture club, it is basically a group for people to get together and chat. Topics could be theatre, comedy, film, TV…basically anything that is NOT sport or politics!
It is a fun and supportive group of people where you will not feel judged. I’m using it to focus on turn taking and concentrating on anything cultural that I might encounter. There is also a marvellous selection of biscuits made available! I do my artwork at:   www.workshop305.com

Martin: ‘Culture Club is a group. I didn’t want to be part of it. I didn’t want to have a stroke – but I did. We all have reservations and might be cautious about coming to a group like this. But once you are there, it’s friendly, inclusive and accepting. We are all different but have things in common. You can say and share as much or as little as you like. You should dare to join us and take that leap.’

Culture Club takes place every other month on a Tuesday morning. Check out the website for more information: www.intandem.co.uk/pdf/groups/cc2016_2.pdf or contact Cathy: cathy@intandem.co.uk .

 

Insider accounts: Living with communication disability

As a student Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) nearing the end of your training, you begin to feel a bit like you might know a few things. After four years of placements and the range of experiences you have amassed through interaction with a variety of clients and their families, you start to think ‘Ok, I’m beginning to get the hang of this.’ Your tentative steps become surer as you get to grips with assessments and hypotheses and management plans and the wonderful array of devices in the SLT toolkit. But, as a fledgling clinician it is also important to sometimes silence the internal noise of ‘What does this test result mean?’, ‘Which therapy approach do I think is best?’, ‘How many intervention sessions should I give this client?’ And just listen.

In a lecture called ‘Insider accounts: Living with communication disability’, Cathy Sparkes and Sam Simpson provided us with this opportunity. They invited a group of their clients with a range of communication disabilities to come in and talk to all the final year student SLTs at UCL. With our assessor’s hats firmly off, we were able to sit back and listen to people’s lived experiences. All the speakers were very generous with their stories, sharing the painful, puzzling and even playful moments of coming to terms with their respective communication disabilities, both acquired and lifelong, and moving forward with their lives. Many accounts were the result of a number of years of experience and reflection, and it was partly this that made the session so unique for us.

As an SLT, you are generally involved for a very small snapshot of a client’s journey – a few months, maybe a year if you’re lucky. To borrow an analogy, you are ‘a stripe in the scarf of their story’ [1]. But this experience enabled us to more fully appreciate the stripes that come later on, when our input may have finished and our clients have had to renegotiate what it means to live in the world. Furthermore, the speakers were able to give us access to what some of our clients might be feeling now, as we’re meeting them in the early stages after a stroke or brain injury. For example, it may be easy for us to categorise our clients in the light of what they can outwardly communicate. However, the Comprehensive Aphasia Test does not allow us to measure the presence or otherwise of someone’s inner voice – you know, the one that narrates your thoughts and feelings – I had never before considered that loss of spoken language might also lead to inner silence, as so articulately described by one of our speakers.

It was a thought-provoking and at times, moving morning, and overwhelming feedback from the students was that we felt our practice would be changed as a result. The session reminded us to always dig deeper than what we might be presented with on the surface, step outside of our therapeutic comfort zones to provide flexible and individualised support to our clients, and of course, to listen.

Kat UCL Student - 1

 

Katherine Newton
Student Speech and Language Therapist, UCL

[1] McIntosh J., Charles N., Lyon B. & James K. (2011). The Strands of Speech and Language Therapy: Weaving a Therapy Plan for Neurorehabilitation. Milton Keynes: Speechmark

News Group: Behind the Scenes (2/2)

I wrote last month about how some of our neuro-rehabilitation service users benefit from the experience of attending the news group we run on the ward.

news2

 

As a service, we have found that we can use our group provision for a number of purposes:

 

We can use the group to provide different packages of care to different service users within the same session. We may invite people to attend news group as part of their goal-based therapy. For example, they may be working towards a more consistent use of intelligibility strategies, or demonstrating increased communicative confidence by facilitating discussion or presenting a news item as part of the session.

