19th March 2021
James 'Jam' Robinson talks about having a hard time at school, and how family and finding a passion in something helped with his speech.
Hello, I'm James, but most people know me as Jam. The stammer plays a part in that name change but I'll get to that.
As a kid, I realised rather quickly that I was different. Friends around me at primary school were able to speak full sentences, and I could hardly say a word without getting stuck. I didn't understand why other people around me could speak easily, yet I couldn't. A lot of tears and confused tantrums later, I was finally told by the doctor that I had a stammer. Hard Ls and words beginning with S I found the hardest. My Mam has always been amazing around it; always supported me and reassured me that I still had a voice to give to the world.
As a kid, I realised rather quickly that I was different.
School was hard. Especially secondary school. The icebreakers at the start of term, where the class went round introducing themselves in turn was a horrifying anxiety-inducing experience that I always wanted to avoid. The full body numbness you feel as it gets closer to your turn. Then it is your turn. Everyone in the class focuses on you, waiting, giggling as you try to say your own name. Reading out loud from a book gave me terrible fear of being laughed at.
- 'Strangely, I noticed that I could only get my words out on a stage and not elsewhere' Read Nasir's story
The school years went on and unfortunately so did the bullies. I suffered mocking, teasing, even mimicking of my stammer. There were days I just wanted to hide away, but as time went on each insult only made me stronger.
My name was an incredibly hard word for me to say. The hard J at the beginning would never roll out of my mouth easily. I could always say 'jam' easily though without stammering, so I purposefully shortened my name to Jam, and the confidence started rising. I left school with a great bunch of friends and my confidence was good.
FINDING A PASSION
In my adult life, I still sometimes get asked if I'm OK whilst blocking on a word. But I love my stammer now! It's who I am. It makes me, me.
I fell in love with gardening and plants from a young age thanks to my Granddad, and soon people around me realised I could speak about plants all day long without getting stuck on words or overwhelmed. What's this? A passion for something brings out the inner voice in you, the confident voice. As if by magic my passions and interests became my best friend. Once I found something I loved talking about I spoke without fear, without anxiety and full of confidence. People actually started wanting to listen to me!
I got a job in a plant nursery, which I don't do anymore, but I'd like to get more into writing about gardens. I focus mainly on indoor gardening. Creating peaceful indoor spaces that comfort and soothe us. Plants have been a huge benefit to me and my confidence.
No one should ever feel held back because of a stammer. You can be everything you've ever dreamed of being.
I never fear my stammer now. I know it's always going to be there. I have an amazing, loving family around me who don't even hear or notice it anymore. Having those loved ones around you certainly makes talking easier.
If there's anyone out there — a young child or an adult who has a stammer and feels alone and distant, please don't worry. Your stammer is a beautiful thing to have. It makes you stand out. It makes you unique. You are never alone. No one should ever feel held back because of a stammer. You can be everything you've ever dreamed of being.
I thank my Mam and my loving family for always being supportive. I always thank my plants, for giving me the confidence to speak without fear. Go ahead and chase your dreams, for your stammer shouldn't determine who you are.