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: