Different Strokes UK, Supporting Younger Survivors



Different Strokes was launched for the purposes of active self-help and mutual support.  Our network of support and exercise groups assists younger stroke survivors to:

  • Optimise their recovery
  • Regain as much independence as possible
  • Play a full role in their communities

Our support groups are run by stroke survivor volunteers who are supported by our Group Development Manager. The weekly sessions can help to provide a sense of routine and structure. As well as improving fitness and allowing an opportunity to work on recovery, members forge friendships and share coping strategies for moving forwards in life after stroke.  

The benefits of exercise to stroke survivors have been widely documented.  It has been shown to lift mood, reduce stress and increase self-confidence, carrying on where physiotherapy has left off.

Click here to find your nearest group.

If there isn’t a group in your area why not set one up yourself?  To find out what’s involved email lauren.mcmillan@differentstrokes.co.uk, or ring 01908 317618 or 0345 130 7172.  The job of a Volunteer Group Co-ordinator can be very rewarding, and we’ll give you all the information and support you need to run a successful support and exercise group.

At the 20th Anniversary conference I and may others had the honor of wearing Megan's Gold Medal.
01.10.16. 20th Anniversary conference
Different Strokes Patron Megan Giglia
Megan Giglia: From life-changing stroke to para-cycling track worlds debut
3. Nov, 2015
Megan Giglia has had an incredible two-and-a-bit years. In January 2013, the then 27-year-old from Stratford-upon-Avon was working as a multi-sport coach, coaching aspiring rugby players and gymnasts.
Then a stroke changed everything, leaving Megan with right side paralysis and an uncertain future. Now, just over two years on, Giglia is about compete in her first UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, which take place from 26-29 March in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.
Suffering a stroke at any age is a life-changing moment but for Megan it was a turning point that she compelled herself to face in a positive light.
“If I was to look at it any other way I don't think I would be where I am now,” said Giglia, poised to compete for her country in the C3 para-cycling class.
“It's taking something that's a negative and turning it into a positive. It's something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life so I might as well make the most of it.”
The road to recovery hasn’t been easy for Megan but from early on in her rehabilitation, cycling has played a major role.
“When my partner was off at work and the kids would be at school I would do things to keep myself active and try and mobilise my right side,” she said.
“One of the things I did was I got an old mountain bike and was trying to ride. I fell off numerous times and got side-tracked and ended up in a hedge or ended up on the floor.”
The old mountain bike was to be the start of something. Megan recalled taking an incredible 120-mile ride from her home in Warwickshire to a friend in Cambridgeshire, where she would get some advice that would give her what she needed to move forward.
“It ended up taking me about 11 hours,” said Megan. “I cycled 120 miles from Warwickshire. I lost my way a couple of times but got there by about one in the morning in the end.
“But I got there.
“I'd lost my right side and I couldn't cope at all. I was really struggling and her mum came over and her mum is lovely person. She was suffering with terminal cancer so she was a real inspiration for me because she was still carrying on no matter what, knowing that she didn't have long to live.
“She gave me this goal - she said - look, why don't you look at all the different sports out there and get yourself to the best that you can be. Because I was sick and tired of being held back and not being able to do the things I could before.”
Megan made some enquiries and by October 2013, just nine months after her stroke, she went to a para-cycling selection camp for women. At this point Megan still needed to use crutches and a wheelchair at times. But the die was cast and Megan embarked upon a six-month camp.
“Each month I went for a few days and did a few activities to show them my abilities and went away and did bits and bobs that they set me, tasks, and came back stronger every time,” she said.
“And then it just went from there.”
In early 2014, just a year on from her stroke, Megan was accepted on to the British Cycling Paralympic Development Programme but in October 2014, as she was about to make the step up to academy life, disaster struck, a freak training ride crash leaving her with a broken back.
“I was in a club ride in the Peak District and we were going down a descent and there was a blind bend and it narrowed off. The road conditions weren't great, it was a bit wet.
“There was a rider in front of me who suddenly braked and I was unaware of it. I was carrying too much speed. Although I'd left a nice gap it wasn't enough.
“So I decided to take myself off towards the hedge but it meant that the wheel clipped an earth mound at it took me up into the air and I actually somersaulted. I ended up being airlifted to hospital.”
Thankfully Megan’s injuries proved not to be as serious as first feared and she recovered sufficiently to take part in her first major international event, the Newport Para-cycling International at the end of January, where she claimed silver in the C3 pursuit and bronze in the 500-metre time trial.
“That was a real experience for me,” she said.

