It’s the last afternoon of the Michael Palin Centre ‘intensive’ (that’s a two week intensive group therapy course for 10 to 14 year old children who stammer and their parents, supported by Action for Stammering Children).  And it has been intense……..but in a good way.

Intensely moving to see young people, whose only way of coping with their stammer was to hide it away, now talking openly about it – to their families, their friends, even on Twitter and Instagram.

Intensely encouraging to hear parents tell how their children will no longer let them order their food for them in a restaurant, or answer questions on their behalf.

Intensely powerful to see children and parents alike open their eyes to new possibilities for the future – broader horizons where stammering does not restrict their choices of subjects to be studied, pastimes to be pursued, jobs to be trained for. Not because they are no longer stammering, but because they know they can do all those things, whether or not they stammer.

And intensely humbling to hear from our visitors – Ed Balls, Ollie Dimsdale and Alistair Barr, all of whom stammer and have achieved huge success in their chosen field, all of which involves lots of talking and all of whom are shining lights for the rest of us. When Ollie Dimsdale was asked how he has succeeded as an actor even though he stammers, he said we only had to look at heroes of the Invictus Games to see greater examples of overcoming adversity, and if those guys could do it – why not the rest of us?

This group of children are heroes, leaving us today with their fabulously supportive parents, to take back into their everyday lives their new skills, their new determination and confidence and to start living the lives they were meant to.

Being open about stammering

Michael Palin Centre ready for International Stammering Awareness Day
Michael Palin Centre ready for International Stammering Awareness Day

Do you know anyone (or anyone else) who stammers? Probably yes, if you are reading this, but Joe Public might well say no, they don’t, it isn’t that common, is it? But chances are you do know a number of people who stammer, but they manage to keep it hidden. Some people lead successful lives while hiding their stammer. They keep a low profile at school but do well in exams, get a job that may not involve too much talking, become known as good listeners in social situations. But for others, the cost of hiding your stammer is significant. You have a gift for language but cannot show this off as you say the minimum. You know the answers in class but keep your hand down. You don’t apply for that promotion because you know it involves an interview. You tie yourself (and your listener) up in knots trying to say something without using words that beginning with a letter you always get stuck on. We have a group of boys here on an intensive therapy course who are considering their options – to continue to hide their stammer or to risk being more open about it. And it feels very risky. But these are courageous young people who know that their horizons might just be wider…………. Ed Balls MP came to visit them this morning and told them of his experiences of being more open, of taking the stammer out of the box. Ed has risked doing this on national television, in the House of Commons – tough audiences. He really inspired the children, one of whom later said “I’ve always put it in a box, but will definitely take it out more”. Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day when we want the world to know and understand about stammering. We are supporting young people to be brave, be themselves and realise their potential with or without their stammer. You are the people who will see that happen. And the world will be a better place because of it.

Children who Stammer Make Some Noise (and so do Michael and Ed!)

October 9th has been an extraordinary day for the Michael Palin Centre.

A number of London radio stations, such as Heart, LBC, Capital and Smooth have today launched a new charity called ‘Make Some Noise’. One of the benefitting charities is Action for Stammering Children, which supports the Michael Palin Centre. Over the past few weeks we have played host to a number of radio presenters who wanted to see our work and meet the young people, and we have been to the radio studios to make some recordings.

This morning Michael Palin and Ed Balls talked on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show about our work with children who stammer and a number of the recordings of the young people at the Centre were aired. Another presenter, Matt Wilkinson spoke of his own struggles with stammering as a child and featured more clips of children and a therapist talking. Capital Radio’s Pandora also featured our work. This afternoon two of the children and a therapist are going to the LBC studio to be interviewed by Clive Bull for his show this evening.

A wonderful opportunity to raise the profile of Action for Stammering Children and the Michael Palin Centre. And for our young people – five minutes of fame!