International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD) is on 22nd October every year. Stammering associations, individuals and groups around the world organise events to mark the day and to raise awareness of stuttering.
Stammering affects 1% of adults worldwide, which would suggest that around 23,000 students and 4.000 staff in UK Higher Education experience stammering.
Although a stammer is defined as a disability and covered by the 2010 Equality Act, few people who stammer exercise their rights and disclose.
So, why aren’t individuals disclosing? Is it that they don’t feel that a stammer is a disability? Not sure of the support available and if it would be useful? Have experienced negative support within society or at School/College?
We hear from Liam, a person who stammers and who is a current student, Liam talks about his experiences:
"A stammer is something that people can see and know what’s going on. As a result, many people who stammer don’t feel the need to disclose their stammer. It’s obvious that I stammer, so why do I need to tell people that I stammer? For me, disclosing my stammer is something which relieves so much anxiety and makes me feel as if I have nothing to hide. But crucially, many people do want to hide their stammer because of the shame they think it represents. It’s the shame of being different, being broken, or being inadequate, because they struggle to communicate.
"We need to see past stammering as simply ‘not being able to talk sometimes,’ but as something which impacts every aspect of a person’s life; which makes them question every word, analyse every speaking occasion, and turn down exciting opportunities, all because of a fear of what stammering seemingly represents. We need to understand that many people who stammer believe they are defined by their stammer, as if that is all they are. Therefore, are we surprised then that people don’t disclose their stammer? Because if they do, then they are their stammer, and they are different, they are broken, and they are inadequate.
"Everyone has the right to disclose their stammer or not. But those who don’t disclose are perhaps weighed down by their cloak of shame. What I want to see is people removing this cloak and being comfortable and accepting of their stammer. And this is not an easy process, this cloak had weighed me down for nearly 20 years, but looking at the positives and strengths of stammering is something which helped me.
"I work in mental health, and because of my stammer, I find I have a greater appreciation of people struggling with how they are feeling. I find I am more empathetic, more patient, more caring, more considered, and more motivated to help people. These things help me keep off this cloak of shame. Being open about my stammer also helps and when I started my post-graduate course here at Essex that is what I did. I spoke to student services and my course tutors, who liaised with me and helped to create a plan around my studies, which maintained my dignity and my competency as a mental health practitioner.
"We all need to understand that people who stammer, are not defined by their stammers. I am Liam and I am a person who stammers, but I am also a brother, a son, a friend, a mental health practitioner, a colleague, a football fan, and many more things."
University of Essex are proud to have a collaboration with Stammerers Through University Consultancy (STUC) and have successfully run workshops with STUC founder, Claire Norman. We have also had support from students within Health and Social Care’s Speech and Language Therapy course.
Our aim is to provide support for people who stammer so they can fulfil their potential and enjoy respect and consideration. If you would like to find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org