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Youth Panel Member, James, raises money for ASC!

On Saturday the 14th of October I set out at the crack of dawn for a 12 hour bike ride, where I would aim to ride 150 miles to raise money for ASC.

I started to notice that I had a stammer from the age of 12, where I realised that I wasn’t able to speak as fluently as some of my school friends. This started to really get me down and would make me really afraid to speak out loud in class. I was eventually referred to the Michael Palin Centre and I attended the October half-term intensive course in 2014. Action for Stammering Children was key in enabling me to take part in this course. Because of this, I always wanted to give something back to the the charity. This was one of the main reasons I joined the ASC Youth Panel in 2015.

I initially came up with the idea to cycle around the Isle of Wight a few months ago when the ASC Youth Panel was given the opportunity to raise some money for International Stammering Awareness Day. I decided on 150 miles because I knew that it would be a distance long enough to challenge me, but not an impossible feat. I then added in a time element to add an extra challenge – I needed to do it in 12 hours in the saddle. I would do this ride around the Isle of Wight, but to reach the distance I would have to bike around the Island twice and then do around a 16 mile loop.

I set out at 7:15 AM and I managed to complete the first loop of the island by 12:30 PM, 68 miles in. I then had some lunch and set out on lap number two. When I was ¾ of the way around I hit my hardest point. I was 120 miles in and my legs were getting a bit tired and the biggest climb of the lap was yet to come. It was only a 350 ft climb but it was steep and it felt never ending. At the top of the climb I was joined by a friend of mine to came to film me for the final stretch, which really helped after the pain of the last climb. The next 20 miles seemed to fly by until the last 10, where the fatigue of the past 140 miles eventually kicked in. Luckily my dad came out on his electric bike and rode behind me for those last tough few miles. I eventually finished at 7:45 PM, after riding 151.1 miles, being in the saddle for 10hrs:15 mins (faster than the time I aimed for), climbing more than the height of Mount Olympus and burning over 10 000 calories. It was certainly a bike ride to remember!

In total I managed to raise over £1000 for ASC. Thank you to everyone who supported me and the amazing work ASC does!


Why Phil’s Stammer inspired him to become an SLT

 

As I grew up with a stammer, becoming a speech therapist was the only thing I really wanted to be.

My stammer was at its most severe during primary school, and I pretty much completely clammed up for a couple of years.  The anxiety around public speaking was just too much for a young kid to handle, and it made my experience of school a lot more miserable than it should have been.  Had the 11-Plus Exam not featured a speaking part, I’d most likely have gone on to grammar school.  But, alas, it was the local comprehensive school for me – my stammer having settled down a bit now, but with it popping in now and again to provide my schoolmates with some choice material to tease me with.

I spent a lot of those years carefully selecting the words I chose to speak, and how I was saying them, to the extent that I developed a bit of an obsession with language. I carried this through the rest of my education and went on to study Linguistics at degree level.  By the time I’d graduated, I realised I wanted to spend the rest of my life working with and studying language.  Speech Therapy was the obvious way to go!  So it was back to Sheffield University for another degree, more language analysis, all the while my stammer popping in and out to remind me what all those essays and exams were for.

Fast-forward a few years and I absolutely love my job!  I work with people who stammer of all ages, and my work has taken me around the world, from Russia to the Middle East, to Malaysia and Singapore.  I’ve met some incredible people, people who’ve opened my eyes to different ways of thinking about language, speech, and fluency.

A lot of my adult clients come to me demanding fluency, expecting that will be the answer to their problems, and I love the challenge of working with them to help them become better communicators.  Sometimes more fluent speech will be a big part of that, but language and communication is so much more than just that.  I don’t pretend to be a better Speech Therapist because of my stammer, but sometimes I just completely connect with a client and know how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.

The stammer still comes and goes, and I’ll sometimes go for a few weeks of it tripping me up every other sentence.  It also depends on who I’m speaking with: I loved talking with my late father about history and politics, and with him it would often be a struggle to get the words out!