Some people know they are able to participate relatively independently in group conversation. However, they may continue to benefit from support, for example to counter the effects of fatigue or distractibility. Further speech and language therapy (SLT) input for these people beyond discharge from our ward may not be indicated, but there are benefits to them continuing to attend the group while they are with us. This monitoring and maintenance package allows room for fine-tuning and further confidence boosting prior to discharge. Such people are also often positive role models for other group members who may require higher levels of support to engage in group conversation.

Some group members still early on in their admission, or newly referred to SLT by others in the multidisciplinary team, may join us for a number of assessment sessions. This may be because the group setting reveals more interactive skills than they are able to show in the often more transactionally-based ward setting. Alternatively, for some there may be an indication of higher-level language processing or social communication difficulties, which do not impact particularly on the ward. Attending the group allows further assessment of the impact, which their impairments may have in more complex group conversation. It can also provide a concrete starting point from which to discuss these subtle difficulties with the service users who may not themselves necessarily consider any difficulties to be present

Group sessions provide rich observation opportunities for new staff and students. Over the past year, we have been joined by students from nursing, medicine, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. We invite new staff members to join us as part of their induction. The richness of the experience of coming to the group as an observer is that there is the opportunity to meet people with a number of different communication diagnoses, and to see in action the strengths and needs these diagnoses may create. A further positive is that none of our observers is passive; anyone coming to visit our group is invited to participate, thus enriching their own experience and learning, while providing further positive role modelling for our service users. Our own SLT students will often take on facilitation of the group for the duration of their placement, which works particularly well with peer placements.

The news group is a joint project between occupational therapy (OT) and SLT. We have found that we need to meet frequently to review and discuss the strengths, needs and progress of each participant to ensure we keep our input focused. Otherwise, there can be a risk of running a session which goes through the motions of looking at recent news stories, but which gives no specific input to any of the packages of care identified for each service user. I will admit that this has happened at times especially if staffing is low or the ward very busy. After a ‘going through the motions’ session, I feel I have facilitated an opportunity for social interaction and the chance for some people perhaps to take on a bit of information about current news events. However, I also feel that the same session could have been facilitated by an enthusiastic volunteer with no specific training in or knowledge of communication impairment.

News group review has now evolved into a joint SLT and OT review of the needs of whoever is on our ward at any given time, and whether there are other groups we could run. This can often change from month to month as we aim to create group opportunities for the people we have on our ward, rather than to try to shoe-horn people in to a fixed format. For example, in the last fortnight we find we have several people with specific comprehension needs and have this week started a ‘points of view’ group structured with a very low language load, but providing opportunities for interaction and expression of likes and dislikes through music appreciation (a clear split in today’s group between heavy metal and the Jackson 5!), chocolate tasting, TV reviewing and more as we plan it..!

Nic Martin

News group: ‘being part of something’ (1/2)

10.30am and this week’s News Group is about to start on the neuro-rehabilitation unit where I work as a speech and language therapist. As I arrange chairs and sort through the newspapers, John arrives without any prompting, having remembered to consult his diary for his programme for the day. John is working on strategies to compensate for memory impairment.

Steve is next to walk in. He has come prepared with a couple of news stories to present to the rest of the group. Steve has had a long hospital stay and is close to getting home now. He wants to fine-tune his speech intelligibility strategies as he hopes to make moves to a gradual return to his job where speaking to small groups is a significant component. The plan is that next week he will co-facilitate the group with me as he has enjoyed re-exploring the nurturing side of his nature; discovering that he can be supportive of others here in hospital just as he has done in his work role in the past.

Jan arrives on time having consulted her diary too. She announces that she has ‘done her homework’. She spent a session with the speech and language therapy assistant yesterday selecting and preparing a news item to present to the group. Jan has used the group to rebuild her communicative confidence. This was low when she first came to us due to difficulties with verbal explanation as a result of generally slowed processing. Like Steve, Jan has now become a supportive member of the group, using sessions both to challenge herself to convey information and her own opinions concisely, as well as to encourage other group members to contribute to the discussion:

‘Other people share topics and I’m learning more. It’s like educating. I’m learning about more and different things. I’m speaking loudly. Preventing other people from butting in because before I just whispered. Now I don’t shut up talking. Definitely more confident. I can tell people ‘shut up, I’m talking!. I won’t cope with rudeness. I liked having the chance to prepare the day before.’

