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Learning to live with a stammer can open a new world; On the eve of International Stammering Awareness Day, Arwel Richards, a patron of the British Stammering Association, describes the effects of stammering on a young person's life.

AROUND 188,000 children under the age of five stammer in the UK, as do an estimated 109,000 children aged between five and 16.

Stammering usually starts in early childhood at around the age of three-and-a-half years. For a parent, it often seems that the child is having a temporary speech impediment, in line with learning to talk. It is during this time that seeking help via the resources available on www.stammering.org can play a crucial part in the control of the child's stammer.

Leaving it too late can start to affect the development of the child's personality, inverting a future extrovert. Bullying may come into play at this time, destroying the child's self-esteem, shaping the young stammerer's personality for life.

As stammering only affects around one in 100 people, you may have only come into contact with a few stammerers in your life. Allow me to give you a flavour of how having a stammer can affect a life.

Imagine speaking to someone, knowing that you will stumble over your name or indeed every word. That your facial tics, pauses, frozen face or breathless repeating of the first syllable will either inspire mirth or pity, but always a guaranteed awkwardness.

Then follow this through for a lifetime.

A lifetime of failed social interactions, of being bullied, of being the subject of jokes or pity. A speech impediment does just that, it impedes. It impedes your career choices and your love choices.

Think of a social interaction, such as ordering a drink in a crowded bar. Imagine that it takes you 30 seconds to order a pint. Thirty seconds of pity, swiftly turning to frustration. Stammerers either learn to control it or learn to live with it. I, thankfully, can control it successfully.

Some friends find it difficult to believe I have a stammer when I tell them I am a patron of the British Stammering Association. I then spend 10 minutes convincing them that I do.

Stammering is like no other disability.

You can't control blindness and I suppose hearing can be enhanced but the afflicted is still deaf. So what is it with my stammer? Well the fact some of my friends don't know that I have a stammer is probably a good testament to how well I control it.

My late father had a horrific stammer, which he couldn't control. He once joked if he was to record an answering machine greeting, the person calling from a phone box would run out of pips before he'd finished "Hello".

immensely h a disability.

A sense of humour is important when living with It's a pretty good defence and oils the wheels of a stuck social interaction. Athe 1950s he'd received elosons by a former actress. Imy father, you would knmechanism potentially As a child in ocution les-If you'd met now that it with it, sucfe.

didn't work. He lived wcessfully, throughout his lifhis memory that I becompatron of the charity which best resource to stammecountry. It was in me a proud h offers the erers in the Because of the work I've done in Wales, polo, a stint as a festival director of a film festival and my syndicated style columns, I have often been asked to appear on TV and radio. When I started doing live TV and radio I was always mindful of a stumble, of dead air or a frozen face or a twitchy eye, which is my particular stammering tic. Thankfully it very rarely, if ever, happens. When I'm on stage, compering a charity auction for example, it disappears completely. Sometimes, if I'm on a date with a girl, I'd drop into the conversation that I have a stammer, in case she thinks I'm having a stroke mid-conversation.

I control my stammer by treating a social interaction as a performance and, unlike many stammerers, I enjoy social interactions. Learning to enjoy interactions gives you the confidence to improve your speech and a circle of confidence that grows with the years. | For more information about the British Stammering Association, see www.stammering.org.or call 020 8983 1003.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 21, 2013
Words:715
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