My favourite moment of my career happened just the other week, when one of my clients in Saudi Arabia flew over to see me at my clinic.  We’d developed an excellent bond but to work with each other in person was just something else.  There were tears…happy tears…big manly tears!

I got involved with ASC through the various trainings I’ve attended at the Michael Palin Centre.  They’re very active on Facebook/Twitter etc and so always popping up on my feed.  When I developed a bit of a “dad-bod” recently due to too little exercise and too much unhealthy food, and heard of another SLT doing a 10k run in aid of ASC, I saw an opportunity to kill 2 birds with 1 stone!  I got match-fit again and completed my run in a respectable time, proudly wearing the jersey that the lovely Alanna at ASC sent me.

I love the work that ASC do – they’re always thinking of new, innovative and exciting ways to get people talking about stammering, and they put openness about stammering at the forefront of everything that they do.


ASC Launches New Logo!

We have a new logo! Action for Stammering Children are rebranding and we’re very pleased to launch the new face of our charity. We’ve been working very hard over the last few months to design a logo that reflects our work with children and young people of all ages across the UK who stammer, while giving a nod to our old logo by turning our iconic smiley faces into speech bubbles, appealing to young and old audiences alike. We hope you will all be pleased with what we’ve come up with!
The logo is just the first step in our rebrand of ASC. We’re excited to announce that we have a new website coming your way in the next couple of months, under the new domain name www.actionforstammeringchildren.org. The new site will aim to bring you up to date information and research about stammering and our organisation, while ensuring it’s easily accessible for all of our audiences.
Please keep an eye out here for further updates on the new website coming soon! If you would like to sign up to our website please email us at info@stammeringchildren.org.

Coping with Stammering at University

Wednesday 1st February 2017

A few weeks ago I was contacted by my speech and language therapist, Teressa Howarth, about speaking to a young man in his second year at university. He was finding his stammer to be a real barrier during his time there, and as I have experienced university life and the many challenges it presents, I felt it to be very beneficial to share my experiences and give my advice. The transition from school to university can be very daunting as you part with many school friends and begin meeting new people and making new friendships.
Ben is a student at Huddersfield University and has a stammer. Although my stammer began at the age of around four, Ben’s stammer developed after encountering different experiences throughout life. We both had a lot in common and felt the same about a lot of things. I shared my experiences of university with Ben, how I coped with my stammer and what I found helped/made it worse. Things such as informing my tutors of my stammer, asking for time and patience from academic staff and peers, as well as how joining sports clubs/societies all really helped me feel at ease.
One of the biggest challenges for me was public speaking. I hated it! Presentations in first year were an absolute nightmare. The feeling of speaking in front of a large audience was incredibly daunting. Although this was one fear of mine, I knew putting myself into challenging situations would help build my confidence and overcome this fear. By the end of university, I felt confident speaking publicly, answering questions and presenting in front of large audiences. I found stepping out of my comfort zone helped me with my public speaking and to know it is fine to stammer in front of an audience. There is nothing wrong with that.
Being in these situations enabled me to learn how to control my stammer using various techniques I learned from speech therapy.
It was a real pleasure being able to talk to Ben and share my experiences as well as give advice. I found this to be very rewarding as I knew I had helped someone with a stammer. The more open you are about your stammer the more it become the norm, the way it should be!
Zain Ghani
Youth Panel Member

ASC Youth Panel Member, Joe Allen, Discusses Stammering On BBC Essex!

I have been attending the Starfish Project, a speech therapy programme in East Sussex, since August 2012. It is there that I learnt, and continue to work on, a coastal breathing technique, a short deep breath taken from the chest every three to five words whilst maintaining eye contact. This technique helps alleviate and control my stammer – although like many things stammering-related, nobody really knows why this works!