‘I was worried at first about coming but then I actually really enjoyed it.’

news2

As Steve and Jan organise their notes, Hashim comes in, with my occupational therapy colleague and co-facilitator. Hashim finds it difficult to inhibit voicing his every thought, which as well as impacting on conversation, is affecting his ability to engage and benefit fully from his other therapy sessions. We will agree as a group before we start that we will endeavour to let everyone have a turn at getting their point across, and that we will supportively highlight when any group member may be returning to a theme they have already clearly expressed in whatever way they can. This provides a structure for giving direct feedback to Hashim as necessary. He also has the opportunity to interact with positive role models such as Steve and Jan throughout the session’s discussion on world news, sports news, celebrity gossip, local news or perhaps even a bit of light-hearted ‘ward gossip’. More serious ward issues may arise at times. The group is a safe place to express any frustrations and to problem-solve with others possible courses of action. As staff members, we may be able to take an opportunity here to provide information, or to offer to take on an advocacy role for a given issue if needed.

Now Val walks in with a student nurse who wants to learn more about the role of the SLT on the ward, and who will join our group today. Val has marked expressive aphasia. In a group setting, she has been able to show that her functional communication skills far outweigh her abilities in more specific word-finding tasks and in the limited, often practitioner-led, task-focused conversation opportunities which she is most frequently exposed to on the ward.

Vladan too has aphasia. Previously a keen daily newspaper reader, he has said he enjoys the group as it allows him the extra time he needs to absorb information about what is going on in the world. Participating in the group also provides Vladan with unpressured space to try out compensatory strategies, such as drawing or circumlocution, when word finding difficulties arise. 1:1 support from one of the two co-facilitators is available. Any encouragement to verbal output from Vladan is in response to whatever course the group discussion is taking. There are no test questions or situations where Vladan is expected to attempt to convey information already known by others in the group. Some weeks, with his strong auditory comprehension abilities, Vladan may choose to participate primarily by listening and commenting with facial expression (often cynical!), a laugh or a nod.

Josie completes the group for this week’s session. It is not easy for Josie to remain orientated to time and place. The group provides an opportunity for her to receive gentle orientation as we will generally begin by checking the date on the newspapers, again avoiding any direct testing. The daily news then provides ready-made, genuine material for orientation to the times we are living in as the group as a whole attempts to piece together the facts on any given news story before moving on to opportunities for discussion and debate.

‘It’s lively and thorough and makes me feel as though I am part of something.’

Although definitely a place for rehabilitation, our ward does feel very much like a medical ward with people spending large amounts of time at their bed-space on a bay when they are not engaged in therapy sessions or activities. Group members have frequently reported that they enjoy the opportunity to socialise with other people they may otherwise not meet; people from so many different backgrounds and ways of life:

‘Works as a social mechanism – that’s important for people with communication problems. It helped me to work on volume and voice but it was more about confidence.’

Group members consistently express how they enjoy the group sessions and will talk about the news group during their other therapy sessions that day. The group membership can change from week to week according to the admission and discharge patterns on the ward. However, the format of the group is such that as long as we have news to discuss, there will be people on our ward who can benefit from and simultaneously contribute to what the news group has to offer.

 Nic Martin

Please note all names have been changed to protect identities.

 

Reflections on what supports change and personal growth (2/2)

march14Continuing with our two-part blog post on the different strategies people employ to support change, this month’s entry reflects the voice of some of our clients who have generously shared their ideas below:

Dom: “When I am planning anything I am always trying to save myself energy and to plan anything I need to be energetic for. The first person I always go to is Marc. He is my best starting point. Then I go to Gary and then my parents. Marc is impartial, independent, and my friend. He wants to help out – he is my housemate and nearest carer. Gary (my paid carer), by contrast, is efficient and organised! All the things Marc isn’t. Asking Gary is like asking my Dad for something, but without the judgmental nature of my Dad! Plus I pay Gary and so I can expect the job to be complete and not forget stuff. My parents are like my safety net – the last line of defense.”

