A clergyman in Hartlepool who has stammer has explained how speech and language therapists have helped transform his speech.
Andrew Craig, a reverend at Stranton and Burbank Church in Hartlepool, has been treated by the speech and language therapy team over the last few years.
As part of International Stammering Awareness Day, Andrew talked about how the team can help.
He said: “The speech and language therapists are wonderful people who will help someone like me get the help they need.
“When I got into my 40s a friend suggested to me that speech therapy had come on a long way and I should try it. I was referred by my GP and saw a lovely speech therapist called Kirsten.
“She did video sessions with me, helped me to analyse my stammer, taught me how to deal with my blocking – over a period of three to four years it transformed the stammer and even though it is still there now, it is not noticeable.
“I still see her now every six months, we talk about how things are going and discuss what helps and she reminds me about my techniques. Seeing Kirsten is the best thing I have ever done for my speech.
“Strangely, my stammer has never been an issue when I am doing my work, reading a sermon. It can be more difficult for me when I get in a situation where I have anxiety and stress or when I’m trying to say something more spontaneous. What is helpful is when people are relaxed, patient, and as normal as possible with you.
“People like Kirsten have a huge amount of experience and can help you. They help you to look at your body language and your wider communication skills as well as the technical stuff for your stammer which helps.”
Kirsten said: “There are a lot of myths about stammering which are not true. Stammering has nothing to do with intelligence or personality type – people who stammer are no different to anyone else in either respect.
“Stammering can run in families and someone who stammers may have someone else in the family who stammers. We know that a vulnerability to stammering can be passed on in your genes.
“New research shows that the way that a person’s brain is wired up is slightly different for someone who stammers. I say this because some people have a perception that people who stammer could speak fluently if they tried harder.
“The more we find out the more we realise it is exactly the same as any physical issue.
“We all talk better when we are relaxed – the more relaxed you are the easier it is to get your thoughts across but the reason the stammer is there is not because the person is inherently nervous or shy.
“Good therapy is about a partnership – the therapist and the client or family bringing their knowledge together and coming up with something which works for that individual. Successful therapy is about achieving whatever outcome that person wants to achieve.
“There is a real risk that if you push your agenda too hard – like achieving complete fluency – this can have a negative impact on the person’s self-esteem and well-being which is not what we want.
“Speech therapy is here to support people of any age (adults and children) to reduce the impact of the stammering and enable them to live the life they want to live.”
To find out more about the speech and language therapy service visit https://www.nth.nhs.uk/services/speech-language-therapy/