My name is Adam Black and I’m a person who loves Gran Alacant with my parents owning a house here for 15 years.
I’m also a person who stutters. Stammering/stuttering is a hidden disability which affects around 70 million people worldwide, around 1% of the population, cutting across all boundaries and bearing no influence to social position, race, ethnicity, job or personality. Every language has a word for it: tartamudez (Spanish), begaiement (French), hakalaanaa (Hindi), hau hick (Cantonese), domori (Japanese), nsu (Nigerian Ibo).
As a stutterer myself, I used to feel feelings of anxiety and embarrassment every time I spoke. I felt alone and that no one could understand my situation. My parents remember me speaking differently as a young child and then noticeable stuttering from early primary school. If I’m honest, I didn’t notice that I stuttered until I was aged 9 when I was reading a story out in class and couldn’t say a single word of it. I tried as hard as I could but the words would not come out of my mouth. Stuttering in school was tough, I had to work very hard to avoid words I knew I couldn’t say. In my head I was always one step ahead so that I could avoid openly stuttering-this was mentally exhausting and my façade in school was often very different to my true face at home where I didn’t have the energy to change words and openly stuttered. I struggled through school when asked a question in public and avoided answering questions where possible, choosing to listen rather than speak. It felt very isolating and that nobody really knew what I was going through. I left school and chose a course at college that involved little to no speaking even though all I wanted to do was be a teacher.
Then 10 years ago, I found a stuttering therapy course called The McGuire Programme. This is a unique therapy option as it is run for people who stutter by people who stutter. After my first course everything changed for me. I no longer felt alone. I had a support community of other people who knew what I was feeling. The McGuire Programme taught me techniques to control my stutter, both physical and physiological. The physical techniques include a new way to breathe when speaking and an assertive tone when speaking-no holding back on sounds. The physiological techniques were about defeating the negative associations I had built up around speaking. This included speaking dysfluently in a controlled way. Being dysfluent on my own terms gave me the confidence that it is fine to speak differently from other people and it allowed me to stop hiding and to accept myself as a person who stutters. This new found speaking technique gave me the ability to control, not cure, my stutter and has allowed me to become a successful teacher. I teach in a busy primary school and I’m very open about this hidden disability with parents and students alike. It is important for children in my school to see the real Mr Black-the one who stutters. It shows them, especially children with additional issues themselves, that with hard work and self-acceptance you can achieve your dreams.
I use my experience as a person with this hidden disability to help educate and raise awareness on dealing with people who stutter. This awareness raising work resulted in me receiving a British Citizen Award at the Palace of Westminster-something I will never forget. The most important piece of advice I can give to people is to focus on all the things a person who stammers can do well and not get too hung up on the fact they stutter. Giving a person with a stutter time to speak is so important, we don’t want people to finish our sentences. We have a voice and we want to use it. As uncomfortable as it may be for you, think about the person in front of you.