Living with a stammer in lockdown

The article's author, Jack Dinsley, with his family

The current lockdown has had a big impact on Jack Dinsley, who is used to being sociable. Read how it's affected his speech and how he got on at a recent online job interview.

Life has become very strange for everyone in the past month. Schools and businesses closing, home-schooling taking place and a lot of people now working from home. 

For someone like me, this lockdown has impacted on me massively. I love socialising because it means that I get to go out of my comfort zone and speak to people. Life has changed drastically; all my part-time jobs have stopped operating but I’m fortunate that I’m still getting paid. My university has now started to operate online with lectures and meetings taking place remotely. Worse of all my diary is empty — it’s usually overbooked with little space for ‘me’ time. 

Now I’m reliant on technology and a good internet connection. I think I’ve been heavily affected by this and I have noticed that my stammer has become worse.

I personally love going to university, attending my lectures and having that direct contact with staff and my friends. Now I’m reliant on technology and a good internet connection. I think I’ve been heavily affected by this and I have noticed that my stammer has become worse. When I was much younger my mum always used to notice that my stammer would be worse when I was off in the summer holidays because I would have less social contact, and that is happening now. 

Online interview

However, it is not all bad news for my stammer as I have gained two new jobs with my university. One of those jobs is as a researcher for a project on digital solutions for loneliness, in a collaboration between Age UK and the university itself. The other as a student content creator, which will see me creating content for their social media platforms and filming vlogs. I would never have imagined that I would be filming vlogs when I was younger, but here I am. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to get these jobs and I experienced an online interview which was very strange but also a great experience.

My stammer is an extra bonus because it shows that being different is a beautiful thing.  

I just want to highlight how I prepare myself for an interview – especially as someone with a stammer. Up to now I have got every job I have been interviewed for and I’m very proud to say that. I usually don’t bring up that I have a stammer until I get the job and if I do stammer during the interview, they think it’s just nerves. 

My most recent interview during lockdown was different to any that I’ve ever had. I kind of knew what the job entailed but not to its full extent and it was my first online interview. I was myself throughout and I showed my personality, as this job requires lots of it. I got the job because I was the right person for it, not because I have a stammer. My stammer is an extra bonus because it shows that being different is a beautiful thing. 

Life at home

My home life has been great as I have been able to focus on myself and I’ve even started to read a lot more. I used to love reading when I was in high school but life got in the way, with exams, and I lost my love for it. I’m very fortunate to have an amazing family (Mum, Dad and two brothers) who I can talk to and be myself around. We’re currently having a ‘Come Dine With Me’ competition which is brilliant — that’s me in the picture preparing my meal.

Jack Dinsley preparing a meal

My tips for coping in lockdown

If you have a stammer, I think it’s important that you realise you aren’t the only one that is feeling confused, anxious or angry at the moment. 

Here are some tips that have worked for me and may work for you whilst in lockdown: 

  • Have some ‘me’ time. It’s so important to relax and concentrate on yourself. As a lot of people know, being stressed can make your stammer worse. 
  • Go for your daily exercise. This is my favourite part of the day and allows me to get some well-needed fresh air. 
  • Watch TV or read a book. Concentrating on something other than what’s going on in your life is a good distraction. Reading Harry Potter has helped me escape our world and concentrate on being at Hogwarts. 
  • Take your time. This can apply to your speech or just your daily life. Don’t fret about pleasing everyone. If you can make yourself proud that is all that matters. 

Be kind to yourself

I think the most important thing to remember throughout all of this is to be kind to yourself. Prior to Covid-19, I launched my own stammering campaign 'Be Kind'. Now more than ever, be kind to yourself if you have a stammer. If you have a bad day when you can’t string a sentence together, remember that you aren’t the only one having one of those days. 

I’m lucky that I’ve yet to have a completely bad day. My speech isn’t perfect, but at the end of the day who is perfect? 

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