'Don't let a stammer define you' says Preston student

On International Stammering Awareness Day, student Jack Dinsley updates us in his own words on his journey to raise awareness - and how he doesn’t let his stammer hold him back..

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 12:36 pm
Jack Dinsley

It’s officially been a year since I took the plunge to speak up about stammering – something that has affected me my whole life.

This year, more than ever before we need to make everyone aware of what a stammer is as we celebrate International Stammering Awareness Day 2020.

A stammer for those who might not know what it is, it is a neurological condition which affects the brain and therefore affects the flow of speech of an individual. When I was growing up the impediment affected my life at school and at home, and something that held me back in some circumstances.

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Over the past year I have worked hard personally and for the community to hopefully shape a better world for stammerers around the world. During the end of last year I was able to work with BBC Radio 1, the Life Hacks podcast; BBC Newsround and BBC Lancashire. I was very overwhelmed that all three of the BBC platforms wanted to get involved with sharing my message.

For someone studying a journalism degree, I always wanted to work within BBC Children’s so working directly with Newsround on an idea that I pitched – I was speechless.

Following the media attention for last year’s International Stammering Awareness Day, my attention turned towards something very special.

A primary school teacher in Huddersfield had seen my work published in The Happy Newspaper (created by Chorley’s Emily Coxhead) and she wanted to know if I would be interested in working with her primary school. When I was at Carr Hill Sixth Form, in Kirkham, I was lucky enough to earn the position of Head Boy and I loved public speaking, even with a speech impediment. When I was asked by the lovely teacher, I grabbed at the opportunity and this soon turned into a campaign.

The campaign was fully created by me and is operated by myself – the Be Kind Stammer Campaign. Dr Radha from BBC Life Hacks even supported the campaign by creating a video that I could use. To date, I have spoken at two schools, in front of 500 plus students and teachers in Huddersfield and then the other in Lytham – which I was honoured to be involved with as it was Children’s Mental Health Week 2020.

Due to the pandemic, I had to cancel the other schools until further notice. Speaking of the pandemic, it has been such a challenging time for people for many reasons. However, having a stammer personally, it is essential that you maintain socialising and having plans.

Although, I have a very supportive family, being cut off from university, my jobs and friends really impacted it. The online quizzes and lectures just didn’t do the same as it would have been meeting them in person.

However, during lockdown I was able to graduate from UCLan with a 2:1 in BA Journalism, and then get accepted for my MA in TV Production. Further to that, after being one of the freelance runners for BBC Newsround at the start of the year, I have just completed a contract with BBC Bitesize for a TV projectin which I worked as the runner.

Two charities that I’ve been working with before and after the national lockdown (creating video content or writing articles) are Stamma (formally known as the British Stammering Association) and Action for Stammering Children.

Although, the aftermath of the national lockdown has been overwhelming for many, the only problem I’ve had is the mix up in communication that I’ve had when ordering food or drink at cafes. This has resulted in ending up with the wrong drink and sandwich on two separate occasions.

It’s been a rather busy year for me, and although 2020 has presented its challenges to me, I feel like I’ve had a rather successful year. My stammer will always be a part of me, and it will never go – there are days where I have a bad day speaking on the phone and the next where you wouldn’t be able to spot it.

That doesn’t mean that my stammer isn’t there.

My message this International Stammering Awareness Day is don’t let your stammer define you. You can achieve whatever you put your mind too and you’re amazing. Always be kind as you never know what someone might be going through.

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