Almost for as long as he could remember, speaking had been a burden for Dave because of his stammer. It had started at primary school when he was about five years old. When the teacher read out Dave's name on the register there would be a complete silence. "The words just would not come out. I was completely stuck." says Dave. "The teacher would think I wasn't at school and then all the other kids started to laugh."
When he started senior school his confidence plummeted and things got much worse. Speaking in class and asking for bus fares was hell. Resulting bullying made school a miserable experience for Dave.
At Sixth Form College, although things did improve Dave still found his stammer debilitating. However he managed to gain a place on a Law Degree course.
It was whilst undertaking his degree that Dave decided to seek help for his stammer. "The rigours of the course involved a lot of presentations. We were expected to contribute fully to verbal discussions."
When he started senior school, his confidence plummeted.
This, in addition to the problems many new students face, like making friends and adjusting to a strange environment was making life very difficult for Dave. "It got to the point were the stress was so great that I considered leaving university altogether" he says.
David's mother, Glenys was so concerned of the effect Dave's stammer was having that she tried to find some specialist therapy for Dave. Previous trips to G.P.s and speech therapists over the years had been fruitless. Her search led to the discovery of the British Stammering Association who put her in touch with Mary Collings at the Willy Russell Centre for Adults and Children who Stammer.
After an initial assessment, Dave enrolled on a week long intensive course aimed at improving communication skills. The course empowered clients to explore their stammer and to identify the feelings they associated with stammering. This reduces the distress and frustration often felt by a stammerer. As communication skills improve and confidence increases, the fear of stammering decreases.
The course involved role play, telephone skills, presentation skills and voluntary stammering to name but a few exercises undertaken during the week.
Dave emphasises that "constructive feedback is always being given and you get encouragement from within the group as well as from the therapists. The course is enjoyable and you can feel yourself improving from day one."
On completion of the course both Glenys and Mary had noticed a significant improvement. "He seems to take everything in his stride now. It's so pleasing to see him expressing himself more." says Glenys.
David has since completed his degree and hopes to pursue a career in Law. He is now looking forward to the future with optimism.
The course empowered clients to explore their stammer and to identify the feelings they associated with stammering
Since finishing the one week intensive course, Dave has attended follow-up courses of therapy. He has recently started to attend the Thursday evening group meetings at the Willy Russell Centre. He stresses "It's so important to carry on the good work, otherwise you can slip back. The atmosphere at the meetings is relaxed and friendly and gives you an opportunity to reinforce skills to take into the outside world."
Dave was a committee member for organising the BSA conference in Liverpool, something that up until recently would have been unthinkable. He says "I'm finding myself doing things I could only have dreamed of not that long ago. The sky's the limit now."
The British Stammering Association Conference (BSA) 2001 was held in Liverpool on the weekend the 7-9th of September 2001. Organising the conference were therapists and clients of the Willy Russell Centre for Adults and Children who Stammer.
Willy Russell Centre website: www.liverpoolcommunityhealth.nhs.uk/health-services/children-and-familie...
From the Spring 2001 edition of Speaking Out (updated for BSA Conference 2001).