A Special edition of 'Getting the Word Out' (pdf) celebrates the illustrious career of Dr Trudy Stewart who is heading into retirement at the end of September.
The Special edition includes contributions from Norbert and Cherry at British Stammering Association, as well as many others who knew and worked with Trudy.
'Getting the Word Out' is the monthly newsletter of the Stammering Support Centre, in Leeds.
BSA was represented at her farewell reception at the Stammering Support Centre in Leeds. This is her speech:
So, what to say to all of you today?
Thank you for coming!
I could say that I haven’t really got much to say and I won’t keep you for long. But I don’t want to set up false expectations so relax back, engage your core muscles and hear me out for one final time.
I’ve got three main things to say.
I have had the most wonderful career. I have met and been inspired by amazing people along the way. From the speech and language therapist I visited as a 14 year old in Stanley Clinic to the lecturers at Glasgow University – the awesome David Mearns (who introduced me to client-centred counselling) and Roberta Lees who could pluck the most obscure dysfluency reference from her vast memory/archive in response to my vaguest student question.
There have been meetings with inspiring greats from the world of Personal Construct Psychology – Miller Mair (whose metaphors got me thinking of ones that could be applied to stammering) and dysfluency giants from America, Canada, Denmark, France, Holland, Belgium and Ireland, and all the way to working with specialist peers right here in Yorkshire and Humber. In particular here at the SSC I have worked with colleagues who are reflective, caring practitioners with an unparalleled passion for the subject of dysfluency. It has been a privilege to work alongside these therapists who have each challenged me to be a better therapist.
But I have learnt most from my meetings with children, families, young people and adults who stammer. I have met families whose children have some of the most complex difficulties (like Abi who not only had stammering, but cluttering, and auditory processing disorder and phonological difficulties). Parents such as Abi’s come to the Centre at their wits’ end, not knowing how best to support their child.
I met also met teenagers such as Harry, at our residential programme. Harry transformed himself from a shy, introverted teenager who thought his stammer would define him, to someone who believed he had the courage to achieve his potential.
I’ve met adults in the darkest of places – like Carl whose mother left him as soon as he turned 17 to start a new life with her partner abroad. He lived in a car outside what was his home for three weeks – still able to sort himself out and attend school every day until a neighbour realised what was going on and took him in.
You can’t help but learn and be inspired by such individuals. And I have met many who have shared their wisdom with me. My understanding of stammering is rooted in these stories.
My second point is about Leeds.
I started work in Leeds and am ending my career here. Leeds has been very good to me. I have benefitted from much post-graduate education and opportunities to learn teaching, management and business skills. I have much to thank NHS Leeds for – and I do.
The opening of the SSC has been a career dream – something Jackie Turnbull and I talked about several times in our years delivering a small specialist service to Leeds clients.
While the dream was hard fought and continues to be a battle, I believe that the SSC team and I have laid the foundations for an excellent tertiary centre with evidence-based, client-centred, holistic protocols in place.
However, last year has been one of the most difficult –Yorkshire and Humber commissioning has not been in place as it had been for the previous three years, my role has been at risk of redundancy for six months, and there was indecision about recruitment to vacancies at the Centre.
What needs to happen now is for senior Leeds Community Health management to grasp the nettle and realise that by accepting government funding 4 years ago they were agreeing to invest in the long-term establishment of a centre for children and adults for Yorkshire and Humber.
This was never meant to be a short-term project but needs to have the faith and trust of these senior managers to enable it to grow with the appropriate support.
The SSC has the potential to be not only a regional centre of excellence but a national and international beacon for the stammering community.
So I hope that opportunities will not be squandered as has been the feature of many painful months in the last year – but there will be a more focused and supportive management which will allow the centre to thrive in the future.
I end with a personal confession.
I am actually not who you think I am. All those things that Janet just said and the things you might think me to be are all based on illusion, a kind of magic trick.
I can admit to you all now that I am an impostor. I have gone through my career pretending to know, pretending to be good at stuff when really, inside, there is just a gibbering fool waiting to be uncovered.
I have prepared to meet clients, assess children and decide which might go on to develop persistent stammering and who might recover, differentially diagnose neurological from psychogenic stammering, met with adults with debilitating psychological issues which have prevented them from going out alone, making relationships, believing in themselves – and all the time, gnawing away at the back of my mind, the thought that “maybe this time, this is the one where my incompetence will be exposed”.
Then, at the end, in the last session when clients and families look you in the eye and say “that’s really helped, thanks so much”, I’ve thought “phew, I got away with that one”.
Or going to teach a training course – preparing resources, actually over-preparing notes, checking and rechecking data and references – all because THIS time, this is the course when the participants will discover how little I know.
And at the end, being surprised at the feedback; they thought the course was great, just what they were looking for, and I was a good teacher. Ha! Fooled them again!
So, “here at the end of all things” as Frodo Baggins said, I am going to stop feeling like an impostor because I have come to realise an important lesson.
This pedestal that I think I’ve ended up on is not one I’ve created single-handed. But it is actually built on firm ground.
It is a reflection of the knowledge, understanding and skill of those who trained me, those whose practice has inspired me and those whose personal narratives I have learned from. On that basis I am proud to stand here, on the shoulders of giants and reflect what I have come to know: that I will always be in their debt.
Thanks to them. And thank you.