During the week commencing 8 April 2019, eight local young people, aged between 10 – 17 years old, attended an intensive stammering group to improve their understanding of stammering and increase their confidence in their communication skills. The group was run by Speech and Language Therapists from Medway Community Healthcare (MCH).

Approximately 5 % of all children aged 2-5 years old will stammer at some point as they develop their language and communication skills in early life. Approximately 1 % of these children will go on to stammer into adulthood. There is no one single cause of stammering but there are various factors that can impact our talking and increase the potential risk of stammering.

As young people reach their teenage years, stammering can have a significant impact on their social interaction, confidence, self-esteem and identity. Often young people who stammer, do not know anyone else with a stammer, which increases feelings of being ‘different’ from their peers and the desire to try and ‘control’ their stammer or ‘avoid’ situations that require speaking in front of others e.g. reading out loud in front of the class, meeting new people and giving presentations.

The stammering group aimed to help young people meet others who stammer, increase their understanding of their own strengths and skills and support them to take small steps towards facing their fears in relation to talking in front of others.

At the beginning of the week, the young people created a ‘best hopes’ scale for what they wanted to achieve in the group (e.g. to be more confident talking to new people, to be able to ask for help at school or to speak to someone they don’t know).  Throughout the week, they participated in activities to support these aims.  At the end of the week, the young people and their parents were all surprised by how much their confidence had improved.

MCH Speech and Language Therapist, Emma Chambers, who ran the group, said: “The week was a huge success – it was fantastic to see the young people grow in confidence and develop strategies that will continue to support their talking when they return to school or college. We are incredibly grateful to Parkwood Youth Centre for providing the venue for the group as the social environment really helped the young people feel comfortable and relaxed.”

Nathan, aged 13, who attended the group said: “It was amazing – thank you for making me confident.” 

Amanda, mother of Cameron, aged 11, said ‘the group really empowered’ her son.

Terry, father of Jack, aged 13, said: “Jack mentioned, several times, how much he had enjoyed the week.” 

Several of the young people have developed relationships that will continue outside of the group and some of them are even planning to join the Youth Club now and meet up again at future youth sessions.

Following the success of the week, the team at Medway Community Healthcare are now hoping to establish further groups in the school holidays to continue to build young people’s confidence and fluency with their talking.

Medway Community Healthcare’s Community Child Health Service support young people, up to 19 years old, who stammer.  For information on how to refer a child to the service, for support with stammering or their Speech and Language skills, please contact 0300 123 3444 (Option 2) or visit: https://www.medwaycommunityhealthcare.nhs.uk/