|About the Author: My name is Abed Ahmed and I’m a 23 year old secondary school maths teacher who stammers!|
Stammering since the age of 4 has been a challenge in various stages of my life and the transition from primary to secondary school was not an easy move. The fact that there were many pupils in secondary school was a daunting concept; because it meant that I was more likely to be bullied about my stammer. I was often teased about my stammer which at times made me feel angry towards myself and that somehow I was at fault. My parents used to tell me to calm down and speak slowly but they never seemed to quite understand. Why would they? Not many people are aware of what a stammer is.
My journey through secondary school was not as difficult as other individuals who stammer have reported. I was lucky enough to have a supportive network of friends, coupled with the quality of confidence I gained whilst studying GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Drama at school, which I believe is an integral trait to have when it comes to your stammer. Fast forward to the age of 18 (when one naturally becomes more conscious about appearance and self-aware) whilst I was at sixth form, I finally decided to seek help from the NHS (National Health Service) regarding my stammer. After signing up, I gave up waiting for a call until they got back to me almost a year later. I received a phone call for my first therapy session and in retrospect, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was the first time in 18 years that I was finally able to open up to someone about my stammer. Not once did my friends, family or school ask me about it, nor did I ever bring the topic up, solely out of embarrassment. Therapy helped me realise that, the quicker you accept your stammer, the quicker you can move on. And that’s exactly what I did. I stopped caring.
Three years later, I completed my degree and became a secondary school maths teacher back at the school I attended as a young student. Teaching is a profession that requires you to speak 99% of the time. I was told by an ex-teacher that I wouldn’t be able to become a teacher because of my stammer and I believed it. However, I persevered and ensured I would overcome any obstacle; motivation which was reared by self-confidence, a quality which sadly not everyone possesses, especially at the younger pinnacle stages of life.
As a teacher, I decided to set up my own Stammer Support Sessions at my school. I worked with groups of stammering pupils aged between 11 and 16, focusing on improving their confidence and helping them to achieve a greater degree of fluency in their speech. I was able to assist in their development by conducting a variety of sessions; drama and theatrical role play, interview practice and tips, advice on how to approach people, and overall, by acting as a general supporting figure to give students a voice and empathise with their struggles. These hourly sessions were run once every fortnight since September 2016. I believe I was a role model to these pupils as I, myself, have a stammer and thus can relate on how difficult it can be dealing with stammering on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately I piloted these sessions because I aim to give all pupils a voice; it is integral that all students of all abilities have a positive mind-set and the confidence that is needed to achieve their goals despite having a stammer. The impact of such sessions on their personal development and confidence has been colossal. Pupils have flourished in character as a result of these sessions and it has been a gratifying experience, particularly as I myself, can relate to their struggles. As a pupil, I felt isolated and nervous as I was not given the support I needed throughout the vital years of development. These pupils now have access to means of support at an outstanding establishment.
So, what next?
I am going to be leading on more projects in the upcoming academic year at my school. I want to raise more awareness amongst the staff in school and want to help pupils further their confidence in speech and language. I will be doing this by publishing a stammering awareness video which I have created with my pupils. This video will be shown to the staff at my school and will be published publicly for the wider world. I aim to develop these projects into something substantial, so if you wish to collaborate, please get in contact with me.
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