A new stammer support group has been set up in Medway, to give a voice to those who struggle to get their voice heard. But what is life like when you live with a stammer? We spoke to some of those who know best.
“It is the most soul crushing thing I can think of”. That is how 20-year-old student Jack Dinsley would describe his stammer.
As one of over 700,000 people in the UK who have the speech impediment, Jack has had a stammer for as long as he can remember. His stammer wasn’t deemed strong enough for any therapy until he was 16 years old, when he was then given access to a speech therapist who taught him various speech and breathing techniques.
His therapist also taught him how to be kind to himself after his stammer impacted him both mentally and emotionally throughout his school life. “When I was younger, all the way up to the first year of college, I didn’t really have a friendship group. It also impacted me massively in high school because there wasn’t anyone in my year group with a stammer. That can be quite mentally draining for someone, because nobody else can relate to what you’ve got or what you’re going through.”
Many people don’t quite understand the impact that having a stammer can have on a person’s day-to-day life but, as Jack explains, it doesn’t make things easy.
Jack, like many others with a stammer, works to raise awareness of what life with a stammer is like. However, due to limited funding, raising awareness is one of the biggest issues that those with the speech difficulty face.
The British Stammering Association, however, uses a large number of small grants to raise money to campaign for better awareness.
Jane Powell, the CEO of the BSA, said it is important to raise awareness, because people are often unsure of how to react when talking to somebody with a stammer. “A lot of people who stammer really effectively hide their stammer and so meeting and listening to someone for the first time is quite discombobulating.
“It has such a low profile and so people don’t know how to react. Very often they’re very nervous, they don’t know how to respond, and they often might say or do the wrong thing. They might imitate the person or might giggle nervously or might just freeze, panic and walk away”.
Here in Kent, the first BSA support group has been set up this month. Femi Akiode, who set up the support group, said that it is important to share experiences. Femi set up the group after realising that there was no support available to people in Kent and the group now meets every fortnight in Gillingham Library – with their next meeting at 4:30pm on November 7.
Amy Leggatt works as a counsellor and specialises in disabilities and impairments. She is also a member of the support group, as she suffers from a stammer herself. Despite admitting that this has held her back at times, she often reminds herself of some of the positive aspects of her stammer. “It’s made me more courageous, to feel the fear and do it anyway, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I think it’s made me more resilient to take the highs and lows of life and having to deal with my stammer on a daily basis. It has made me more empathetic, a better listener and also more aware of other people’s sensitivities”.
Amy also said that her own experiences help her to relate to the people that she meets during her own counselling sessions. Whilst the Medway support group is newly formed, they are keen to encourage people with stammers to join them. You can find all of the links for help and support below.
The Medway Stammer Support Group: https://stamma.org/connect/medway-kent-group
The British Stammering Association: https://stamma.org
Amy Leggatt, Kent based Counsellor: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellors/amy-leggatt