19-year-old Joshua Buckley-Ambler talks about how support at college built his confidence, helping him to follow his passion for basketball. He argues the same support should be given at secondary school.
I am a 19-year-old student from Manchester who stammers, and I love basketball and everything associated with its culture. As far back as I can remember, stammering didn’t enter into my consciousness until year five of primary school. Even before I knew what is was or why I couldn’t speak when answering for a register mark, for example, I did feel a bit different.
confusion and school
Throughout my secondary education I was occupied by football and having fun rather than working on my stammer and my studies. I think this ignorance on my part was caused by a constant confusion because not many people understood my stammer and I didn’t either.
At school my fluency and confidence was hit and miss depending on the day and the class. In terms of mental health and perspective, I did become more conscious of my fluency as the years progressed, which I disliked but it was only to be temporary.
I started to feel that I was being a burden to my classmates at times because of the misunderstandings.
For the first two years I used to approach lessons and interactions such as answering questions in class and meeting new people with heavy anxiety and even fear. But I never used to dwell on those thoughts because I knew a good lunchtime kick-about would make it all worth it – at least until the afternoon period started, that is.
It was in my third year where I started to feel that I was being a burden to my classmates at times because the misunderstandings would often halt lessons for several minutes. There were many cases where I had been assigned a reading aloud task and when it came to my turn and I blocked, everyone seemed stunned and maybe thought that I had not been listening.
It wasn’t until age 14 that I had my first stammering therapy. Since then I have participated in many therapies from different organisations both private and public. However, year by year I have started to appreciate that conversations and speaking about the issue can help to alleviate anxiety and overthinking, and can help to complement traditional therapy.
How basketball helped
As I mentioned earlier I am an avid basketball fan. It’s a hobby that has definitely provided an important distraction as there have been times when certain situations have been too overwhelming, even though I know what I am and what I am not capable of.
I started to play basketball as a junior player but my passion has emerged into now being involved and volunteering with organisations such as the Manchester Giants team, the organisation Greater Sport and the national governing body Basketball England.
In May of this year, I volunteered at a Leonard Cheshire Disability Opportunities sport event. Being associated with basketball and disabled participants, gave me the confidence and perspective I needed to commit to opportunities rather than dwell on negatives that can come along with a stammer, such as self-doubt.
What teachers should do
I would not have achieved any of the things above without the full support from my college teachers. The patience they and my peers have shown me has equipped me with the confidence I needed and as a result my speech has never been an issue in college.
Regular conversation can bring people out of their shell, and noticing someone’s stammer can potentially alleviate a lifetime of torment.
To avoid the situations I experienced at secondary school, I would suggest teachers get to know every student on a casual conversation basis. I know this may not be possible due to class size, but regular conversation can bring people out of their shell, and noticing someone’s stammer can potentially alleviate a lifetime of intrinsic and extrinsic torment. I benefitted from this at college, which massively aided my experience there. These conversations are essential as they add a very human element which could seem distant at times at secondary schools.
From my experiences during secondary school, everyone was willing to help but they openly admitted that they lacked the knowledge, so unfortunately progress to increase stammering awareness among my peers was minimal during my schooling. I believe every teacher should be equipped with basic knowledge about stammering to help better someone’s life. The teacher’s resources page on this website allows teachers or teaching assistants to implement strategies to be more inclusive when it comes to stammering.
Stammering can seem daunting to come to terms with and doubly scary for any 11-year-old entering high school. But I believe the future support structure and outlook is positive and teachers can obtain resources and knowledge more readily than ever.
The American NBA player Kevin Love said this about daily issues and mental health: “Everyone is going through something we can’t see.” Even though living with a stammer can sometimes seem bleak and daily life stagnant, if you push for opportunities, eventually, with commitment, you can reach goals and targets for sure.
For information and tips for school and college, see our Education section.
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