Why we work with young people

Some thoughts from Jane Harley, one of the Michael Palin Centre speech and language therapy team……………………

Last month I had the chance to work with a group of therapists in Derby – giving a 3 day workshop on therapy with secondary pupils who stammer. Now this is not the most frequently requested of our workshops but it is one that is dear to my heart. Like many therapists I hugely enjoy working with young people during this transitional time in their lives when the question of what to do about having a stammer brings such a variety of issues and concerns, or sometimes lack of concern!

One challenge that we have as therapists is how to integrate a number of therapy strands so that we can work as holistically as possible within the boundaries of our role. That means different things for each young person even though they all have one thing in common. Do we work on fluency techniques now? At all? Is having a stammer stopping this person from being their most confident, fulfilled or ‘out there’ self? Let’s not make assumptions – that’s important – but let’s be very real about the cost for young people, and our society as a whole, when stammering starts to influence the big life choices.

Returning on the train from Derby I thought about the energy of the group, the questions and interest and sharing which has continued since then. What a resource these therapists are for the young people in their areas. Let’s keep sharing!


Jane Derby teaching


by Balshen Izzet, Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Children

I hope you have made some really good plans for this Bank Holiday Monday and Half Term. It’s the perfect time to get the kids involved with some fun activities. Here at Action for Stammering Children (ASC), we will be doing just that by tweeting some little-known facts about stammering everyday over the Half Term.

So, look out for #stammerfacts. We are really keen to raise more public awareness about what it is like for a child to grow up stammering. We’ll do our best to dispel some popular myths and help improve understanding with some facts about stammering that people may not have realised were true.

So get involved and help us spread the word by following us on Twitter @StammerCentre and give us a retweet if you learn anything new about stammering that you didn’t know before!

This is all in aid of ASC’s latest appeal Unlock a Child’s Voice. For those of you who don’t know, #UnlockaChildsVoice aims to raise £1.5m over three years to help 10,000 children who stammer. We’ll do this through funding more support and training for specialist speech and language therapy to achieve ASC’s goal of reaching every child in the UK who stammers.

We recently had some help from Dr Paul Dolan, who has a stammer and is Professor of behavioural Science at the London School of Economics. He is the author of the best-selling book Happiness By Design and recently hosted an event to help raise money for ASC.

He did a fantastic job of explaining what it is like to stammer and took questions from Elaine Kelman, Head of Speciality at the Michael Palin Centre. Paul is living proof that stammering need not be a barrier to a happy and fulfilling life and we are extremely grateful to him for such a thought-provoking and lively evening.

Have a fantastic Half Term all!

A balancing act?

Some of you may have heard an interesting exchange about stammering on Radio 5 Live on Monday afternoon…..

Patrick Campbell, a person who stammers and trustee of the British Stammering Association, spoke of the ‘Dysfluency Pride’ campaign, which seeks to change society’s attitude to become more accepting of stammering. Sarah Brett, the radio presenter, asked if this meant that people should not have therapy for their stammering. There followed a telephone call from Matthew, who had attended the McGuire Programme, who had learned a breathing technique to control his stammering and this had changed his life.

Society’s attitude to stammering has not historically been positive. People who stammer have been mimicked and laughed at, or on the other hand somehow the object of pity, regarded as being more nervous or shy. All the research evidence shouts that people who stammer are the same as people who don’t stammer in terms of personality, intelligence, linguistic ability and potential.

So a change in the attitude of society to stammering is seriously overdue and we think this is underway, thanks to films like The King’s Speech. But society still needs to listen better, to let people finish what they are saying, to give them eye contact and show interest.

And for some people who stammer, this will suffice, they have accepted that they have a stammer and they feel accepted by society. No more trying to hide it, no more avoiding difficult situations, no more changing tricky words (or eating food you don’t like. because it is easier to say when ordering…that was a powerful moment during the phone-in!)

But for others – they may still want to work on their fluency – not because of what society wants, but because they choose to. They can hold in balance an acceptance of their stammer as well as a desire to communicate with greater ease. This may be by using speech control techniques, by deliberately stammering, or by focusing on their thinking habits or their social skills. We can all improve our communication skills. It’s really difficult, requires immense concentration and practice, but it can make a difference.

So maybe we too can hold the two in balance – let’s continue to work on changing society’s attitude to stammering, and let’s continue in our quest to support to those who seek help with their stammering.

Link to BBC Radio5Live programme:

May the force be with you this bank holiday

By Balshen Izzet, Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Children

Today is everyone’s favourite Friday…the Friday before Bank Holiday Monday!  One thing is for sure, whatever it is we have planned, we all hope and pray the sun comes out to give us a fantastic long weekend full of bright sunshine – though, I’m afraid, my weather app begs to differ.

But as some of us dust down the BBQ, praying the weather app is wrong, others will be dusting down their lightsaber in preparation for Star Wars Day on Monday.  Yes, Star Wars Day!  I’m not going to claim that I am a diehard fan and I doubt the force will be with me *see what I’ve done there?* but here’s a fact about James Earl Jones, the amazing and iconic voice of Darth Vader, that many do not know: he had a stammer.  James Earl Jones is another icon who did not let his stammer get in the way of achieving his dreams and has the accolade of being the voice of the most recognisable villain in the world!

He joins Samuel L Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Ed Sheeran and Winston Churchill in a long list of talented people who didn’t let their stammer prevent them from following their dreams and becoming huge success stories.

Another important upcoming event is Stuttering Awareness Week on the week commencing 11th May, and we will be kicking off with a fabulous event organised and hosted by Dr. Paul Dolan, behavioural scientist at the London School of Economics and 2014’s bestselling author of Happiness by Design.  Paul has a stammer and will give a very personal account of living with a stammer.

The event will help fundraise for Action for Stammering Children and the British Stammering Association as well as raise public awareness on the issues of stammering.  All proceeds that go to Action for Stammering Children will help children with a stammer.

Please book your tickets here and come and be part of this great night helping us raise money to reach more children across the UK.

Happy Bank Holiday weekend and Happy Star Wars Day to you all!