A chance encounter between Richard Cave, a speech and language therapist at a London hospital, and Christine Simpson led to a training session for hospital staff in March. Christine had mentioned in the conversation difficulties she had just had with her stammer at a hospital visit, and Richard suggested running the training session at Northwick Park Hospital, in association with BSA.
The training was led by Richard, who has a stammer, but with four other BSA volunteers (including myself) also taking part, both chipping into Richard's talk and helping with breakout sessions. After an introduction to stammering, including some of the thoughts and emotions that can accompany it and how people may try to hide the stammer, participants split into groups to brainstorm what issues people who stammer would have in different situations, such as buying a coffee at Costa, making a phone call to change an appointment, or accessing the particular staff member.
Participants were then given five 'top tips' for speaking with people who stammer, and again broke into groups to practise these in talking with the volunteers.
For me, a strong point of the session was that Richard's excellent presentation was supplemented by the interjections of the volunteers - talking, with a stammer, about their own experiences. So it was there in front of participants, rather than just being a session 'about' stammering.
Feedback from participants was glowing. As one participant said to Richard, "I wanted to let you know how useful I found it, and to say I really enjoyed the way you organised it for us. Please extend my thanks to all the people with a stammer who put themselves forward to help us with our understanding, brilliant."
If you'd like to organise a similar event locally, get in touch with BSA for more details on the presentation and format.
From the Summer 2011 issue of Speaking Out, back cover.