Some Thoughts on 'School for Stammerers'
School for Stammerers is a powerful and moving portrayal of six people’s experience of their stammering. For those six individuals, having a stammer limited their lives, prevented them from showing what they were capable of. We hear the same story from many of the children, young people and adults we work with at the Michael Palin Centre. They don’t put their hand up even when they know the answer, they don’t crack a joke in case they get stuck on the punch line, they don’t try for a part in the school play even though they’re good at drama, they avoid foreign language options because of the oral assessments, they consider career choices which don’t involve telephone or worse still presentations at meetings.
But the good news is - it doesn’t have to be that way: stammering need not be the life-limiter, the problem that holds someone back. People who stammer can have the same life experiences and opportunities as people who don’t. The ‘problem’ lies not in how fluently someone can express themselves, but how confidently they can do so. A confident communicator may stammer and still get their message across successfully.
School for Stammerers focuses on using a breathing technique to give people that confidence. The coaches on the programme are great models of using the breathing technique and it has clearly helped them gain the control and thereby the confidence to say what they want to say. But as one coach said, some people leave the programme as they find it too hard. It requires dedicated practice, determination and a resilience to bounce back from moments when things don’t go so well.
Self-confidence need not be conditional upon fluent speech. King George VI stammered through his public speeches and his message was just as powerful. There are people who stammer who are lawyers, lecturers, doctors, air traffic controllers. They didn’t need to ‘overcome’ or ‘beat’ their stammer to achieve their potential.
If you are a person who stammers or you know someone who does, and you want to build the confidence to communicate, there are many options. Meeting other adults who stammer may help and the British Stammering Association has local groups. Speech and language therapy groups courses for adults are available at the City Lit in London. Individual therapy for adults may be available with your local NHS speech and language therapy service, either face to face or via telehealth.
For children who stammer - contact your local speech and language service or, thanks to the support of Action for Stammering Children, the Michael Palin Centre can offer assessments to children and their families from anywhere in the UK, to explore how to help the child to become a confident communicator, with the support of their families, who are a part of the process.
Everybody deserves to be heard - let’s do everything we can to make that happen for those who stammer.
A Christmas Blog from Elaine Kelman – Head of Michael Palin Centre
Christmas – and stammering …… with just a few days to go, the excitement builds: schools are breaking up, bells are jingling and shops are heaving.
The MPC helpline is also busy with parents who are noticing that their children seem to be stammering more at this time of year. What can they do?
Let’s think about why that might be …
- Many children (and parents!) are exhausted by the end of term, and we know that tiredness often results in more stammering.
- Colds, flus and sniffles are everywhere at this time of year, and parents often tell us that stammering becomes more marked when their child is unwell or run-down.
- There’s always a lot of excitement which can also affect a child’s fluency, especially as they speed up their talking.
- Routines tend to go out of the window during school holidays and although this may be a relief for many, this can throw some children.
So the normal things that happen at Christmas time can have an unexpected effect on children who stammer.
The first thing to say is that for most, this increase in stammering will be temporary and, when normal life resumes in the New Year, things are likely to settle down again.
But it may be helpful to remember a couple of points over the Christmas break:
- Excitement: we don’t want to say ‘Bah Humbug’! But there’s no need to ramp up the excitement into delirium.
- Monitor tiredness: suspending normal bedtimes may seem fun, but children do not necessarily sleep later in the morning. Overnight stays in relatives’ homes may also have an impact. Building in some early nights might help to redress the balance.
- Routines: if your child is one who likes a routine, talk them through what is going to be happening, so they feel more in control. Christmas mealtimes may also become more ad hoc, so keep an eye on whether the children’s fuel tanks are running low. Look out too for possible effects of sugar highs!
- In a busy, noisy environment, with emotions running high, some quiet one-to-one time might be helpful. Just five minutes away from the hustle and bustle might help to settle your child down.
There’s more advice for families on our website and you can ring our helpline on 020 3316 8100.
The team at the Michael Palin Centre wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
MPC has a brand new website!
You are on it, so you know about this great new website and we encourage you to look around at all the extra information. We have new sections for adults and for those seeking private assessment and therapy services. Our training for professionals pages have new functions, such as online booking and payment. All our pages have been refreshed with new, updated information and video material. More is in the pipeline, especially for our research pages.
If you have any suggestions about what you would like us to include, please use the Contact Us page to email us with your ideas.
Action for Stammering Children’s Fundraising Initiative for the MPC Helpline raises over £31,000
Action for Stammering Children, the charity which supports the MPC, has raised over £31,000 to fund the Helpline for parents, teachers, therapists, doctors and any others who need advice about stammering. The Helpline is manned by the MPC team of specialist therapists and is an invaluable resource for worried parents, therapists needing a second opinion or anyone seeking advice or wanting to refer. This fantastic fundraising initiative was made possible by The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, which doubles donations made in a specific time period. We are very grateful to all who supported this, especially the trustees of Action for Stammering Children, whose generosity made this possible.
For advice and support from the MPC Helpline, please ring 020 3316 8100.
The Stuttering Foundation’s President, Jane Fraser’s visit to MPC
We are looking forward to welcoming back to the Centre Jane Fraser, the President of the Stuttering Foundation, who have been generous supporters of the work of MPC for over ten years. Jane will be here to make a very special presentation on Wednesday – more news to follow, so watch this space!
News from the International Fluency Association
There is just one more week to send submissions to present papers at the Joint World Congress of the International Fluency Association, the International Cluttering Association and the International Stuttering Association, to be held in Hiroshima Japan in July 2018. For more information go to: www.theifa.org/index.php/callforpapers. This opportunity includes potential bursary availability for students and IFA members. The call for papers closes on 15th December, so don’t delay.
Charitably-sponsored Palin PCI courses around the UK
Thanks to Action for Stammering Children (ASC), Palin PCI training for early childhood stammering is coming to a location near you! ASC has supported this initiative for the past five years, enabling therapists to access training where they are, rather than incurring the expense of travel and accommodation. What is more, the charity provides the first 25 applicants with a free course manual, worth £42. The first course will be held at Birmingham City University on 22 & 23 March 2018. For more information and to apply click here. More venues to be announced. If you would like to host a course in your location, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Become an Accredited Palin PCI Therapist
An accreditation scheme is now available for therapists working with young children who stammer to gain the status of ‘Accredited Palin PCI Therapist’. This will represent a level of expertise in using Palin Parent Child Interaction Therapy which has been approved by the Michael Palin Centre. The process involves the two-day Palin PCI course, followed by a third day of extended skills training. The trainee then receives six hours of individual professional supervision with a specialist MPC therapist (this may be via the internet), developing a portfolio as they work with families of young children who stammer to demonstrate that they have acquired the skills to become accredited. For more information and details of our introductory offer, please click here.
The Centre will be closed from the 27th to 29th December, and a telephone service is available for any urgent queries. Please call 020 3316 8100 during the holiday period for further details.