“Obviously I would have been happier with gold and even with gold I would have been nit-picking at myself because I'm a terrible nit-picker.”
Following Newport, Giglia was thrust into the full-time world of Academy life, making the move north to the squad’s home in Manchester and getting used to a totally new regime.
“My life consists of cycling and sleeping and eating,” she said.

“And that's pretty much it, oh and of course drinking. A lot of fluid.
“I sleep for England. Whenever I'm not cycling I'm sleeping. I suffer from quite a lot of neurological fatigue so at the moment the coaches are working a lot with me just to try and get that balanced and under control.
“Once that's under control hopefully my physical ability will improve even more.”
Perhaps understandably given the turbulent past few years, Giglia is approaching her first worlds with a healthy dose of perspective.
“I'm just taking it as training really,” she admitted. “My ultimate goal is Rio so I'm just taking it day by day. Every day is a training day and a new experience.”
And of Rio she is similarly level-headed.
“It's definitely something that's in the pipeline and it's achievable but I have to commit 100 percent and prove myself and I've got a lot of work to do,” she said.
“But I don't see why I can't achieve that at all. I've got the ability there, I've got the potential and I've got the determination and I want it.”
Megan Giglia will be the first Great Britain athlete to compete at the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships, in the C3 500-metre time trial, which take places on Thursday 26 March, her 30th birthday.
Live reporting, results, images and reaction will appear on the British Cycling website.
This is the team that walked the London 10 bridge Marathon in aid of 'Different Strokes'
I’m Oliver Lilburn (stroke at 18) on the right, next to Danny Chase (stroke in his 30s). For the last 10 months I've been on a uni placement at Different Strokes. Here are a few things I'll take away with me: Strokes happen at all ages and everybody's stroke is different. People recover at different speeds and in different ways. Everybody’s recovery is individual and people need support to make the best recovery possible to them. It's important to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. During my time here I've had many different experiences and met many different people. This wouldn't have happened if it hadn’t have been for my stroke. Helping others has helped me too in the process. I am now more patient too. I've learnt that everyone has a story and it is important to listen. There is always something to learn from everyone. Different Strokes has many different volunteering opportunities - if you'd like to get involved, please call 01908 317618 or email info@differentstrokes.co.uk.
Different Strokes for different Folks event 06.05.15
Eddie Pleban hosted an event at Norwich Forum to raise the profile of 'Different Strokes' and Stroke amongst younger people.
Several support voluntary agencies were able to exhibited their programmes.

Empowering younger stroke survivors, their families and friends to reclaim their lives and ambitions through active support


What does it Do? :-  Different Strokes is a registered charity providing a unique, free service to younger stroke survivors throughout the United Kingdom. Our services and the number of stroke survivors benefiting from them have grown dramatically since we were formed in 1996. We are run by stroke survivors for stroke survivors, for active self-help and mutual support.

The Need

Stroke is the single largest cause of disability in the United Kingdom. 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year - 25% of these are under retirement age.


Recovery and rehabilitation from stroke present particular challenges for the younger survivor. One day fit and well, the next moment disabled. The stroke survivor must come to terms with physical and emotional changes as well as significant lifestyle adjustments - mobility, job, income, dependence, relationships - everything changes.

With 75% of strokes affecting those aged over 65, current provision inevitably focuses attention on the older stroke survivor. The specific and complex needs of the younger and the more active stroke survivor have not received the full attention that they deserve.

Before Different Strokes, there was no single organisation able to provide the comprehensive support service that younger survivors need.

The Role of Different Strokes - Our Mission

Different Strokes helps stroke survivors of working age to optimise their recovery, take control of their own lives and regain as much independence as possible by offering 'rehabilitative services', information and advice.

Different Strokes currently does this by:

organising a national network of fortnightly exercise ie Swimming.,

providing practical, easy to use information for the recovering stroke survivor,

offering a 'Stroke Line' telephone service so that younger stroke survivors can speak to other younger stroke survivors,

keeping stroke survivors informed, through newsletters, an interactive website and other means, of developments relevant to them.

Different Strokes is run by younger stroke survivors for younger stroke survivors.

Different Strokes provides an important voice for younger stroke survivors to Government, service providers and funders, fighting for better standards and improved understanding.

Norwich Area Different Strokes Group meets fortnightly at the Norman Center we also meet socially to support and encourage each other and to have a bit of fun.
The group is open to survivors and their carers/ loved ones and for those who have been affected by a friend or family member who has suffered a stroke. We aim to support stroke survivors through their recovery, with the hope that we can help and support them to come to terms with physical and emotional changes as well as significant lifestyle adjustments, We arrange exercise sessions and make sure that survivors and carers can attend by assisting with travel and other expenses when necessary.

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