It can be rough going through the education system with a stammer. So talk to someone about it. Talk to a teacher, a family member, a friend or our helpline.
Most schools are covered by the Equality Act 2010, and have a responsibility towards pupils who may be disabled by a condition which affects day to day activities. Maybe bring up some of the 'Reasonable adjustments' in the attachment below. Talking about something which is really painful can get it out of your head, and give you perspective and space to breathe.
Don't worry about it. You'll grow out of it. Just relax. Be more confident.
It’s easy for others to hand out advice. It’s well meant, but not terribly helpful.
The way you stammer, the way you feel about it, will change over time. So while your stammer might affect you a lot now, it is likely to change significantly in the years ahead. The less you care about it, the less of an issue it will be.
It may help to talk to a teacher and go through things which could help you in class. Maybe talk first with your parents about what to say and who to approach. Your parents could come with you if you wish.
So, if you find waiting for your turn to read out loud puts added pressure on you, ask if you can go first, or indicate when you want your turn. Talk with your teachers about how you might respond to the register or questions in class and extra time for any oral tests at GCSE. These types of changes are known as reasonable adjustments and here are some more examples (pdf).
Let your friends and teachers know what you would like them to do when you stammer. Give a short talk to your class – your Speech and Language Therapist could help you with this, or come and do it with you (see our page on Finding a NHS therapist). Being open about stammering will help your classmates understand more about what it’s like for you and what they can do to support you.
Bullying and teasing
Bullying and teasing at school is not acceptable. All schools have a zero tolerance when it comes to bullying, so find someone you trust at school, and tell them about it so that action can be taken.
There's lots of good NHS therapy out there. So, if you want help in managing your speech then go for it. You may be able to refer yourself, although in some areas you will need to see your doctor first. If you are under 16 your parents will need to be involved. There are also some brilliant courses for young people, where you’ll meet others your age (see below).
City University, London
Five-day stammering intensive courses for young people who stammer aged 8-18 during school holidays in London. Tel: 020 7040 0150.
The Fluency Trust
Residential courses in Devon for children and teenagers who stammer aged 10-17, that combines intensive speech therapy with outdoor pursuits. Tel: 01793 466790.
The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering, London
Weekly group therapy for school-aged children aged 8 – 12. Two-week group therapy for children aged 10 – 14 with their parents and for those aged 15 – 18 during school holidays in London. Tel: 020 3316 8100.
The Talking Out Residential: Five-day residential courses in Yorkshire and the North West for ages 12 –16, combining intensive speech therapy with outdoor activities. Tel: 07763 719272.
Pick up new skills, open up career options or prepare for higher education. If you pursue Further Education, a stammer needn't limit your choices. Options range from courses covering the basics of reading, writing and numbers, to GCSEs and A levels. There are also opportunities to get into work-based learning. Take a look at gov.uk's website for courses.
All colleges will have a support service which should make sure your needs are met. You might not classify yourself as having a disability because of your stammer, and that’s fine. In some instances classifying stammering as a disability can be useful, as it opens doors to the possibility of getting more financial support.
If you have an impairment, a health condition including mental health conditions, or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you may be entitled to claim extra financial help as a student. This is paid on top of anything you get through the standard student finance package. This can include:
- Disabled Students' Allowances: these provide extra financial help over and above any reasonable adjustment made by a Higher Education Institution. They do not have to be repaid.
- Support Fund: you may be able to claim financial help through the support fund if you are struggling, money-wise.
- Personal Independence Payment: you may be able to claim this benefit over and above the Disabled Students' Allowances and other forms of student finance.
- Employment and Support Allowance: you may get this if you have an illness or disability that affects your ability to work. If you already get this benefit, you may be able to carry on receiving it as a student.
These are paid on top of the standard student finance package.
Universities want you to do well in your studies and enjoy your student life. They also want you to feel included and supported. The types of support they offer may include:
- Academic support: this is likely to come from your academic adviser, who can give you help if you’re struggling with any aspect of your course.
- Peer mentoring schemes: your university might offer a peer mentoring scheme led by students, for students. Peer mentors are normally higher-year students on the same degree programme as you. Since they’ve already been a student for at least a year, they should be able to help you with anything you might be worried or unsure about.
- Specialist support services: your university is likely to have a support service aimed at helping students with disabilities. You might not view your stammering as a disability and that’s fine. But this is the type of service you’d talk to if you wanted some adjustments made. For example, if your course requires you to do a presentation, you could ask for some extra time or you could ask to do the presentation in front of a small group of people.
- Local stammering groups: a good chance to meet, and receive support from, people who stammer from all walks of life. See if there's a group near you. Some are even held in universities, such as the Manchester support group, the Birmingham Stammering Network and the London support group.
You may also consider seeing if your University would like to sign up to the Stammerers Through University Consultancy (STUC). STUC aims to ensure those who stammer in higher education are not disadvantaged and can reach their full potential, no matter what their role.
Visit STUC's website here.
Read an article by STUC's founder, Claire Norman, on why she set the network up.
Being a student brings its own pressures, whether you stammer or not. If you’re feeling worried, anxious or depressed, you’re not alone and there’s help available.
Sometimes things can get so overwhelming that it can all seem black. It needn’t be like that. If you reach a point where your feelings boil over, there are people out there who will listen, confidentially and anonymously. Many of the helplines have the facility for webchat or email, so you won’t even need to talk.
Phone our helpline – we're open 10am to 12 noon or 6pm to 8pm. You'll talk to someone who stammers or someone who understands what it means to stammer. Or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll write back.
BSA's closed Facebook Support Group is open for everyone aged 13+.
Student Minds: Student Minds run peer support groups so that students experiencing mental health difficulties have access to a supportive environment in which they can talk about life, university and what they are doing to keep their lives on track.
The Mix: The Mix is the UK’s leading support service for young people. There for any challenge – from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs. Free, confidential, anonymous. Talk to them online here or call 0808 808 4994, open 4pm to 11pm every day.
CALM: The Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men and boys hitting crisis or feeling down. Confidential, anonymous, free. Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight) or contact them on webchat at www.thecalmzone.net
Other Sources of Support
When you are online, don’t give out personal information in chat rooms. See www.childnet.com/young-people/secondary