Stammering is a disorder of fluency that is characterised by various behaviours that interfere with the forward flow of speech. Not too long ago, the nature of this condition was brought to light by the British movie The King’s Speech (2010) – The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.
According to the UK based organization The Starfish Project, “There are an estimated 500,000 plus adult stammerers in the UK that is 1% of the adult population, over 3 million stammer in the USA and some 45 million in the world.” Stammering is better known in the US as Stuttering but the two words mean the same thing. The condition is more likely to be developed by males than females on a ratio of 4 or 5 to one. None particular causes have been attributed to stammering; it is believed there is a combination of internal and external factors involved in the development of the condition.
For the purpose of this research I interviewed Jack Goodwin, a 15 year old boy who lives in Whitehaven, Cumbria in the north west of England. Jack attends St. Benedict’s Catholic High School in Whitehaven and developed the speech problem at the age of 4. Jack talked to me about his experience with The Starfish Project and how it has improved his live.
The STARFISH Project (Supportive Training and Recovery for Individual Stammerers Harmony) is a non-profit organisation which teaches stammerers a breathing technique to control their stammer. The ‘Costal Breathing” teaches the individuals to breath from the upper chest; in the same fashion singers breathe while singing. “This explains why people tend not to stammer when they sing” Jack said while explaining the technique.
Speaking about Starfish project Jack said, “STARFISH has taught me, firstly, how to control my speech and also has given me confidence to do things which I couldn’t before such as giving presentations to my class at school and using the phone to enquire about something.”
The Starfish project is only available in the UK, but in the US other organisations with similar programs are now being offered. Such as The National Stuttering Association (NSA) – I don’t have any information to suggest the NSA works with the same techniques as the Starfish, yet it is one of the largest nationwide organisations in the US working for the improvement of stammering. It is important for people to know and to understand that Stammering or Stuttering doesn’t have a cure. Independence from the condition can be achieved through discipline, and dedication, and by learning how to live with it.
When Jack was asked what would be his message to other stammers he said “There is help out there” It is his positive attitude and energetic personality that drives me to write about this mystified speech condition. It is up to our society, up to families, parents, friends, siblings. It is up to our communities to understand people who suffer from stammering. It is up to us to give these kids the right tools to help them prosper.
We also need to educate our kids from a very young age – stammers or not – about understanding and accepting other people differences. Stammers are often ridiculed on the media and in classroom settings. On the subject Jack said “The Sun (the UK’s best selling tabloid newspaper) recently ran a story about how there will be a follow on from The Kings Speech. Their headline included possibly the oldest and least original stammering pun of repeating a letter when printing the headline.” Jack sent a letter to The Sun explaining his disconcert. This letter remains to be noticed by The Sun’s staff.
International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD) happens during October every year.
For more information
UK: The Starfish Project. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 01825 767268
Telephone from outside of the U.K. international code is 0044 so dial 0044 1825 767268
USA: National Stuttering Association at (800) We Stutter 937-8888 or Email info@WeStutter.org.