Abed Ahmed became a teacher with a stammer. He runs stammer support sessions in his school, and plans a stammering awareness video with pupils. He invites anyone interested in collaborating to get in touch.
Stammering since the age of 4 has been a challenge in various stages of my life, and the transition from primary to secondary school was not an easy move. The fact that there were many pupils in secondary school was a daunting concept because it meant that I was more likely to be bullied about my stammer.
I was often teased about the stammer which at times made feel angry towards myself, and that somehow I was at fault. My parents used to tell me to calm down and speak slowly but they never seemed to quite understand. Why would they? Not many people really understand stammering.
Even so, my journey through secondary school was not as difficult as some who stammer have reported. I was lucky enough to have a supportive network of friends. That was coupled with the quality of confidence I gained whilst studying GCSE Drama at school, which I believe is a very useful trait when it comes to your stammer.
I stopped thinking about my stammer once I stopped caring about what people think.
Fast forward to the age of 18 (when one naturally becomes more conscious about appearance and self-aware), whilst I was at sixth form. This was when I finally decided to seek help from the NHS regarding my stammer. After signing up I gave up waiting for a call, but then they got back to me almost a year later. I received a phone call for my first therapy session. In retrospect, it was the best decision I ever made. It was the first time in 18 years that I was finally able to open up to someone about my stammer. Not once did my friends, family or school ask me about it. Nor did I ever bring it up, because I was too embarrassed.
Therapy helped me realise that the quicker you accept your stammer, the quicker you can move on. And that’s exactly what I did. I stopped caring. I stopped thinking about my stammer once I stopped caring about what people think.
Becoming a teacher
Three years later, I completed my degree and became a secondary school maths teacher back at the school I attended as a young student, Holte School. Teaching is a profession that requires you to speak 99% of the time. I was told by an ex-teacher from another school that I wouldn’t be able to become a teacher because of my stammer and I believed it. However, I persevered and ensured I would overcome any obstacle. I was lucky that my motivation was supported by self-confidence, a quality which sadly not everyone possesses, especially as a younger adult.
I decided to set up my own Stammer Support Sessions in the school
As a teacher, I decided to set up my own Stammer Support Sessions in the school, with groups of stammering pupils aged between 11 and 16. I currently work with 6 boys and 2 girls. I've been focusing on improving their confidence and helping them to achieve a greater degree of fluency in their speech. Sessions have included drama and theatrical role play, interview practice and tips, and advice on how to approach people, Overall I hope I act as a general supporting figure to give students a voice and empathise with their struggles.
These hourly sessions have been running once a fortnight since September 2016. The staff at my school have been extremely supportive and have said that they have seen a change in pupils’ personalities, for the better! One parent came up to me during parents evening to congratulate and thank me for the work I've been doing with her son. She has realised that he has become much more confident and is overall much happier.
The impact of such sessions on their personal development and confidence has been colossal
This is what teaching is all about - making a difference in a child's life. I believe I was a role model to these pupils as I myself have a stammer and thus can relate to how difficult it can be to deal with stammering on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately I piloted these sessions because I aim to give all pupils a voice. It is important that all students of all abilities have a positive mind-set and the confidence that is needed to achieve their goals despite having a stammer. The impact of such sessions on their personal development and confidence has been colossal. Pupils have flourished in character as a result of the sessions. I have found it a gratifying experience, particularly because I can relate to their struggles. As a pupil, I felt isolated and nervous because I was not given the support I needed throughout the vital years of development. These pupils now have access to means of support at an outstanding establishment.
So, what next?
I am going to be leading on more projects in the upcoming academic year at my school. I want to raise more awareness amongst the staff in school, and want to help pupils further with their confidence in speech and language. I will be doing this by publishing a stammering awareness video which I have created with my pupils. This video will be shown to the staff at my school and also made available publicly for the wider world. I aim to develop these projects into something substantial, so if you wish to collaborate, please get in contact with me or follow me on twitter!
Short news report on Free Radio about the stammering group (37 seconds).