Helping those to find their voice

The article's author, Carla Johnson, looking at the camera

8th July 2021

Carla Johnson talks about deciding to making a career change from marketing to speech & language therapy, and how important it is to look after our mental health.

It is fair to say that the last year or so has been challenging for everyone. Many of us were given the chance to take a step back and really think about what we want out of life. I am not the exception to this, having invested years into marketing after completing my MSc and working as a Marketing Executive within the leisure sector. I understand how important communication can be. However, looking at my career prospects going forward I now know I want to help people. 

Becoming a Speech & Language Therapist

I really started thinking more about those who are unable to express themselves through speech. Language is such a valuable aspect of our life; we need it in order to thrive in our communities, as well as to be able to express our thoughts and opinions with our peers. 

Looking at my career prospects going forward I now know I want to help people. 

Language is a phenomenon which has continued to fascinate me, which is why I am aspiring to become a Speech & Language Therapist (SLT). I am already taking up volunteer roles and hoping to be accepted on an SLT course this September. I want to help those in need and can't wait to start the path onto a new career.

I Can't Say My Name

In March I watched the documentary on the BBC called 'I Can't Say My Name. BBC producer Felicity Baker put the spotlight on stammering and the struggles she faces when saying her own name. She has spent her whole life trying to hide her stammer. 

When exploring the hidden world, Felicity discovers she is not alone. In the documentary, she meets a rugby player who attributes his stammer for his forceful behaviour on the pitch, a rapper who found music stopped him stammering and the film star Michael Palin, whose father stammered but never ever spoke about it. Felicity gave a great insight into the world of stammering as she discovered she is not the only who struggles to say her name.

I learnt a lot from this documentary and it reinforced my desire to move into speech & language therapy. Felicity's ability to open up to colleague, the broadcaster Sophie Raworth, regarding her stammer has enabled her to take ownership of it and finally open up about it. It gave her the opportunity to meet others and create an insightful documentary, which is still available on iPlayer and well worth a watch!

Mental Health Awareness for Those with Speech Difficulties 

We are being told more and more to talk, with focus being on the importance of mental health. This has made me think about all the innovative ways in which we communicate, especially for those with speech difficulties. 

Mental health continues to be an important topic for everyone, even more so in the last year. It is something we need to actively be working on in order to improve; even more so for those with disorders which may have an impact on their self-esteem and outlook. I believe that those who stammer have just as much chance to be outgoing and confident as those who don't. So, whether you want to go on stage, participate in debates or conduct a presentation, your stammer should not hold you back. Nevertheless, it is natural to feel apprehensive — social scenarios can be difficult and speaking in front of us may be daunting. 

I believe that those who stammer have just as much chance to be outgoing and confident as those who don't.

With the rise in mental health awareness, know that you are not alone. You may feel anxious, which is a common factor of those who stammer. For people who stammer, as well as the people who know them, it's imperative to create an environment which supports personal expression and communication. 

If you know someone who is stammering, remember it is vital that you don't speak over them. You should allow them to finish their sentences and not try to do it for them. Be patient because if you appear to hurry them to finish what they are saying, it can result in their anxiety getting worse as well as communicating becoming unpleasant experience for the person who stutters.

If you have a stammer, don't be afraid to let people know about resources they can access as this will help them understand more. Sharing this article on social media is a great start, and may help the people who care about you to better understand what is appropriate and helpful. 

It is very important to look after yourself, so pay close attention to how you're feeling. Anxiety can manifest in different ways from shaking hands, heart racing, fidgeting, loss of concentration or a tight chest. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then don't hesitate to inform your speech & language therapist or GP on ways to help combat it. Seeking help may be daunting, but anxiety often goes hand in hand with speech difficulties and shouldn't be overlooked. 

Final Thoughts

I hope that by studying to become a speech & language therapist I will gain a better understanding of the complexities of human communication and gain the relevant expertise in order to help people. Stammering is a disorder which has no impact on intelligence. I encourage you to seek help when you need to!