A CAFE which offers support and friendship to people of all ages who have language problems after suffering a stroke has been nominated for a Proud of Barnsley award.

The Aphasia Cafe is based at the Metrodome in Barnsley and hosts fortnightly sessions for its members.

The cafe was started in 2014 as a place where people suffering from the communication disability which occurs due to brain damage - sometimes but not always as a result of a stroke - could meet.

Having aphasia means that there can be issues with speech, including talking and understanding, reading and writing.

The idea for the cafe came from a focus group of people affected, and was overseen by speech and language therapist Emilie Verroken.

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Since the first meeting, the group has more than doubled its attendance for the fortnightly cafes and hosts a stall in the Metrodome each year for Aphasia Awareness Month.

The cafe is run by volunteers and overseen by Emilie and her colleague Julie Williams, who is a speech and language therapy assistant. Some of the volunteers who help out at the sessions have also previously had aphasia or know someone who has had it.

“We tend to be more of a conversational group, because that’s what aphasia means it needs to be, but we do try to do something a little different,” said Julie.

“We sometimes have entertainment, art and have played bingo to get everyone together.

“All of June is Aphasia Awareness Month and we always try to run a stall and a tombola to help people find out about what the condition is.

“We felt there was a need for this cafe as there is nothing out there and once people are done with physio and other therapy then that’s it, so this is an extension of the help they received but is more social.”

The group is run from the cafe in the Metrodome so that those who attend can get accustomed to the noise after possibly undergoing speech sessions and therapy in a quieter atmosphere.

Julie added that it helps people who have been isolated due to aphasia.

“It gets people used to others laughing and talking loudly. The Metrodome is a great place to hold the sessions.”

While the cafe is mainly for socialising, many members have benefited and some have even advanced in terms of aphasia; whether that is by understanding other people, by speaking or by writing.

Janet Rushton, who used to volunteer for the group and was from Royston but now lives in the town of Pickering, North Yorkshire, said she enjoyed the years volunteering at the cafe.

“I found out about the cafe through my church and now I’m retired I had a lot of time on my hands,” she said.

“The group helps encourage people to speak even if they find it difficult. Speech has improved for quite a lot of them.

“The group is also friendly. It supports everyone and the members support each other.

“There are some members who haven’t been out in quite a while because they feel embarrassed, but even going to the group is a great achievement.

“Sometimes it is quite difficult to define who has aphasia and who hasn’t.”

But the most important thing, according to Emilie, who organises the group, is that the aphasia cafe is a place to go for friendship and acceptance.

“The cafe is a project from NHS Barnsley speech and language therapy that we offer and people are seen for a block of therapy, but aphasia is an ongoing condition,” said Emilie.

Staying in touch with families and friends relies on communication.

“We realised we needed more support which could be long term. That is how the group came about.

“It’s a simple concept, we come, we drink tea or coffee and have a chat.

“It’s like meeting friends and we have volunteers as some members can’t get their words out. The volunteers are trained to know how to communicate and we engage everyone in conversation.”