Here Dom identifies the importance of the initial planning process when contemplating change, as well as considering the personal demands the change involves – including the emotional and physical energy engaging in something new can take. He highlights the value of knowing who he can turn to for what when looking for support as different people bring a unique set of qualities and skills and are, therefore, more naturally suited to helping in some situations more than others. Finally, Dom signals that family are not always the first port of call and that being willing to pay for help can usefully bring consistency and reliability.

Tony: “With something I want to do that I am motivated about I rely on myself mainly. But with things I know I should do like going to the gym I need others to help motivate me. To get to the gym, Jane (my wife) keeps on at me and gives me a push! Knowing that it’s going to do me some good and make me feel better when I have done it also helps to get me there!”

Tony emphasises the importance of personal meaning and engagement when trying out something new. He also reflects on the significance of recruiting support from others for desirable but less intrinsically motivating activities. Finally, drawing on past experience to identify a sense of future achievement is highlighted as a helpful means of self-motivation.

Cara: “It’s useful for me to set goals for myself, both short- and long-term when trying to make a change. Having something tangible to work towards keeps me focused and moving forward. Encouragement from other people – family, friends, or people inside therapy – gives me the strength to push myself and try new things. I’m very inspired by other people who stammer and their stories. When I see someone living their life in a way that I thought was impossible, it motivates me to change.”

Here Cara foregrounds the value of structure and a clear idea of what she is working towards from the outset, which she achieves by breaking bigger aspirations down into smaller, more manageable steps. She identifies recruiting the support and encouragement of others as a valuable means of promoting a more experimental attitude to change and fostering greater risk-taking. Cara also cites the importance of meeting others with similar experiences for inspiration and the re-definition of what is possible.

Walter: “My current approach to ‘new growth’ is to be tough with myself in taking on new challenges in which my stammer is likely be “an issue’ – especially at work (e.g. chairing meetings, talking in senior meetings) – having decided that I am happy to present myself as someone with a speech problem. It would otherwise be all to easy to spend the rest of my life internally using my speech as an excuse for not doing things, while externally trying to present myself as fluent – that if anything would cramp new growth. The other important new developmental thing I have taken on is to be proud to talk about my stammer and how I handle it – it is, after all, an extremely tough course on which to find oneself, much like SAS selection in psychological terms, and, as a person who stammers, I am proud of how I am surviving it and keen to project my pride in that survival.”

Walter signposts the importance of courage and being willing to challenge himself to take risks and step outside of his comfort zone. He highlights the value of working hierarchically as a means of doing this. Walter also advocates being more honest and genuine with people rather than attempting to hide any communication difficulties from them. Being aware of the short- and long-term costs of not making the change is also cited as self-motivating. Finally, Walter highlights the value of developing a kinder and more compassionate understanding of the day-to-day challenges of living with a communication disability, reframing openness and a willingness to share his personal experience of stammering as an act of pride and personal achievement.

I thank everyone who has contributed to this two-part blog post for their time, self-scrutiny and insight, and hope that their diverse examples inspire you to consider the ways in which you support your own change process – and to even contemplate trying out something new.

Sam

Collaboration

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success” Henry Ford

2014 marks intandem‘s 10-year anniversary. Throughout this time, collaboration has been at the heart of all our work – both with each other and with others. 2013 was a year of experiments and we worked hard to establish even more connections and links within and outside our professional groups, using a range of approaches. As a result our networks and those we have reached and influenced have increased considerably. Here are some highlights from 2013 and some aspirations for 2014…

Twitter: @_intandem
One of our new ventures in 2013 was setting up a twitter account. We have written over 100 tweets and now have over 70 followers – including clients, therapists, counsellors, researchers, organisations, charities, students, and projects. We are using twitter to let people know what we are up to as well as signposting other events and ideas. Twitter offers a different way of interacting with individuals and groups and one that we hope we are getting better at with practice. We are starting to build a community of collaborators, which we consider a positive way forward.