The Starfish Project, run by Anne and David Blight, has helped increase my confidence and gain better control over my speech – without Starfish, I doubt I would have had the confidence to join the Youth Panel at Action for Stammering Children!

Anyway, background over, and fast forward to a couple of months back – David at Starfish rang me and asked if I wanted to be interviewed for a Daily Mail article about stammering. This would discuss my journey through Starfish and that of a fellow Starfish ‘graduate’. Of course, I accepted, and took part in a pretty lengthy telephone conversation talking about my time at Starfish, my return visits to work on my own speech and helping teach other stammerers the technique. We also talked about other things such as my time as Head Boy at my secondary, and my time on the ASC Youth Panel so far – including my speech at the Palace of Westminster! It was a great opportunity to talk about Starfish, stammering, and ASC – and the article was featured in the health section of the Daily Mail on the 14th February!

A day later, I had another call from David Blight – BBC Radio Essex had seen the article, were really impressed, and wanted me to come in to the studios and give an interview! This was a real surprise and a great opportunity to spread awareness even further. So, last Friday, I headed down to the BBC Essex Offices in Chelmsford, and took part in a 10-minute radio interview with Ronnie Barbour.

I won’t deny that the nerves were there both as a stammerer and someone who had never been on radio before, but I used the costal technique as best I could, relaxed as best I could, and tried not to say anything stupid!

Fortunately, it went well and I had a great time spreading the word about stammering. Then, I went with the Social Media Officer at BBC Essex to record a short video relaying a lot of the same points made during the interview, the video of which was later circulated on Facebook, and has now racked up 35,000 views! You can see the video here:

This just goes to show the public interest which stammering has, and the positive thoughts and feelings people have about stammering. One thing I talked about at the radio station was that stammering doesn’t have to hold you back – and my time at Starfish and ASC are what prepared me to stand up and spread some awareness about all things stammering. I may never be lucky enough to do anything like this again – but I’m happy I took the jump, got involved and did my best – because you can’t let your stammer control you – however hard that may be!

Joe Allen
ASC Youth Panel


Stammering and Christmas

At the Michael Palin Centre parents often tell us that Christmas can be a tricky time for their child who stammers – they may have been progressing well in therapy and then the stammering increases for no obvious reason over the Christmas period.

The first thing to say is that parents don’t cause stammering and we can only guess at the reasons for the changes that happen, but there are some common sense possibilities that can be addressed relatively easily, as follows:

Excitement: it can be fun to build the anticipation of Christmas, but this excitement can also result in a child becoming hyped up, speaking more quickly and potentially stammering more. Maybe a measured, calmer approach would be a good idea this Christmas.

Sleep deprivation: we often relax bedtime rules at holiday times and allow children to stay up later (despite the fact that they still wake up at the same time). Children may be already tired at the end of a term in school or nursery. Parents often say that children stammer more when they are tired, so insufficient sleep over several days might be having an impact.

Busy, full households: visiting friends and relatives may be fun but they also mean there are more talkers to compete with. This might be harder for the child who stammers, so some quiet, one-to-one time might be helpful. And while visitors are staying we could try to balance things by also getting those relatives to take turns to talk!

Different routines: some children like a predictable routine and this typically will change at Christmas, in terms of mealtimes, bedtimes, even where they are sleeping. Sometimes it helps to prepare a child ahead of the changes, so they know what to expect.

Illness: a child who is feeling unwell may also struggle more with talking, so don’t be surprised if you hear more stammering when your child is poorly.
These ideas may be helpful for your child, so do experiment. And one last thing – we know that a child’s stammering ebbs and flows, so even if you do notice more at Christmas, there is a good chance that things will settle down again when life returns to normal.

For some useful tips on helping your child please see http://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/7-tips-talking-child-who-stutters

Elaine Kelman
Head of the Michael Palin Centre


Latest News from the ASC Youth Panel!


