Richard from Nottingham:

Throughout my life (now 38), as early as I can remember, I have always had a stammer. And throughout that time I have always had speech therapy. Speech therapy for me is like going to the doctors – not that I’m expecting a cure, but it is somewhere I go when I am looking for help with my speech and it’s the only place that can really help.

Over time, the main visits to speech therapy have always corresponded with big changes in my life. Going to infant school, leaving there for junior school, moving on to senior school, progressing to college and university, big relation break-ups (only once!) and so on. The techniques haven’t really changed but being reminded of them and introduced to new ones certainly help. It was once described to me as having a ‘toolbox’ where we would find tools to help us out of those difficult situations.

I have always tried to hide away from my stammer, or perhaps my stammer has made me hide away – probably a bit of both.

Speech therapy has certainly helped me come to terms with my stammer and has allowed me to tackle it head on, instead of letting it control me.

I am actively encouraged to advertise my stammer, which is certainly not easy, but it does help to desensitize the problem and I continue to do so when ever possible.

I am very fortunate to have the same speech therapist now that I had when I was 14, which is invaluable. My speech therapist has steered me to a local ‘Stammering Self-Help Group’ of which now I am the Chair. This is also proving to be a great source of help with my speech. I also help on the BSA helpline when they are short-staffed, which I find very rewarding.

Without speech therapy in my life, and I’m sure many others young to old would agree, my life would be very different.

Barbara from Cheshire:

Having worked in pubs for 30 years, and for the last 10 years of that owned the pub, you can imagine that I could talk for England. Certainly in the licensed trade the ability to communicate constantly, over a great many subjects, some of which I knew nothing about, was an absolute necessity. Having retired, the talking bit carried on only more as a hobby.

It was a massive shock when I found I had cancer of the throat, and it was only one and a half weeks’ later when I found myself in hospital having my voice box removed. The immediate inability to communicate verbally was very traumatic and frustrating, not only for me, but for those around me.

This was the point when the speech therapist became a really important part of my life. Although I had a valve fitted during my operation, which would eventually help me to talk, I couldn’t use it for six months due to follow up treatments of radio therapy. The first thing the speech therapist needed to do was change the valve. This is ordinarily a traumatic part of the procedure, but as this valve hadn’t done anything for six months, it certainly didn’t want to be removed. Having changed the valve the speech therapist could then start to show me what to do, to imitate a voice. Not only that, they showed me how to clean and maintain the valve.

As well as the positive side of having a valve fitted, there is also a potential negative, in that on a rare occasion the valve could come out of its own volition. The speech therapist has discussed what should be done if this emergency occurs. Although I don’t want this to happen, being prepared is the next best thing.

Over time, the speech therapist changes my valve every four to six weeks. We also at these times, DISCUSS the way forward, looking at possible changes in the type of valve that is fitted, and the other types of stoma fittings that are available to make my life easier.

Without the help of the speech therapist I believe I would be seriously struggling to talk, and would lack the confidence to meet people. Think of me, and people like me, and please don’t take away our speech therapists.

To have any idea of the frustration of being unable to talk I would challenge people to just try one day without talking - no phone, except texts, pen and papers. Try driving a car with a passenger. Go out for a meal. See how you would manage.

Coping with a soft palate speech impediment: Natalie Green

My name is Natalie Green and I am 41. My speech impediment was noticeable from birth. I have been inundated with pre-surgical appointments, reviews, an operation and speech therapy. I have problems with being understood and not forming words properly, especially if I get too excited or anxious. Though I have much clearer speech now, I still struggle with words and have to persevere.

I volunteer at a charity. Though my speech does present me with all sorts of communicative problems, I am very confident when talking to the volunteering team and other departments at the charity. I communicate with the departments, mainly through email, although if I happen to be in, I’ll certainly pop my head round the door.

Even though I have a speech impediment, it’s vital I’m a team player. The strange thing about my speech is that I’m very confident. However, when on holiday, I do sometimes have a problem where I can’t be easily understood at times, especially, whilst being served at restaurants and cafes etc.

In my spare time, I like to keep fit. Via the same charity, I attend Zumba on a weekly basis, meaning I interact with staff from the office in a social capacity too.

I would like to see any stigma attached to speech impediments broken down. I want to get people positively campaigning for those who suffer like me and can’t speak well.

*Name has been changed at ‘Natalie’s’ request.


Giving Voice needs YOU!

RCSLT is still looking for dynamic case studies that demonstrate the power of speech and language therapy.

As the NHS continues to come under increasing pressure to re-evaluate spending priorities, it has never been more important to demonstrate the value of speech and language therapy to enable us to defend against potential threats to service provision.

We are looking for inspirational case studies from all parts of the UK that show just how important speech and language therapy is, not just to those with communication and swallowing needs but to society as a whole.

We’d like to hear from therapists and their clients, both adult and children, who have benefited from their speech and language therapy whether that means by starting school, getting a job or returning to work after a stroke.

If you would like to discuss any ideas or for more information on what makes a great case study, contact PR manager Robin Matheou.