Whilst at university I had a part time role working behind a bar. I spent a lot of time stood at a bar making chit-chat with the regular customers. I can remember one of our regulars did stammer. I was aware of the difficulty they had in getting their words out but that’s where my awareness ended. I could see the frustration in their eyes, I could even sometime sense there was more that they wanted to say but couldn’t.
When I started this role in April, it became instantly apparent how far-reaching the effects of the stammer can be. We have people who have gone into different careers to that which they had initially wanted because they had thought of the stammer as a barrier to their chosen career.
The stammer has stopped some of our participants doing things such as taking their children out by themselves in case they can’t get help if it is needed.
We have heard of people pretending to forget the name of their favourite restaurant as it’s a word that they stammer on. Our clients find themselves keeping quiet in conversations where actually, they have great input to give, but they worry about the words, the timing and what people will think of them.
It has literally affected every part of their lives.
Some of our clients have had negative reactions from family or colleagues when they have opened up to them about their stammer. Some people have found that when they have taken the very brave step to discuss their stammer, they have been dismissed and told ‘don’t be silly, you don’t stammer’. There has been no awareness of the fact that these people have spent their lives hiding their stammer, switching their words, changing the meaning of what they were saying in order to sound more fluent.
This in turn has made them reluctant to open up to others, which has only compounded the stress in their lives. To then be dismissed when you do find the courage to open up and are met with ‘don’t be silly, you don’t stammer’ can be really harmful as people are at risk of feeling like they aren’t be taking seriously and not being supported.
I have learnt there is no ‘magic cure’ for a person who stammers. The therapy won’t stop the stammer, but it will help the participant realise that to stammer is nothing to be ashamed of. It is down to others to be patient and listen well.
I also think that actually stammering is as big or as small a part of a person’s life as they determine. It is not for any of us to judge how it should affect people. The best thing that can be done is be patient, be supportive and don’t dismiss anybody’s feelings, whatever they may be.