BSA Scotland Open Day, Inverness, Saturday 19th May 2007
BSA Scotland, in conjunction with the Inverness Stammering Support Group and local speech and language therapists, has just held its fourth Open Day, this time at the Inshes Church, Inverness.
Fergus Ewing MSP addressing BSA Scotland's 'Highland Connections' Open Day in Inverness.
The event attracted more than 40 participants, including children and adults who stammer, parents, spouses, partners, speech and language therapists and teachers. All valued the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other's experiences.
The day, entitled 'Highland Connections', included testimonies from people who stammer, describing their experience of living with stammering, presentations on childhood stammering and the role of telemedicine in delivering therapy to people in rural areas, as well as a range of workshops. The latter included approaches to therapy, avoidance reduction, public speaking and self help as well as a parent discussion group and session on supporting stammering pupils in school.
We were delighted that Fergus Ewing, new Minister for Community Safety and local MSP, addressed the audience and stayed on to chat with participants over lunch. The presentation on childhood stammering was provided by Dr Cameron Stark, public health consultant for NHS Highland and himself a person who stammers.
The aim of such Open Days is to provide information and support to everyone who attends - a challenging prospect as our audience includes parents with young children who are showing early signs of stammering, who may hope to find how they can help their child stop stammering, alongside adults who stammer persistently. We trust, however, that even these apparently diverse perspectives can be brought together in a constructive way and this is borne out by the comments of participants.
Parents learn from adults who have continued to stammer how they can best alleviate the stresses that may surround early stammering to support their stammering child. They leave with a new understanding of what it means to stammer: it can be challenging and painful but need not be a barrier to participating fully in life and achieving one's potential. Adults who stammer feel satisfied to impart their knowledge so that children who stammer will be handled more sensitively and appropriately today.
At this event, Claire Pirnie's account of becoming more open about stammering, mentioning it in job interviews, travelling overseas to attend self-help conferences, and being the first person in her year group at University to get the job that everyone would have wanted was an inspiration to all. Dev Arumugam, Glasgow, and Darren Tree, from the Highland area, also described the impact of stammering on their lives and their journeys to greater acceptance and well-being. Darren commented later,
"My wife and I had a great time ... we both met lots of interesting people and I learnt things I never knew before about stammering, which is always a help."
Evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. A parent commented:
"I really had thought it was just my son and me who were dealing with this problem. Now I realise we are not alone, I shall certainly find out more and aim to attend future events".
An adult who stammers commented,
"There was a lot of talking and laughter - and I can think of no better way to judge such an event!".
A shy 11 year old boy from Skye decided, on the strength of attending, to join our residential 'Summer 'Scool' for stammering children, aged 10 - 14, in August.
We are grateful to Highland Council, Scotmid and the Inshes Church for their various forms of support in running the event.
Thanks to Sharon Daye, local speech and language therapist and co-facilitator of the Inverness Stammering Support Group, who put in a huge amount of effort locally to ensure the success of the event.
Jan Anderson, June 2007
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