I was fortunate enough to sit in on a stammering awareness training session last week. It was run by Michael Turner, a person who stammers, and Christine Handsley, a speech and language therapist at Grimsby Hospital. The session was aimed at receptionists and others who are in patient-facing roles.
Michael himself is a beneficiary of speech therapy at the Leeds Stammering Centre, and it was there that the idea of training patient-facing personnel was born. A presentation was designed around a questionnaire/quiz and PowerPoint slides, and it was evident from the degree of participant interaction at Grimsby that it was a huge success. The receptionists left with a real understanding of the problems we face and an appreciation of how to respond to people who stammer, both on the telephone and face-to-face.
Michael stammered freely during the presentation, something that he feels is important in order to give receptionists an intimate feeling of what it's like to stammer. The same presentation by a fluent speech therapist, for example, would deliver the information but lack the same powerful impact.
What Michael is doing is hugely valuable because, as a direct result of his work, people who stammer will have a less stressful experience when visiting Grimsby Hospital. In addition to that, Michael says that his own confidence and self esteem have soared since leading the sessions.
Can we at the BSA encourage and support Michael's initiative in other areas of the country? Could it include any customer-facing organisation? These are questions I would like to discuss at the next BSA Trustee meeting in January. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts of your own.