Stammering rocks! So say the young people and their parents who attend a regular speech and language therapy fluency group in Middlesbrough, run by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Speech and Language Therapy Department.
The group wants people to keep their eyes peeled when out and about across Teesside for one of their brightly painted rocks, which are decorated with messages about how it feels to have a stammer – or to be the parent of someone who does. Some of the rocks also feature advice on how the people they speak to can help. These messages include “It is OK to stammer”; “Be sure to let us speak”; and “We stammer and we’re proud”.
The group hope that the finders of the rocks will read and remember the messages and share them on social media as a way of raising public awareness and insight about stammering.
The speech and language therapy fluency group initially began as a one-off course for ten and eleven year old primary school children who stammer to prepare them for secondary school. Due to popular demand, it has since developed into a half-termly two hour session, and has been extended to include nine year olds.
Sarah Phillips and Jane ‘Jessie’ Smithson are specialist fluency therapists from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Speech and Language Therapy Department who run the group. They are passionate about the advantages of group therapy.
Jessie said: “The focus of the group is to maximise confidence in speaking situations and to minimise the impact of the stammer itself.
“Stammering is something which is surrounded by myths, with many people assuming it can be permanently cured or should be controlled. This is simply not the case. As well as being incredibly difficult for someone who stammers to achieve and maintain fluent speech, it is just a small part of communication as a whole.
“We know that being a confident, effective communicator involves so much more than simply speaking fluently and indeed some of the most confident children we know are those who attend our group.”
Sarah said: “There is increasing evidence-based research confirming the effectiveness of group therapy for children who stammer and their parents.
“Its ‘magic ingredients’– compared to historically traditional individual sessions – include meeting others who are experiencing similar issues; discussing, sharing and problem solving; being introduced to new approaches and strategies for managing fluency and changing the thoughts and perceptions around stammering in themselves and others. All this whilst gaining confidence and having great fun too!
“Certainly the popularity and success of this group is proof of how helpful it can be, with lovely feedback from both children and parents, who report significantly reduced anxiety and a rise in confidence in all speaking situations.”
For further information or advice about any aspect of stammering, contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service on 01642 516780.