Wakefield Aphasia charity expansion plans to end postcode lottery for support

A Wakefield-based charity that specialises in supporting people living with the language and communication disorder, aphasia, has its sights set on expansion to end the postcode lottery for support.

By Leanne Clarke
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 9th June 2022, 11:54 am

This Aphasia Awareness Month, Speak With IT, is highlighting the challenges that many people with aphasia face when it comes to getting help and support with their recovery.

There are over 350,000 people in the UK with aphasia, yet it is believed that almost 85% of the public have never heard of the complex condition.

Caused by stroke, brain injury or dementia, it can have a devastating impact on a person’s life.

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There are over 350,000 people in the UK with aphasia, yet it is believed that almost 85% of the public have never heard of the complex condition.

Despite the condition recently hitting the headlines when Bruce Willis announced he was stepping back from acting due to aphasia, there is little understanding of the illness, and the support available varies greatly depending on location.

James Major, CEO of Speak With IT, said: “Aphasia is a very complex communication and language disorder that requires ongoing specialist support.

"The leading cause of aphasia is stroke, with a third of the 100,000 stroke survivors acquiring the condition. When NHS provision ends, some people can be left completely unsupported, with limited or no access to vital assistance.

“We want to end this postcode lottery by expanding our services across the whole of Yorkshire and beyond, to give every person living with aphasia the opportunity to access vital language and communication services.”

Currently funded by The National Lottery, Speak With IT, helps those living with aphasia to work on key communication goals with the support of speech and language therapists. The charity matches patients with a trained volunteer who works with them on a one-to-one basis, using a variety of computer therapy programs, and supported conversation techniques.

Deborah Fahey, 50, from Leeds is just one person living with aphasia that has benefitted from Speak With IT’s support.

After suffering a stroke in 2016, Deborah had completely lost her speech, after developing aphasia. After almost seven months recovering in hospital, her speech had not massively improved. A year post-stroke, she started working on her communication goals with a Speak With IT volunteer.

Deborah said: “After my stroke, I developed aphasia and, although my brain was working and I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t get the words out. I had to start again completely, with reading and talking.

"I was referred by the NHS to Speak With IT and they assessed me and matched me with a volunteer, who understood my frustrations and worked with me on my communication goals.

“With their support, and the apps and programmes that they helped me to navigate, I was able to work on my speech and improve my conversation skills.

"It took around three-years to get to the level I am at now, but through the support Speak With IT continue to provide, and my own motivation, I am continuously improving. It is a long road to recovery, but it is possible with the right support.”

The charity works mainly across West, South and parts of North Yorkshire, offering one-to-one home visits and online sessions. Speak With IT also run a number of Aphasia Cafes in Wakefield, Leeds and Barnsley, which give people the opportunity to meet up and share experiences, supported by a speech and language therapist.

Speak With IT is hosting a number of fundraising activities through Aphasia Awareness Month, to raise funds to support their expansion. These include:

- Speak With IT Big step challenge – calling for people to walk 360,000 steps throughout month of June for aphasia awareness month. A step a day for a person with aphasia in the UK.

- Speak With IT choir will be at the Horbury Street Fayre on Saturday, June 18 performing songs with the Community Choir in Wakefield

- Barnsley Aphasia Cafe awareness raising event - Friday, June 10 between 10.30am and 12pm, people from the Barnsley Aphasia Cafe will be at the Barnsley Metrodome running fundraising activities.

- Speak With IT Charity Bowl - Sunday, July 3 there is a charity bowling competition at Broad Oak Bowling Club in Linthwaite, Huddersfield to raise funds for Speak With IT.