Blog: www.intandem.co.uk/blog
2013 also saw the start of our monthly blog. Together with a range of guest bloggers, we have been able to use this as a regular platform to share ideas, reflections and insights as well as to signpost projects. Topics have included: different group experiences, vulnerability, acceptance, community & celebration, supervision and last, but not least, the launch of Stammering Therapy from the Inside: New Perspectives on Working with Young People and Adults. We have had a very positive response to each blog post and look forward to welcoming a range of new collaborators throughout 2014. Watch this space!

Culture Club
Another new intandem project for 2013 involved setting up a group opportunity for people with experience of stroke, tumour, head injury or brain surgery who are interested in music, film, theatre, comedy and art (Read here for more information). This open group of men and women meet every two months in the comfort of a local hotel café. Feedback to date has been resoundingly positive with a shared enjoyment of events, new ideas, humour and support. We plan to continue with this group throughout 2014 – check out the dates on our website here.

Relationship Group
Working with young people with experience of brain injury, who want to develop new friendships and relationships, has brought intandem to experimenting with a new group. We are looking forward to collaborating with Flame Introductions, a personal introduction agency who specialise in supporting people with mild disabilities and who you may have seen on the TV programme The Undateables. Our first joint meeting will be in March. Do get in touch if you are interested, as we are keen to open this group up to others.

Stammering Open Space
This open group has gone from strength to strength over the course of 2013 and now has a well-established core membership. (Read here for more information). Again feedback has been highly positive with a shared appreciation of the support and challenge, lively debate and exchange of ideas that the group offers. 2014 dates can be found here.

Courses
In our continued attempt to raise the profile of supervision within the profession we ran regular RCSLT registered Supervision 1 & 2 courses in England and Wales throughout the year. 2013 also saw us collaborating with UCL to offer a bespoke supervision course for new graduates. We recognise the unique needs of those entering the profession in the current climate. Through the course, we aimed to equip the students with the knowledge and skills to reach out for good support and supervision throughout their careers. Our shared commitment to offering support and training to therapists, coaches and other healthcare professionals interested in developing their counselling skills, resulted in our running a number of training days across the year, both independently and in collaboration with the Personal Construct Psychology Association and City Lit. intandem was also involved in organising a day of talks at City Lit to mark the publication of ‘Stammering Therapy from the Inside’, as well as co-ordinating a local book launch. Our 2014 programme of courses can be found here. Do check out what is new and let us know if you are interested in taking part.

We have enjoyed a year of experimentation and collaboration. Thanks to everyone we have worked with and met along the way! Here’s to 2014 – as we reach out to new possibilities ahead.

Cathy & Sam
January 2014

Accepting my stammer

The last Stammering Open Space in May saw a great exchange of ideas and experiences among the people in the group. Of the many interesting discussions that came up during the session, one in particular resonated with me: the idea that acceptance can be a useful way of dealing with your stammer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was quick to reject the idea of acceptance when I first began speech therapy. The word felt too passive for me. It implied resignation, while I was determined to fight. As far as I was concerned, throwing punches at my stammer was the best way to get rid of it.

Fortunately, my attitude has changed enormously since then. After many months of mulling over the idea of acceptance, I can now see that it is actually a very active process. It does advocate giving up, but not in the way I initially thought. Acceptance is about moving forward by giving up the struggle against a problem. This may sound like passive resignation, but choosing not to fight requires a lot of effort.

As an amateur violinist, I like to think of ‘giving up the struggle’ in the context of violin-playing. When I was just starting out on the violin, my teacher told me a story of a fellow string player – a cellist – who held his cello bow so loosely that it slipped from his fingers during a concert and flew into the audience. ‘Now that’s how you should hold your bow’, she told me.

intandem blog july 2013

 

 

 

 

I’ve never forgotten this anecdote. It was a turning point for me as a musician. A natural instinct for novice string players is to grab on to the bow as tightly as possible to control its movement. It was a revelation to learn that putting in less physical effort – though completely counterintuitive – actually produces a better sound.

