In the first in a new series profiling self-help groups around the UK, we look at the network which runs currently the only group in Scotland for people who stammer, and which has recently gained charitable status. Chair James Stewart tells us about its activities.
The West of Scotland Stammering Network is a newly-formed charitable organisation which holds a monthly support group for adults who stammer in Glasgow. Following an online survey to establish demand for the setting up of a new group, twenty people confirmed interest. The survey also asked what people were looking for, and responses included: coping strategies, public speaking techniques, confidence-building, a chance to speak and share experiences in a safe environment, and an opportunity to make friends.
The first meeting took place in April 2012 and so far some of the topics we have looked at have included: desensitisation to stammering, block modification therapy and practical ways to cope with everyday difficult situations that having a stammer can cause. Life Coach Sue MacGillivary has run workshops on stress management and confidence-building, which have been very well received. Attendees travel in from Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde areas. The group was fully evaluated this March and 100% of respondents to our survey said it has been of benefit to them. It was also noted how members like the friendly and fun atmosphere at group meetings.
The organisation has received funding from the National Lottery, the Co-operative, BSA, the Glasgow Housing Association and Ignis Asset Management. Treasurer Lorna McIlreavey says, “The support from all our funders is fantastic; we are so grateful to them. We have also been lucky in having individuals raising funds for the group such as Heather Canning, who raised over £500 doing a 10k run. A relative of one group member even knitted scarves to sell at craft fairs. It just goes to show the support and goodwill there is out there.”
The organisation gained charitable status this year and held its first annual general meeting in June, at which a Management Committee of nine volunteers was put in place to run the charity. Ideally we want to set up more support groups across Scotland and run free workshops for people who stammer. After an excellent first year I’m really looking forward to the next, as I’m certain that with our motivated team of volunteers we can continue to reach out and help more people who stammer in Scotland.
Group member Andrew Banford says:
“I went along to the first ever meeting in Glasgow. For me, it was the first time I ever encountered anyone else who had a stammer, let alone a room-full, and I was amazed. A room full of people who understood what I was going through, after spending my life thinking no-one understood; it was a very liberating experience. This is definitely a big factor in why I enjoy the meetings so much and find them so helpful. In one of the most enjoyable meetings to date we shared advice, feelings and techniques for dealing with common ordeals, from ordering a train ticket to answering the telephone, which was a really fun activity. After the meetings I always feel less anxious and don’t focus so much on trying not to stammer, and my speech has definitely improved as a consequence.”
From Speaking Out Summer 2013, p8