Ever since I can remember I have always had a stammer.
Some days you can tell it’s there and on others you can’t, it’s hidden, invisible…
Those are the good days.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a stammer is, it’s where the brain over functions and tries to get us to let it all out in one go, resulting in seizing up and sounding like a broken track.
But for me, a stammer is much more than that; it’s a social, emotional and communicative block on the whole world around me.
When I think about growing up with a stammer, there are certain key moments that I look back on. The main ones being at school and taking part in plays, performances & presentations. I still remember the feeling of holding back on a desire to audition for the lead role in our school play because all I had in my head was the sound of people laughing at me on stage.
I can still hear the laughter of my class mates mocking me as I walked to the front of the class to give my speech about our current topic. Of course, I had the support of a speech and language therapist while growing up, but once I went to secondary school that support disappeared. The staff at the school were oblivious as to how to support a stammer, and half of them were with the mind set of,
“What a poor excuse.”
That’s what makes it harder for people like myself. When the support disappears, the stammer can worsen, and that’s it, back to square one.
As the years have gone by, I have witnessed how a stammer stays with you beneath the surface of the skin. Meeting new people, having a job interview, giving speeches to colleagues & young people, are all moments I have been able to overcome.
But my biggest hurdle is the fear of my children growing up with the same problems I had. Alongside all the usual parental fears and worries, I am filled with the added dread that I may have passed my stammer on to my children. As my 3 year old begins to form sentences and hold conversations I sit and listen to his every word, hoping not a stammer is to be heard, hoping his speech will be ‘normal’.
But along with all the struggles and torment I have witnessed, I have also witnessed the power, strength and the will myself and others have gone through to ensure that we stand up and show people that yes, we have a stammer, yes, we seize up and sound like a broken record, but that we are not afraid of it.
We are proud of who we are and our voices will be heard one way or another. And this is the lesson I want to teach my children, stammer or no stammer.
So, if anyone is reading this and they have a stammer or a child that has a stammer, my words of wisdom for you are these:
‘Believe. Hold your head up high and let your voice roar. You are amazing as you are, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.’
- 68 Million people stutter world wide
- About 5% of children (1 in 20) ages 2 to 5 will develop some stuttering during their childhood. It may last for several weeks to several years
- While some will recover by age 7 or 8, 1 out of every 100 children will be left with long-term stuttering
- Stuttering is more common in boys than girls. It also tends to persist into adulthood more often in boys than in girls
- 60% of stuttering is due to genetics
- 75% os stuttering interferes with family or social life
If you’d like more information on, or support for a stammer, take a look at the British Stammering Association website here.