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International Stammering Awareness Day 2013

Steven Halliday | 01.12.2013

This year, ISAD 2013 on 22nd October was bigger and better than ever before, not only with lots of activities and events taking place, but with more members doing something to raise awareness and get the word out.

Proceedings started early, with Ed Balls MP appearing on ITV’s Daybreak at the crack of dawn, along with EY employee Ricky Vachhani, to speak about how stammering affects them. Founder of the Employers Stammering Network Iain Wilkie was interviewed by Charlie and Susanna on BBC Breakfast a bit later, along with Mr Burton from Educating Yorkshire.

Several BSA members phoned their local radio stations and took to the airwaves. Katy Bailey went on BBC Radio Leeds’ breakfast show, describing it as “a scary kind of fun.” Adam Wright was interviewed on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire and said, “I was really pleased with how it went. I would have liked to have said more but was restricted, time-wise. Hopefully I raised BSA’s profile and stammering awareness in general.” After a presenter saw her tweets asking to get on, BSA Trustee Mandy Taylor’s local radio station in Northern Ireland, U105, invited her to call in and talk about her stammer.

That was all before mid-morning! A break was in order, and Trudy Stewart and the team at the Stammering Support Centre in Leeds put on a coffee morning/flash mob to get everyone talking. They weren’t the only speech and language therapy (SLT) team marking the day. Therapist Debbie Middleton told us, “The children’s department here at Coventry and Warwickshire NHS all wore the official ISAD colour, sea green(ish!), which, when seen together, made an impact and provided an opportunity to talk about stammering (pictured). Also, local radio interviewed me and a parent I've been working with about the importance of early intervention.” Karen Allen put on a ‘Please let’s talk about stammering’ event at the Macmillan Wellbeing Centre in Manchester (the first NHS hospital, opened in 1948 by Aneurin Bevan MP, who stammered), with inspiring talks, workshops and music by people sharing their experiences. The SLT team in Halifax held an event inviting the public to learn more, kindly donating money raised through selling cakes and wristbands to the BSA. Teresa Howarth said, “We wanted to encourage people to talk and listen about stammering in a fun atmosphere.” Stephanie Burgess from Airedale NHS gave a very well-attended talk for Giving Voice on working with people who stammer.

Newspapers, Facebook and in the workplace

Elsewhere, several BSA members made the headlines. Michael Turner was featured in the Grimsby Evening Post explaining how speech therapy has helped him, and he managed to get a copy of Speaking Out into the picture (thanks Michael!). The Western Mail in Wales interviewed BSA Trustee Arwel Richards, with the headline ‘Learning to live with a stammer can open a new world’. Over in East Anglia, John Thompson from the Norfolk self-help group was pictured in his local newspaper with Helen Barker, after they held a four-day stammering event in Lowestoft library.

Over on the Facebook page, we asked members to tell us about things they were doing throughout the day. Zoe Dickens wrote, “My son and I changed our profile picture, wore green clothes to go with our BSA wristbands, and he told everyone he talked to that it was ISAD.” Emily McArdle wrote, “I posted advice on Facebook from my two daughters, who stammer, on ways to support someone who stammers. I got a great reaction from friends, who shared the post with their own friends.”

Several people told us how they raised awareness at work. Richard Lloyd took in a personalised mug that read ‘My name is Richard...and I stammer’ to get his colleagues talking about it. Linda Lewis gave a talk to staff at Barclay’s Bank during their morning meeting on how stammering affected her. Linda said, “I talked about the iceberg effect. It went really well; my colleagues didn’t realise what stammering was really like. They think I should do the same presentation to all of the management team.” Similarly, Richard Roaf said, “I gave a talk to about 30 colleagues in Croydon about stammering. As a result I have been asked to give two more talks in November.” Lyn Jeffrey said, “At work I launched a support group for people who stammer, or who work with someone who stammers, today. It went extremely well. I got a very positive response with lots offering help and support. We have 20 members already! I have been asked to facilitate a presentation in Folkestone next year to inform staff how to manage situations with people entering the country who stammer.”

The Doncaster Stammering Association balloon launch

The day didn’t end there. Your editor travelled up north, where the Doncaster Stammering Association (DSA) were putting on a balloon launch that evening in collaboration with the local NHS SLT department. I departed a very rainy King’s Cross worried that the weather would be the same or even worse up there, which would spoil the whole thing. Luckily, as I pulled into Doncaster to greet DSA member Trevor Bradley, I was relieved to see that conditions were perfect. Trevor kindly gave me a lift to the inspiring ‘The Point’ community arts centre, where I was warmly welcomed by Bob Adams, Hilary Liddle and the rest of the DSA. I was given a pen and a label, printed upon which were the words ‘I stammer...’, and was asked to complete it however I wanted. This was then attached to one of the balloons dangling impatiently in the atrium. Meanwhile, Dean Ridge was skilfully preparing balloon models for the youngsters, which I was very tempted to queue up for (he was making swords!).

As the venue filled up with people and members of the press, we all headed outside with our balloons to the strains of drumming music which sounded faintly familiar. I realised it was a song that I took part in creating with others at the BSA Lincoln Conference - Bob explained that the night was also the launch of the ‘Art of Communication’ CD, featuring music recorded by attendees at the 2012 event. It was great to hear something I was involved in professionally produced and sounding great (I’m now a recording artist!). We all grouped together and released the scores of balloons into the sky, each with our labels telling whoever finds them, wherever they are in the world, about us and our stammers. Bob and Sir James Dangerous wrapped up the event in spectacular style with a fire display. Bob: “Don’t try this at home...or at anybody else’s.” What an end to a great day! As I passed through Grantham on the journey home, I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw a balloon far off in the night sky. (P.S. If you find my balloon in your garden, I apologise for the awful handwriting.)

You can hear the Art of Communication CD online. Or email the Doncaster Stammering Association at dsagroup@hotmail.com.

From Speaking Out Winter 2013, p6-7