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Youth Panel Member, Joe, Discusses Stammering on BBC Essex!

I have been attending the Starfish Project, a speech therapy programme in East Sussex, since August 2012. It is there that I learnt, and continue to work on, a coastal breathing technique, a short deep breath taken from the chest every three to five words whilst maintaining eye contact. This technique helps alleviate and control my stammer – although like many things stammering-related, nobody really knows why this works!

The Starfish Project, run by Anne and David Blight, has helped increase my confidence and gain better control over my speech – without Starfish, I doubt I would have had the confidence to join the Youth Panel at Action for Stammering Children!

Anyway, background over, and fast forward to a couple of months back - David at Starfish rang me and asked if I wanted to be interviewed for a Daily Mail article about stammering. This would discuss my journey through Starfish and that of a fellow Starfish ‘graduate’. Of course, I accepted, and took part in a pretty lengthy telephone conversation talking about my time at Starfish, my return visits to work on my own speech and helping teach other stammerers the technique. We also talked about other things such as my time as Head Boy at my secondary, and my time on the ASC Youth Panel so far – including my speech at the Palace of Westminster! It was a great opportunity to talk about Starfish, stammering, and ASC – and the article was featured in the health section of the Daily Mail on the 14th February!

A day later, I had another call from David Blight – BBC Radio Essex had seen the article, were really impressed, and wanted me to come in to the studios and give an interview! This was a real surprise and a great opportunity to spread awareness even further. So, last Friday, I headed down to the BBC Essex Offices in Chelmsford, and took part in a 10-minute radio interview with Ronnie Barbour.

I won’t deny that the nerves were there both as a stammerer and someone who had never been on radio before, but I used the costal technique as best I could, relaxed as best I could, and tried not to say anything stupid!

Fortunately, it went well and I had a great time spreading the word about stammering. Then, I went with the Social Media Officer at BBC Essex to record a short video relaying a lot of the same points made during the interview, the video of which was later circulated on Facebook, and has now racked up 35,000 views!

This just goes to show the public interest which stammering has, and the positive thoughts and feelings people have about stammering. One thing I talked about at the radio station was that stammering doesn’t have to hold you back – and my time at Starfish and ASC are what prepared me to stand up and spread some awareness about all things stammering. I may never be lucky enough to do anything like this again – but I’m happy I took the jump, got involved and did my best – because you can’t let your stammer control you – however hard that may be!

Joe Allen ASC Youth Panel

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