During secondary school between the ages of around 12 and 14 I was going through quite an ordeal and it was to do with my speech. For an unknown reason, my delivery of a sentence would suddenly stop because I couldn’t say the next word. I knew what word I wanted to say but I was literally stuck and trying to force the word out. Often the word would blurt out of my mouth because I was trying so hard to say it and then I’d continue with the rest of what I was saying quite normally. I saw the look on peoples faces as they wondered why I shouted one word out much louder. “CAN you pass the…”. “DO you know where the…”. I was well aware of people waiting for me to finish also as I’d often just stop speaking mid-sentence. This speech problem caused an amount of anxiety internally while on the surface I mostly appeared cool, calm and collected. I noticed that, as well as with other words, I would almost always struggle with words that started with a strong sound like ‘Can’, ‘Do’ or even my name ‘Danny’. I realised then how often a person says their own name. I would look ahead, in my mind, at the sentence I was in or about to be in and spot words that I knew I would struggle with and I’d be switching them for alternatives or restructuring the sentence completely. I’d even sing, undetectably, the word that I was struggling with. I became quite good at disguising problem words with singing. A frantic word game was going on in my mind for these 2 years.
Funny, it was around the same time that I had a personal songwriting target of writing 1 verse every day. Stammering was never a problem when I sung, rapped or beatboxed. Writing music was the way that I could express, be heard, gain recognition, be creative. Fast forward to today and School Of Beatbox’s mission which is to bring the best beatboxing lessons to the world at the same time as embarking on projects that give something back to communities. It was obvious to me that working with the stammering community would be the first outreach project that we would engage in. I attended the British Stammering Association’s AGM recently, following the recent work I did at the BSA’s annual conference. You can see a video of that work here. At the meeting I got a real insight into what the stammering community needed and the big one was raising awareness about stammering. Questions like these were brought up: What is the best way to support a person who stammers? What does a stammerer go through psychologically? How does stammering affect a persons well-being? Although these questions and many more have no doubt been on my mind, hearing the community express their personal thoughts on subjects around stammering and to feel the passion in the room was very moving and and I felt a shift inside. I’ve been thinking deeper about the topic. I feel a level of resolving happening as this project progresses as it is directing me to look back at those 2 years in my life. I hadn’t forgotten that time but I’d definitely closed the door. I haven’t talked about it or wanted to until now. I do think that for many people that develop a stammer that it can be directly related to a particular life event. Anyone that knows me well will know that during those years there were a number of challenges I was dealing with. As I say, I’m very happy that an additional outcome of this current outreach project is that I am looking back at this period in my life with a rejuvenated inquisitiveness and purpose.
Here are the stats: Stammering affects around 1 in 20 people at some stage and 4 out of 5 of these will eventually grow out of it. I guess I was one of those 4 out of 5.
The more I connect with the awesome people I’ve met within the stammering community and the more I hear their inspiring stories combined with their passion for helping others the more inspired I am to support too. Coming out of the BSA’s AGM it was clear that an important point was that of raising awareness and making support for younger stammerers more accessible and appealing. This has instilled an even stronger drive for the outreach work I am doing.
School Of Beatbox’s next project is doing just that as we prepare a vocal orchestra to perform during the UK Beatbox Championships weekender On Saturday 27th October. The entire vocal orchestra will be made up of people who stammer. This is the perfect opportunity to send a positive message and raise awareness amongst a younger demographic. If you are a person who stammers, you can still be part of this performance. See full event details here.
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The British Stammering Association (The BSA) supports the stammering community in the UK. Check them out here
Featured Image Credit: John Hain