The King's Speech
Adam Black tells us about attending a Royal Garden Party this summer for services to stammering awareness raising as well as exploring different approaches.
6th October 2023
My name is Adam Black and I'm a person who stammers.
At the start of July I attended the first Royal Garden Party to be hosted by King Charles III at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the majestic Edinburgh. This was a very proud moment for me and for my family and I suppose it is one which should be a proud moment for the stammering community. The invitation came after being named on the Queen's Honours List in 2019 for my service to Raising Awareness of Stammering. The Garden Party itself was a brilliant day, a truly wonderful day where we openly talked about stammering with anyone we conversed with.
But how does one end up receiving a royal honour for something to do with stammering in the first place?
When I did my first piece of awareness-raising in 2007, there was virtually nothing that viewed individuals who stammer in a positive light. I made it my mission to talk about stammering positively as often and on as many different platforms as possible. To date I've been involved in over 100 print articles, several radio and TV interviews to raise awareness and have gone 'viral' on numerous occasions (watch Adam's video for BBC News, 'Embracing My Stutter'). My focus was always: here's what a person with a stammer can achieve and where possible, educate the general public.
My focus was always: here's what a person with a stammer can achieve and where possible, educate the general public.
Being a teacher has also given me ample opportunities to raise awareness for future generations and shape council policy on stammering. I was a co-author for Glasgow City Council on their guidance for pupils who stammer. I also host annual training sessions for teachers and run awareness-raising assemblies in Scotland.
I started my awareness-raising journey after going on a fairly well-known stammering course called The McGuire Programme. I found its 'treat speaking like a sport' focus to be something which fitted well with me and for many years I was heavily involved with the Programme. I became the youngest ever course instructor and then subsequently part of the staff training team for many years. I have made life-long friends through the organisation and actually attended the Royal Garden Party with a fellow lifetime member and former course instructor Steven Cairns (see picture).
I continue to hold down and thrive in a speaking-heavy job and being honest about who I am as a person who stammers continues to be front and centre.
As time moved on, I began to look at what underpins the McGuire method and two of the big hitters are pioneers of stammering theory Joseph Sheehan and Charles Van Riper. Both argued that our fear of stammering will reduce if we stop trying to hide it. I decided at the start of 2022 that I'd like to try stepping back from my voluntary role on The McGuire Programme and focus more on Sheehan's non-avoidance and Van Riper's cancellation in the real world (Editor's note: Van Riper was a speech & language therapist who developed a set of techniques to modify stammering, one of which was called 'cancellation').
Although daunting at first, stepping back from the safety blanket of McGuire, I did so knowing that as a lifetime member I could return at any point. As it turns out, I am loving a refocus and exploring the teachings of two giants of stammering therapy is a joy. I continue to hold down and thrive in a speaking-heavy job and being honest about who I am as a person who stammers continues to be front and centre.
My advice to anyone considering therapy or courses of any kind is to have a go. If you aren't considering them then I support that too. Stammering is a completely unique and individual process and something for the individual to control. What I would say to anyone who stammers is to talk about stammering to anyone who will listen; your family, friends, colleagues, the media or do a video on a social. Anything which gets people talking and thinking about stammering is a good thing, in my humble opinion. And for what it's worth, the Royals agree 😉.
The McGuire Programme is one of the options available for stammering. To see the full list of options, see Therapy & Courses.