Tag Archives: stammer

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

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

Why one size doesn’t fit all

In the small world of stammering, a huge storm has been raging this week. International sparks are flying because of a proposal by Speech Pathology Australia, (the professional body for speech and language therapists) that the Australian government contribute to the cost of the treatment of preschool children who stutter by providing federal reimbursement for intervention using the Lidcombe Program.

Anyone working in the field of stammering will cheer at the idea of therapy being centrally funded, but only one type of therapy? For a condition which is universally accepted as being complex and heterogeneous? The Lidcombe Program has good research evidence to demonstrate that it is effective. The fact that the Lidcombe Program has evidence from a randomized control trial (RCT) is the basis of SPA’s argument, but the lack of RCT evidence for other approaches does not mean that they are not as effective. It is simply a reflection of a lack of research and resources. There is much evidence to support other interventions for early stuttering.

It is very clear that there is no single approach that is one hundred percent effective for all children, and it is critical that therapists look at each child and family’s needs and decide with them which approach is most suitable. Narrowing this down to one option is a backward step in an age when we value diversity and flexibility in therapy. Clearly, the Australian government will want to put its money into an approach that has been well-researched, but focusing only on the empirical evidence is blinkered. We know that evidence-based therapy also considers the clients’ values (does this approach fit with their ethos?) and their needs (are they able to participate in this approach in the recommended way?), as well as the therapist’s expertise.

At the Michael Palin Centre, all our work begins with a detailed assessment of each child in their family context, funded by Action for Stammering Children. This in-depth conversation with the child and parents helps us to understand what they need and discuss with them what their options are as to the best approach to take, be it the Lidcombe Program, Palin PCI or a range of other options. We and they treasure this opportunity to understand each child and family’s individual needs and then tailor the therapy to what suits them best.

You might be wondering why the international community is responding so vociferously to something that is happening on the other side of the world? Well, when it comes to money and funding, all budgets are limited and becoming increasingly tight. If the Australian government takes this proposal on as it stands, it sets a precedent that may be replicated by other funding authorities. There are implications for children who stammer, their families, the profession of speech and language therapists and service delivery not just in Australia, but all over the world.

Let’s hope that the Australians listen to the concerns being raised by so many of their international colleagues and decide to offer funded therapy to all children who stammer, whichever therapy that may be.

Elaine Kelman Blog



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.