Beyond Stroke: Living Independently with One Arm (Practical Tips for Enhancing your Living Skills), 2016


One component of the formal education of physiotherapists includes teaching clients with movement dysfunction and their caregivers various strategies to safely perform daily activities.  Yet some of the most valuable information we learn as clinicians comes directly from the individuals we are teaching: our clients.  I welcomed the opportunity to review Kate Ryan’s book for just this reason.  Part of what makes Kate’s book so valuable is that it is grounded in her practical experience of “living independently with one arm”.  Kate is a childhood stroke survivor and has lived for over 28 years with a non-functional left upper extremity.  She is a mother of three young children, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Habilitation from Australia Catholic University, and works as a social inclusion advocate for disadvantaged individuals and groups. 

Kate’s introductory message and author’s note embeds a personal account of the impact of her stroke experience into an overall message of hope and encouragement for those living with disability.  The book is divided into seven sections.  Personal Care covers tasks such as managing shoelaces, buttons and zippers, cutting nails, hairstyling and showering. 

Kitchen and Lifting Large Objects includes safe cutting tips for items of different shapes and sizes, filling pots, managing hot pans, a unique use for scissors and managing large objects of different shapes.  Opening Food Containers provides tips to manage a variety of jars, cans, bottles and packets.  Around the House covers writing on different surfaces, steadying books, using a keyboard, managing drawstrings, carrying bags and hanging laundry.  Especially useful, the Children and Babies section includes diaper changing, swaddling, managing baby carriers and car seats, and lifting newborns vs toddlers.  The Recreation section could be further developed as it includes information on adult tricycles only. 

The book is formatted with consideration for a user with limited upper extremity function.  It is spiral-bound and lies flat, making it easier to use during an activity.  Each task includes a narrative and visual description.  Photographs clearly depict each task and match the narrative description provided.  Directions are concise, specific and well laid-out through appropriate use of bullet points and white space on each page.  Kate interjects occasional personal stories with some of the activities, which helps the reader to feel as if they are being advised by a “friend who knows”.   The author even includes contact information, demonstrating openness to questions and feedback and thus, the possibility of future editions.

Beyond Stroke:  Living Independently with One Arm” is a useful handbook of tips to manage a variety of everyday activities with one upper extremity.  It would be a valuable resource for health care providers to use during teaching moments with clients, their loved ones and caregivers.  As well, the book includes a number of activities that might otherwise be overlooked by a health care provider, and is therefore a good resource to increase personal knowledge of one-handed strategies.   

Book authored by: Kate Ryan (Ryan Publishing, Melbourne, Australia)

Reviewed by:

Tracey Dyks PT, BScPT, MAEd

Physiotherapist, Champlain Regional Stroke Network, Ottawa ON

To order: https://www.ryanpub.com.au/beyondstroke.htm