Owls prove to be a real tonic to people with brain injury in Swindon

This Is Wiltshire: Debbi Pullen with one of the owls Debbi Pullen with one of the owls

BIRDS of prey were introduced to brain injury sufferers in Swindon in an attempt to stimulate their memory and allow them to regain skills they lost as a result of their condition.

Wings of Freedom visited the Headway Swindon and District centre in Upper Stratton on Tuesday and invited users to handle barn owl Rocky and Twinkle, a baby Tawny owl.

The activity was one of many workshops offered by the charity to help people who sustained head trauma gain new experiences, retain facts, exercise their memories and find enjoyment in life.

Centre manager Jane Weston said: “Hopefully it is memorable for them. It’s an additional and very different stimulus for them.

“A lot of people with brain injury had to give up very stimulating jobs and lives and their lives have changed dramatically. Their speech has been affected and they may have been affected physically.

“But it doesn’t mean their intelligence has gone and it’s important to have different stimulating activities and something for them to look forward to.

“Quite a lot of clients have memory problems so members of staff wrote down key facts about the birds and in the afternoon we have a quiz.”

Handling owls is only one of many activities including crafts and cooking offered at the centre. In future the team hopes to introduce more card making workshops as well as days out.

The centre uses cognitive rehabilitation therapy to allow people who suffered head trauma or injury to relearn skills, such as their ability to speak, read or write and use their short-term memory.

Around 70 people attend speech sessions, reading groups and cooking workshops, among other activities, and regain essential skills thanks to specialist computer software and exercises.

Ken Williams, of Penhill, was the first user to meet barn owl Rocky. The 60-year-old is one of just two people with cerebral lupus on the brain in the UK.

“It affected my ability to do maths, the right side of my body is useless and it affected my memory – I couldn’t remember my girlfriend,” said Ken.

“These activities gear you towards getting the brain back. It is more fun. Headway have helped me tremendously. It’s a crutch for me to use.”

Debi Pullen, 53, of Rodbourne, who sustained a brain injury following a motorbike accident five years ago, added: “ I’ve been coming here for three years and it has helped me an awful lot.

“You learn something new every time you come. The owl is lovely and it’s something else to help. It stimulates your brain.”

To find out more about the chairty or make a donation call 01793 617109, email info@headwayswindon.org.uk or visit www.headwayswindon.org.uk

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