Today marks World Stammering Awareness day – One young Irishwoman tells of her challenges with a stammer – – Our News, Your Views

Today marks World Stammering Awareness day – One young Irishwoman tells of her challenges with a stammer

Today marks World Stammering Awareness day for people who find speaking without stuttering or stammering a challenge. Its aim is to bring kindness to such people as opposed to any form of ridicule, especially to children who have a stammer.

The Liberal spoke with one Irishwoman who is challenged with a stammer and how she deals with it.

My name is Sandra Kelly.  I am 38 years old from Newbridge, Co. Kildare, and work as a Clerical Officer with the Mental Health Service in the HSE.  I am challenged with a stammer.  I first started to stammer at the age of about 3 years old.  It got progressively worse as I got older.  Secondary school was very difficult and I got bullied badly by other students who constantly mocked how I spoke.  Being asked to read aloud in class was my worst nightmare.  Although I was very academically bright, I felt that I was labelled as a person with a very low IQ.  I was skipped past for a lot of things in school such as getting parts in school shows and was always last to be picked for teams at sports days and other activities.

I was always very good at writing and wanted to be a journalist but because of the relentless bullying that I suffered I always believed that I would never amount to much. I did not have the confidence to go to college.  My stammer was controlling my life and slowly chipping away at me.  I cried myself to sleep every night worrying about what speaking situations or bullying that I would face the next day.  As a teenager I had a wish to learn sign language so I would never have to speak again. I was always made a joke out of and told that I would never amount to anything because of my stammer.


After school I got a job in a take away restaurant because I felt this was all that I would be good enough for.  I had one or two close friends who done everything for me such as ordering food in a restaurant or making phone calls.  For years I only ate chicken nuggets and chips because that was all I could say.  If I was getting a taxi home from a night out I would get it to drop me often 2 miles away from my house and I walked the rest of the way because I could not say my address. I carried around a pen and paper in my bag and used to write down things in it such as if I had to ask for a train ticket I would write it down instead.  


In 2004 I took part in a speech programme which I kept up for many years.  This gave me the confidence to get my job with the HSE.  I am not involved much with this speech programme anymore as I feel that I should not have to change who I am.  This programme gave me great confidence to speak out and challenge myself in different speaking situations.  


It was this time last year that I decided enough was enough and I started to go on radio to highlight stammering and to share my story.  I have done a lot of interviews, one Ryan Tubridy, where I highlighted the dreadful treatment that I receive in shops and restaurants with staff laughing in to my face as I struggle to get my words out.  I highlighted how I was treated at electric picnic two years ago where myself and my sister stopped a security guard to ask for directions for the showers and he responded with “are you looking for the sh sh sh sh sh showers” and himself and his whole line of colleagues burst out laughing in to our faces.  Often at times on the phone if I am trying to order a take away or make a hair appointment the phone line would just go dead before I can finish speaking.  I have been offered a pen and paper to “write it down”.  I have been told on the phone to call centres “can you hurry up I do not have a lot of time”. 


Because stammering is not classed as a disability people think that it is acceptable to be cruel about it. We would not laugh at a person in a wheelchair so why is a stammer any different?    I am constantly treated like a second class citizen and it is not acceptable.  I am trying to highlight stammering as a disability in the hope that it will educate people more about it and in doing so, also encourage other people who stammer to speak out if they feel that they are being treated unfairly. You have a voice so get out there and use it, you deserve to be heard.  


After all the bullying and dreadful treatment that I have received, I have accepted my stammer is a part of my life now and that no other person has the right to make me feel inferior. It has made me a good listener, a very kind and understanding person with a lot of empathy towards other people who face challenges, and it makes me unique. There are plenty of treatment options out there, some of which I have tried, but I have come to the realisation that I would only be trying to “cure” my stammer for the hope that people who be kinder towards me if I could speak properly.  No person should have to change something about themselves in order to please others. I am now a lot more confident in myself and always speak up whenever I have to. 


 I would ask any staff in shops or restaurants to be patient if a customer has a stammer and to think twice before laughing or trying to rush them to speak faster. I cannot explain the gut wrenching feeling that I got each time a member of staff in a shop or restaurant laughs in to my face. I have now learned to deal with this better but I feel for any other person who may not be strong and who face this treatment.  I would also like to express the importance of the “BE KIND” message that should be practiced every single day.  There is nothing to gain with being cruel to another person just because they are a bit different.  

On this stammering awareness day please be extra kind if you come across a person who is struggling to get their words out.

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