Youth Panel Meeting – 5th November 2016

Another Saturday and another successful meeting for Action for Stammering Children’s Youth Panel. Now over a year since our first meeting, seven of us from up and down the country met at a new location in Central London. LRW Tonic had kindly invited us to hold our meetings at their new offices in Old Street.

At 1pm on Saturday 5th November we began our sixth meeting. After a short warm up session, we jumped straight in to one of three conference rooms for a presentation by Zain Ghani, the eldest member of the Youth Panel. Zain discussed a variety of points with us, including roles within the panel, regional meetings, social media and Skype meetings. He then focused on our exciting, up-and-coming schools campaign, where he discussed outreach methods and the progress of our leaflets and posters – something we would come back to later on. This presentation was a great opportunity to discuss some of the future plans for the panel, and gave us all a good idea about where we were going.

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After a short lunch break, we then moved into a second meeting room to record a video presentation to be shown to the Board of Trustees at Action for Stammering Children. Here we presented our ideas and progress around the website and the campaign in schools, which had been the main focus of our meetings since April last year.

2016-11-05-09-33-21Once this was completed it was time for our creative discussion, led by Seyi Matthews from LRW Tonic. We discussed various aspects of our leaflet and website design during this session, including making changes to branding and the structure of our leaflets and posters, which by now are well on their way to completion. We wrote content for our posters and discussed how this would vary depending on our target audience. Once we were happy with where the posters were heading, we looked at our website, and made key decisions about layout and design, including moving to a different platform and adding FAQ pages. Some excellent progress was made during this session, and we’re now getting excitingly close to everything being ready to launch.

So finally, to finish our meeting, we looked at our next steps as a panel. Getting the website live and completing the posters and leaflets were of course top of the agenda, but we also discussed possible press releases, designing of business cards and a possible launch event, and what this would involve.

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By the end of the meeting, we definitely felt closer than ever to completing our branding and campaigns, and we all had a good idea of where we were going in the future. Another successful Saturday under our belts, we were now all looking ahead to January for the next meeting to continue progressing further, and get closer and closer to launching our work from the past year.

By Thomas Broom,
ASC Youth Panel Member


ASC Youth Panel – One Year on!

From the Youth Panel first forming in September 2015, things have begun to kick off. The Youth Panel, consisting of 15 young individuals have met six times in the last year at Tonic Insight Offices in London. From the first few initial meeting, the youth panel was introduced to Lucy Hayes (Charity representative) and Seyi Matthews (Creative at Tonic Insight) to establish  the role of the Youth Panel, and to help create their vision. The Youth Panel vision is:

“To create a society where having a stammer isn’t a barrier to success for young people.” ASC Youth Panel

At first, only male members had applied and were recruited for the youth panel. All members thought it was in the best interest to recruit female members to better the panel and make stronger connections. In January 2016, the launch for recruiting young women to join the youth panel begun. As a result, three female members had joined the panel which was great!

Throughout the past year, the panel have developed skills in research and problem solving to tackle any barriers that may oppose them. The panel have also created a short facts video and are applying the finishing touches to their very own website with the help of Seyi. The panel’s social media has taken off on Instagram and Twitter by posting photos and tweeting about meetings and events. The panel have been fortunate to have a guest speaker at one of their meetings with Dr Cameron Raynes from the University of South Australia coming up to talk about his experiences with having a stammer.

The Youth Panel will be campaigning in schools to help children who stammer. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of stammering in schools, and educate teachers and pupils on how stammering can affect a young person’s school experience. All panel members have encountered previous experiences with dealing with their stammer and how it effects their lives throughout school. Thus, making the panel a strong group of young people to help and give advice to those going through the transitional points through education and into the world of work.

A lot has happened in a year, all of which has been very productive and has pushed the panel closer to achieving their vision. The panel are growing stronger and will continue to grow and accomplish their aim to raise of awareness of stammering.


