Jack Dinsley has an invisible disability.....until he speaks.
He knows that when people look at him they have no inkling of the problems he may encounter trying to get a sentence out.
When he opens his mouth to speak he sometimes, not always, has a stammer.
Jack’s own life journey has now led him to create a new -“Be Kind” campaign to help spread understanding about what it is like to have a stutter, what causes it and how to help, not hinder a stutterer.
Undeterred by his disability the 20-year-old from Kirkham hopes to make a career in broadcasting.
The journalism student at UCLan credits a year of speech therapy when he was 16 with helping him develop coping strategies.
The former pupil of Wesham Primary school and Carr Hill High school at Kirkham first became aware of his stutter when he was about four years old: “It affected me right through primary school and high school and college.
“There were a few occasions when I had some conflicts with teachers which really saddened me. There was a teacher in primary school I asked to go to the toilet at breaktime. I stood there. I couldn’t get the word out. She stood there and rolled her eyes. I was stood there for about 15 minutes, I went home and told my mum and it all got a bit heated!
“High school was pretty much OK apart from one teacher specifically would never pick me to read out. I don’t know whether that’s me overthinking. Every time I put my hand up she blatantly ignored me. After that my stammer in college was dreadful. It got worse if I was tired or exhausted. Then I would stammer even more.”
When a teacher in Year 13 swapped the choice of play the class was working on and presented students with new lines to learn this brought another confrontation. Jack asked: “How can you expect me when I’ve got a stammer to learn all these lines by next week? “
The lesson he learnt then was, he said, to “own it and bounce back ... no matter what challenges you face you can bounce back it’s down to your mental ability.”
When his problems were most acute he turned up at his GP’s surgery in tears unable to string a sentence together. Referral to a speech therapist proved a turning point.
Jack had written a column for the Junior Gazette in our our sister paper in Blackpool since he was 14. He took those articles in to the speech therapist: “I loved drama and my speech therapist concentrated on reading. I read that article and she would give me tips on breathing, and to slow my speaking down when reading and that was really effective. She also helped with calming myself – I always got into a frenzy when I spoke.”
Jack is now in his final year studying TV, radio and print media for his journalism degree. Along the way he has combined studying with freelance work and work experience placements and has taken the opportunity to highlight the need for more coverage of and awareness of stammering and related issues.
Last year he was interviewed by BBC Radio Lancashire in the run up to International Stammering Awareness Day and coverage was also broadcast on Radio 1. He also appeared on BBC’s Newsround after pitching an idea for coverage: “My idea was you haven’t covered stammering since 2015. Your audience has now moved on. There’s a brand new audience why haven’t you done anything new?”
He also emailed children’s presenter Katie Thistleton with a similar message and reports: “ In the space of five days I was down recording for the (Life Hacks) podcast.”
The podcast also featured regular TV and radio presenter Dr Radha Modgi who has agreed to help his campaign. He said: “DrRadha will be filming a clip for me. So I’ll start off each presentation (with that) so children will know what a stammer is. Dr R also said she would love to get involved – it’s quite exciting. “
He wrote an article for “The Happy Newspaper”: “It was my story. I started with a stammer and then look where I am now, It did very well on social media and got a lot tweets and retweets.”
A teacher from a primary school in Huddersfield saw the article and has invited him to speak to pupils. He will address two assemblies of 200 children each.
“My key message to the children is “Be Kind” This is not just aimed at people who suffer with a stammer. It’s aimed at people’s friends. It’s not their fault they are born with a stammer.
“I want them to be kind to themselves – I’ve been there. I don’t want them to be harsh with themselves.
“I want students with a stammer to realise their potential and by not giving up you can have a very successful career with whatever ambitions they may have.”
He lists key campaign messages as including: “For those who have a stammer to ‘be kind’ to themselves. Don’t feel pressured to speak. Just ‘be kind’ to yourself because if you’re not kind to yourself than no one will.”
Those who don’t have a stammer will be advised to ‘be kind’ to those with a stammer: “Don’t rush. Don’t roll your eyes or screw up your face. Don’t finish the person’s sentence off. Just ‘be kind’ and let them share their brilliant ideas when they can.”
He concludes he wants: “To educate not only students, but the staff on the importance of being kind to students. It’s not just those with a stammer but with any invisible disabilities.”
Jack starts his campaign at the end of this month and is thinking big: “My goal is to start the campaign at this primary school, then I want to bring it to Lancashire.. I would love to take it down south - it would be great if I can reach nationally.”