19th May 2023
Paul Pearsall tells us about volunteering to run a stand for STAMMA at a local student fayre.
STAMMA says: we were recently invited to have a stand at Halesowen College's student fayre. This was a great opportunity to speak to students — we could raise stammering awareness with those who don't stammer, and tell the ones who do how they can work with their college to be more stammer-friendly. Local STAMMA member Paul stepped up to run the stand on the day. Over to Paul…
I managed to arrive at the college on time. I Google Mapped it the night before to make sure I knew where I was going. However, the automatic traffic barrier across the entrance threw me — nobody had told me about that. However, I got through and after signing in I was taken to the venue.
It was a large room with tables and stands already set up. Early to mid-80's music was wafting across the room. My first reaction was, "I've got most of these on vinyl!". The college showed me every grace and courtesy while I was on their premises. I promptly opened the box which STAMMA had sent ahead which was full of leaflets, pens and postcards to give away. They also included lots of sweets to tempt people to come over to the stand and chat. I began to set everything up.
By lunchtime there was not a single pen left on the stand. I didn't even manage to get one for myself!
By lunchtime there was not a single pen left on the stand. I didn't even manage to get one for myself! To me this seemed strange, since I thought most of the work was done digitally nowadays.
My main challenge was how to get people interested in stammering if they didn't stammer themselves. I stammer and have dyslexia. Most people understand the impact of dyslexia more than they understand stammering, so I decided to use that as my primary example. Both stammering and dyslexia can be equally challenging — I've been there and got the postcards to prove it! After explaining my dyslexia condition and its implications to the students, I then moved on to discuss the implications of stammering at college and university. STAMMA provided me with some very good resources to demonstrate this point, and I used them to full effect!
Sadly, there is a general misconception in society that people who stammer are deficient in some way. I tried to overturn that on the day by explaining to the students who Alan Turing was. Turing was a mathematician who worked with a group of others to break the Nazi's Enigma Code during World War II. And he stammered. He also invented the principles and concepts of the original computer. Simply said, with no Alan Turing you would have no personal computers, no mobile phones and no internet, end of! In 2020, the BBC ran a series to discover the most influential person of the 20th Century and Alan Turing won it. There has been a lot of speculation about Turing's life, but his stammer is rarely mentioned at all, strange that.
When talking with the students, I explained the work and aims of STAMMA — the type of help, resources and support they can give to people who stammer and their families. The most popular postcard that I gave away that day had on it the words 'I stammer. Let me speak'.
Thank you to Paul for all his support for STAMMA and for volunteering to run our stand at Halesowen College student fayre. If you're interested in representing STAMMA and raising awareness at events, do let us know. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photos courtesy of Paul Pearsall)