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Aphasia Friendly Book Club

Jodie Kenvin's experience as a teaching assistant for a child with delayed language development spurred her to study speech and language therapy at Reading. One highlight of her degree was her involvement in the Aphasia Friendly Book Club.

The book club for adults with aphasia is run by the University of Reading's Adult Speech and Language Therapy Clinic. Aphasia is a language impairment that affects the production or comprehension of speech, usually as a result of a stroke.

During the club sessions, the group reads popular novels, which they break into chapters each week.

Jodie, who began taking part in the club as part of her weekly summer placement, found it a hugely positive experience.

"I spent each session with a smile on my face. The service users who attend have such wonderful attitudes and their determination is inspiring."

Getting conversations flowing

During the sessions, the participants are given chapter and character summaries. They are asked questions about the reading to ensure they have understood the text. They are also encouraged to discuss the themes and ideas raised in each chapter.

Jodie describes how the sessions run.

"We guide the discussions but try and sit back to allow the service users to converse with each other and express their opinions. We try and make sure everyone gets the opportunity to make their opinion known – giving them the time and tools required to do so."

"So, our main role in book club is to keep conversation flowing, ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute and eat lots of biscuits!"

"We also think of talking points regarding what we have read. This allows us to relate the stories to personal experiences – such as holidays – and opinions.”

Building relationships

Jodie highlights the benefit taking part in the book club had on her studies. She particularly enjoyed the conversations she had with participants once they have finished discussing a book. She loved getting to know them a bit better.

"One gentleman was fairly quiet when I began supporting book club and could be fairly negative. I sat next to him one week and began discussing books. We discovered we both had a love for Game of Thrones.

"We discussed the characters and plots of the books in detail for the next half an hour. It was great to find something that pulled him out of his shell, and I noticed his participation increased in book club during the following weeks.

"When we are in lectures, it is easy to only focus on theory and the academic side of this career. However, being in book club is a wonderful reminder of how important it is to build a relationship with service users.

"It showed me how important it is to use humour and how sometimes taking the time to have a simple conversation with someone in a way that is appropriate for them can be so helpful."

Making connections

Jodie hopes to become a speech and language therapist for children with additional and complex needs. During one of her placements, she was based in a special needs school and saw a child once a week for therapy.

"During our first session, he refused to come near me. In our second session, he threw all the therapy materials at me. But we both persevered and by the end I saw a massive improvement in his verbal communication.

"During our last session, he grabbed my hand and wouldn't let me leave. It was a wonderful feeling that not only had I given him tools to improve his communication, but I had made a connection with him."

She's also passionate about raising awareness of communication difficulties in the wider community.

"The book club experience showed me how difficult independence can be for those with communication difficulties. I would love to raise awareness so those working in shops and restaurants are prepared to be patient and helpful to those who struggle to communicate.”

Read about the MSci Speech and Language Therapy course


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