Zain Ghani, ASC Youth Panel Member – Work Experience – Speaker’s House Event

Monday 17th October was my first day on work experience with the charity, Action for Stammering Children (ASC). I was very excited to embark on my new mini adventure working with Phil Pyatt (ASC Chief Executive) and the other members of the charity. Once arriving in London, I met Phil who brought me to where (ASC) are based, a charity which has the vision that ‘children and young people who stammer have the same opportunities and quality of life as their peers’.   The charity also help fund assessments, therapy and training, and support the  Michael Palin Centre (MPC) in improving the lives of children who stammer. As I was situated in the MPC it was truly rewarding to be working here over the next three days.

On this day, an event called Stammering therapy Changes Lives was held at Speaker’s House. This building was truly fascinating! Reminding me of the set in the Harry Potter films. It felt amazing being able to work and help at an event at such a grand place. I was introduced to Norbert (British Stammering Association CEO) who assisted in handing out name tags and directing people to the main room. Norbert was a character who I found quite inspiring when speaking with the use of quirkiness and humour. My speech therapist Teresa Howarth even showed up which was a treat! In addition, I was introduced to Ben Bolton (Specialist Speech & Language Therapist) who will be leading the residential for teenagers who stammer at Bewerely Park, Harrogate, also funded by ASC. It was lovely to meet him before offering my help on one of the days of the residential in a few weeks.

After various conversations and meeting new people the speeches began with the Speaker himself introducing the event. Following on, speeches from Ed Balls, George Freeman (MP), Joe Allen (ASC Youth Panel Member), Olly Wilkinson (MPC User), Walter Scott (Employers Stammering Network), and Amanda Littleboy.  All the speakers did a magnificent job of sharing their life experiences and how therapy has helped them to tackle any barriers and build in confidence. The event was a success with more meeting and talking to new people of all stammering background. Not to mention I got a picture with Ed Balls!

A great end to a great day is what I can say. It was an honour being able to meet and communicate with therapists, stammering charities and MP’s, all in such a highly reputable venue. First day of work experience was definitely a success!


ASC survey of stammering services

Action for Stammering Children has released the results of two surveys we carried out to find out what parents and therapists think of the services available for children and young people who stammer.  We were pleased with the number of responses we received to the surveys – 82 parents or carers responded, and 144 speech and language therapists.

We asked parents of children who stammer at what age they first identified a communication difficulty in their child.  Over half (56%) said this was between the ages of 1-3, and 32% said it was between the ages of 4-7.  Only 12% said they first identified a difficulty when the child was 8 or over.   The most common difficulty children experienced at this stage was social and out-of-school activities, and attending nursery of school was the second most common difficulty.

When we asked parents about the quality of the therapy their child had received for their stammer, a high proportion of parents told us they were unhappy with the service they had received.  Amongst parents who had used a therapist in their local area who specialised in stammering, only 35% said they were happy with the service.  A high number (29%) said there was no service available locally to help their child.  As many as 21% of parents said they had paid for private therapy for their child, and more than half of these parents said they were unhappy with the service their child had received.

In our survey of speech and language therapists, 98% said they worked with children and young people and 47% said they were specialists in stammering.  We asked therapists what changes would help them provide better support to children who stammer.  Therapists told us they would like more research and evidence regarding what works, and more specialist training in relation to children who stammer.  They also said they would like to see more practical support for parents.

Speech and language therapists also told us they faced a number of challenges in their work including a lack of appropriate skills, insufficient staffing levels, funding issues, high waiting list, and the difficulty of working in rural areas and with multi-lingual families.

The findings of the two surveys formed an important part of a strategic review by Action for Stammering Children of our aims and activities as a charity.  We want to make sure we are doing all we can to support children and young people who stammer and their families across the UK, particularly at a time when some NHS services are being cut back.  We also want to do more to support speech and language therapists around the country who are providing such an important service, often in the face of considerable professional challenges.  This will be the focus of our work in the months and years ahead.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full summary, please email ASC@stammeringcentre.org