Health and well-being services, Speech and Language Therapy, Stammering, Student Support

A world that understands stammering

“Stammering is not simply a speech difficulty but a serious communication problem. People who stammer often find themselves isolated and humiliated within a society that takes fluent speech for granted” (British Stammering Association)

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Hi there. My name is Julie and I am a first year Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) student at BCU. I became aware of the communication difficulties caused by stammering when at secondary school. My wonderful music teacher Mr Huke struggled to speak fluently, which he solved by singing instructions to his pupils instead. I often wondered why he had chosen a profession that was, and still is, heavily reliant on verbal communication. Well, I didn’t have the courage to ask him then but I have been able to ask a current teacher who stammers.

I started following a secondary school teacher in Birmingham,  @stammer_teacher on Twitter when one of my lecturers re-tweeted a tweet by him and thought he would be perfect for this piece, so I sent him a few of my questions and here is what he answered…

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(This is Stammer Teacher alongside two of his pupils, Sulaimaan and Ehsun, who both have been stammering since a very young age. One of them who is taught by Stammer Teacher for Maths is very confident in the lesson. He’s always taking part in class discussion and he doesn’t let his stammer stop him!)

When did you first become aware of your stammer?

During the age of 6 to 7 I used to get teased a lot at school. Also my parents used to tell me off for stammering.

How did your stammer affect you socially as a child?

To this day I refuse to start a conversation with people as I fear the part they will ask me for my name. If they start talking to me first, then I am fine. So it affects me meeting new friends.

What support did you and your parents/family receive?

Zero support from school and as my family were unaware of what stammering was, none from them either. I only received support when I self-referred myself for therapy at the age of 18.

How and why did you chose teaching as a profession?

Teaching is something I have wanted to do since the age of 15. My desire is to make a difference and to show pupils they can be whatever they want to be.

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So, as a fluent speaker, how can you ensure that those with dysfluency live in a world that understands stammering?

• Be patient
• Listen to understand, not to respond
• Don’t anticipate/guess out loud what you think they are trying to say

It is estimated that 1% of the adult population in Britain stammers and that 80% of these adults are men. These figures correlate with worldwide statistics in published research studies. Stammering occurs across all social groups and cultures. There is no ‘magical cure’ for stammering. However, speech and language therapy can provide structures for managing and limiting its effects. As SLTs we aim to help people find and use their voice. After all, your voice is as unique as your fingerprint.

By Julie Brooks

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If you experience speech difficulty, or know of someone who does please contact our student support services to find out how we can help and support.

Acknowledgements – 
British Stammering Association
@stammer_teacher (Give him a follow on Twitter!)

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