Therapists in North Devon are helping patients in their rehabilitation with Apple’s hand held computer.

STROKE patients in North Devon are discovering the benefits of Apple iPads to help them recover from the debilitating effects of their illness.

The handheld computer is proving extremely useful in helping people communicate and regain functions such as hand and eye coordination.

Two iPads have been bought through charitable funds for Northern Devon Healthcare Trust's stroke rehabilitation service, currently based on Elizabeth Ward in Bideford.

'Apps' on the device enable people to do anything from generating speech - a bit like Stephen Hawking - to playing noughts and crosses, which helps improve attention-span and concentration.

Staff now hope to acquire more, with the backing of ward manager Sharon Middleton, who has seen the real benefits for patients.

"It's the technology I've wanted since I started training years ago; a dream come true," said speech and language Therapist Bev Snowden.

"They're so easy to use and you can even write on them - so they just make sense, even to people who've never used a computer before.

"When you have a stroke, the world is so confusing, but the iPad makes things simple again."

Many patients have also been discharged home with the intention of getting their own iPad and the apps that have been recommended by staff, to continue their rehabilitation.

The device also has potential for helping people with neurological conditions, such as motor neurone disease, where communication becomes more and more difficult.

Barnstaple artist Pete Dutt, 62, started using an iPad while undergoing rehabilitation at Bideford, following a severe stroke in July.

Now back home and with his own iPad, Pete is using the device daily to regain vital skills and concentration, as well as to stave off the boredom that can make recovery harder.

Asked if the iPad has made a big difference, he will give an enthusiastic 'thumbs up'. Shirley adds: "He's come a long way, and I think the iPad has really helped."

She has set up a blog to reach out to other people in a similar position, logging the daily ups and downs of recovery from stroke.

Her entry for October 2 reads: "Bideford provided intense therapy and I cannot praise them enough for all the help and care they gave him. We had goal-setting meetings every two weeks and I attended some physio sessions with him. He also used an iPad a lot, which was a great help. The speech therapist listed some apps which helped enormously and, as light relief, he played Angry Birds a lot. One app, Oral Motor, gives lots of mouth exercises and is of great benefit; we still go through them now."

Read Shirley's blog at www.onetinystepatatimepete.blogspot.co.uk