Learning to work with the instrument and not against it was a difficult process and took a lot of practice. But it completely transformed the way I played. Even more surprising was how it freed up my mind (and muscles) to focus on other aspects of my playing.

I am now working towards giving up the struggle against my stammer, and hope that this process will similarly transform the way I feel about myself and the way I speak. It will undoubtedly take some practice, but I know it will be worth the effort. I believe now that accepting – and not fighting – my stammer is the key to coming to terms with it.

I guess you could say that I’ve accepted acceptance.

Cara Steger

The Stammering Open Space

I’d been to see Sam a few times before she introduced the idea of a group session. At first I was sceptical, after all I’d been trying to hide my stammer from everyone: family, friends, colleagues etc. so why would I want to be in a situation with people I didn’t know and be open about having a speech problem? Well that turned out to be exactly the point: the opportunity to be in a safe & non-judging environment, where I didn’t have to try to hide it!

The moment I arrived I was happy that I’d had the courage to attend – the session completely exceeded expectations and was actually good fun and a lot of laughs. The other guys were a lot like me, which was the biggest surprise of all. Everyone was open, honest and going through the same things, which made me realise that I wasn’t actually alone in any of this – and that’s really encouraging. We all have varying degrees of stammering and each of us different aspects we struggle with. Listening to everyone’s experiences and how they deal with their speech has definitely helped me overcome some of my obstacles and has made the whole process of speaking that much easier. Being able to share, push the boundaries and experience something new in a group environment is incredibly beneficial and I’d encourage everyone to try it at least once. And of course, did I mention the superb tea, coffee and biscuits that are on offer as well…?

See you at the next Open Space, cheers.

Joe

The inaugural culture club

………… (written with a dodgy memory)

march13On Tuesday, 5th of March, 4 of your fellow brain injury survivors assembled at the Park Hotel in Teddington for the first meeting of a ‘culture club’. The surroundings were ideal; a roomy venue with no significant background noise. To boot the Park Hotel is easily accessible and serves great coffee. We met under the ever-watchful eye of our friendly ‘talkie’, Sam Simpson. Sam started the ball rolling with that well-worn SLT phrase, “what do you want to get out of this?”. There were mutterings about a need for a greater understanding of cubism, but the general consensus was that ABI survivors would enjoy the opportunity to get out of the house and to indulge in social interaction.

We eventually concurred that we were looking for an opening to indulge in a “bit of banter” with kindred folk. Indeed the subsequent couple of hours would appear to have suggested that this is an ideal goal for future meetings. For those hours we “bantered” and it’s safe to report that when Sam called “time” on the meeting everyone felt the hours had flown by. As we were meeting under a “culture club” banner we discussed all forms of entertainment. The conversation was not exactly highbrow and arts critics everywhere do not need to worry that their jobs are about to be taken, but it was more than stimulating; and the goal of “banter” easily attained.

The discussion was most entertaining when we were talking about cinema and interaction was most pronounced when we talked about the films we’d seen and art exhibitions we’d visited. Other forms of entertainment, such as the theatre and comedy clubs were also talked about, but in these cases it was usually a case of an interested party championing that particular milieu. As is always the case it was fun hearing about other people’s experiences. We touched briefly on the idea of group outings, but felt it would be difficult to identify events that would satisfy everyone. We concluded people should pursue their own taste and then use the “culture club” to educate others.

As will always happen when brain injury survivors congregate, personal problems came to the fore; but we discussed these, and agreed that the time allocated to such issues should be negotiated on a sessional basis.

And yes, we felt we should be able to come up with a better name than “culture club”, but we couldn’t. Suggestions on a postcard, please to…………. Or come along to the next meeting on 7th May 2013 and help choose.

Sam Hampson