Valentina Bellomo / Stuff
Stroke Club members join in the actions of the new singing group at the Playhouse Theater on Wednesday, left to right, stroke survivors Keith Graham, Annette Ryan and her stroke-free husband John Ryan , and Jim Spillane.
Members of the South Canterbury Stroke Club find their voices – through song.
The club, in partnership with Giant Leaps Speech Company, hosted their second bi-monthly singing class on Wednesday, where music and vocal specialist Alice Sollis, in consultation with speech therapist Anna Keno, led the group at Timaru’s Playhouse Theater. .
Sollis chooses the music based on Keno recommendations.
“The speech-language pathologist incorporates communication goals into the selected material,” Keno said.
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“For someone with aphasia, there will be repetitive music, music that could stimulate long-term memory, volume, intonation, and prosody patterns. We include warm-ups, breathing exercises and vocal exercises. We select songs for fun and inclusion. ”
On Wednesday, the group sang and moved to old favorites including, You are my sun and Row Row Row Your Boat.
Strokes are caused by a blockage preventing blood flow to the brain or when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds in the brain.
More than 11,000 people suffer stroke each year in New Zealand, according to a 2020 report from the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research.
The Department of Health estimates that approximately 50,000 people are living with the consequences of stroke.
Keno said about a third of them would end up with language disorder aphasia, which can affect their ability to speak, read, write and understand others.
According to the Stroke Foundation-NZ, the result can also damage brain cells and affect a person’s ability to walk and eat.
People with language impairments were at risk of depression and isolation as they struggled to communicate with family and friends, Keno said.
“We know that stroke rehabilitation requires a multimodal approach. Speech therapy and music therapy have been shown to improve language skills, physical skills, self-confidence and cognitive recovery in stroke survivors. ”
Stroke Club president Heather Barber said singing and music were beneficial for stroke survivors.
“It’s magical. They may have a hard time speaking, but with an old favorite Abba or Beatles song, they know all the lyrics and are perfect,” Barber said.
She said the brain can build new pathways in other areas when they are activated.
“Never say never regarding stroke,” Barber said.
She hoped the class would grow.
Keith Graham had a stroke seven years ago and thinks the class is “good”. He said it helped him to be around other people who understood what it was like to have had a stroke.
His wife Irene took him to class and she thought it was “awesome” to see the people there being able to express themselves.
John Ryan, who accompanied his wife Annette, said she couldn’t speak at all, but when it came to singing, she managed to string together eight or ten words.
“I hope that over time that helps him string together more words.”
Jim Spillane had a stroke 18 months ago and, having difficulty speaking, said the class gave him the opportunity to use his voice.
Some of the learners have never sung before, while others have always enjoyed it.
Sonya Cattermole can’t say her last name since she had a stroke 20 years ago.
“His [the word] there but will not come out. It’s frustrating.”
But she can sing – something she has always enjoyed.
“It was my first time [at the singing group], I liked it.”
Garth Kearns, a music fan but not a singer, said he enjoys singing now because of the band.
Kearns said it was great to be in the swim club as they swam together as well as now practicing and singing together.
Giant Leaps Speech Company also hosts a talk and language group for stroke survivors every Wednesday fortnight at the Hearing Association in Memorial Ave, Timaru.