Talk about stammering and help remove the stigma

An information event being organised at NUI Galway next week aims to improve the lives of the one in 100 people who stammer.

“Let’s talk about Stammering” will be held on Wednesday October 26 at 7pm in lecture room AC 201 in the main corridor of the Science/Arts building.

“This event is a great opportunity to talk about stammering and aims to improve the lives of people who stammer,” says James McCormack, the organiser of the evening.

“Only by talking openly about stammering will we gradually remove the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding it. And there’s an additional benefit as well – talking about it is therapeutic in its own right.

“Stammering can be a very difficult problem but one that is too frequently and paradoxically not talked about. People who stammer can experience shame, fear and avoidance of speaking situations. Talking about stammering is how we can all improve the lives of people who stammer.”

The cause of stammering is neurological, he explains. Research using brain imaging techniques (MRI ) clearly shows that people who stammer have brain anatomy and function that is different from people who do not stammer.

“So the underlying cause of stammering is physical; but of course we know that with stammering what is, in essence, a speech production problem can quickly develop into a communication disability. And there is no instant cure. However, we do know that a context in which stammering is stimatised either intentionally or unintentionally makes it worse, and a context in which it is OK to stammer makes it easier.

“Speech therapy works for many people. Support to stammer more openly and speech modification techniques have radically changed the lives of many people who stammer, including those on the panel. Speech therapy for stammering can be individual but can be very effective in groups, too.”

He says it is possible to “become OK about stammering” and to make the physical production of speech easier. This can lead to reduction in severity and frequency of stammering. There are many people who stammer who do not allow stammering to hold them back or stop them enjoying their lives.

Speech therapy for children who have just started to stammer is especially important to reduce the chance of stammering continuing into adulthood.

Stammering affects one per cent of the world’s population, according to Mr McCormack. “Speech production is a hugely complex system of connections within the brain. In such a complex system things don’t always go according to plan. So, it’s not surprising that fluent speech is not achieved in everyone. The speech production area in the brains of one in every hundred people or about 47,500 people in Ireland, fails to develop fluent speech.

“But it’s not all bad. A lifetime of stammering develops characteristics that can bring great benefits to society: authenticity, resilience, empathy, determination, listening skills.”

He outlines that the “Let’s talk about Stammering” event aims to create a context where it is OK to stammer and to talk about it.

“It’s an opportunity to explore the facts and myths about stammering and to meet a panel comprising people who stammer and speech language therapists. There will be an open discussion about the issues for students and people who stammer generally and importantly, what treatment options are available. There will be time for questions and answers. Written questions/discussion topics are gratefully accepted prior to or on the night or by email to [email protected]

The local branch of the Irish Stammering Association (ISA ) meets in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel on the second Tuesday of every month at 8pm. Members of the organisation will attend the NUI Galway event. For further information on the group contact Conor at (087 ) 9806196.

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