Tag Archives: Personal Achievement

Me, My Stammer and I

If someone had said to me few years ago that I would one day write a blog about something I am extremely conscious of, I would have laughed out loud! But here I am and this means a big step for me.

As long as I can remember, I have always stammered. I remember when I was about 5 years old and I was struggling to ask for a toy from a boy in a classroom and he said with a puzzled look, why do you talk like this? Up until then I never really noticed my repetition of words, struggling to get the words out etc.. I went home and asked my mum and she said it’s because you are still learning to speak and I believed her for a very long time!

Fast forward many years and I am still “learning to speak”! I was bullied in school for my stammering and my parents had to come for many meetings with the school to talk about it. Having any speech therapy was never an option as my parents believed it would all go away if I gave it time. My family helped me immensely by showing their support and patience, but I grew up thinking stammering was something to hide and not talk about to the world.

Despite being good academically I could never enjoy school, but my good grades and the thrive to achieve more kept me going, I always wanted to act and take part in debates and speeches, but settled for singing instead. This gave me a chance to experience the fluency I dreamt of. I used to envy people who could say what comes in their mind without even thinking about it!

waves Over the years my stammering was like waves with high and low points, but I became very critical and unforgiving of it. I would go over and over my speech and keep telling myself that I was not trying enough to speak properly. Thinking about it now makes me feel sad at how I would be divided into two with one side trying hard to communicate and the other just being negative! I hid my stammering from everyone and would cough, pause or whatever known hideaways to cover my stammer when talking to my friends and family, even at work. I managed to work as a telephone operator in a Call Centre for four years, but the constant efforts to cover up my stammering often made me extremely tired and out of breath.

It was only few years ago that I decided to try speech therapy. That decision did not come instantly as I had often thought of it, but only found enough drive to do something about it then.

The first call I made to find out about NHS speech therapy was very daunting in its own way. I was invited very quickly to the first appointment with a therapist in Chippenham, Wiltshire where I lived at that time. I went to the first session thinking there would be a magic cure waiting for me, but was also very apologetic to the therapist for wasting her time! After a few sessions, it was obvious that we needed to address my psychological approach to stammering before the physical side.

I attended a few sessions there and learned to be as kind, gentle and friendly to myself as I am to others! I know this sounds strange, but I learnt to look at me from a distance and appreciate myself. I started to take each conversation as it happened rather than thinking the whole day was a failure if I had stammered a few times during that day. Just as I was beginning to learn the positive ways to understand my stammer, we had to move from Wiltshire to West Sussex.

This threw me out of my comfort zone and I went back to my old self! It took me many more months to find out about speech therapy in the new area. I was told that there would only be one or two sessions to attend in my area before this service moved to Horsham, West Sussex. Desperate to do something about my attitude and state of mind, I took the chance. To be honest those two or three sessions probably did little to improve anything but they were reassuring enough to make me feel I was on the right track.

Finally, the speech therapist in Horsham helped me to achieve more and explore further. My anxiety was more about causing discomfort to others, but I learnt how that might not be the case and that others are not even bothered by it! We went through the relaxing techniques as well as some breathing exercises to ease the tension around my neck and upper torso, which helped a lot. I had days when the therapy or techniques were helpful, but there were also many days when I felt lost, confused and went back to my usual self-blaming thoughts!

One of my tasks set by my therapist was letting my employer know about my stammering. It happened at the right time as I was going for a job interview for a role I was extremely excited about. I went for the interview thinking there was no way I would get this job after I mentioned my stammering – I guess old habits die hard! But I was a little shocked and somehow disappointed to see that as I mentioned stammering and my therapy, they thanked me for letting them know and just moved on! I was hoping for gasps at least, but not even a slight twinge! That proved even more that my stammering was not as much of a trouble to others as it was for me.

I got that job and am still working there 5 years on. Not even once has anybody mentioned that my stammering has caused them any trouble or has come in the way of my job. My confidence grew with the years and I found a relief in letting people know about my stammering. This also gave me a starting point to focus on learning new skills and making new friends rather than worrying about where I stammered or got lost for words.

As one of the three speech therapists I had once said, “there is no such thing as perfect speech! It’s all about how you get your point across.”  I still have days or moments when I find myself lost for words or feel out of control, but then I take a moment and think that as long as I am able to make the other person understand my point, it’s ok.

I decided to stop taking therapy back in July this year because I felt I had gained enough skills in order for me to find my own way to be a “happy stammerer”. This ability to be ok with stammering is something I never thought I would achieve.

As much as I appreciate all the hard work my NHS speech therapists have put in to help me achieve this state of mind, I feel this was only possible when I decided to take control of my stammering rather than being controlled by it.

Anyone out there who is wondering whether therapy is for them… or perhaps have had therapy, but did not find it much help, I would like to say it’s more like trying a hat… you will have to try a few to find the one that fits! And once you find it, it will not solve all your problems but it will give you enough lift to face life with your head high!


Amna

 

 

Supervision at the fork in the road

image1We all start out with dreams and ideas about how our careers will go. It’s hard to foresee when, where or why the forks in the road will come, but it is almost certain that they will. This blog post explores two key ways in which supervision helped me to negotiate a fork in the path, keep hold of my dreams and step into independent practice.

Seventeen years ago, I embarked on a career in Speech and Language Therapy, with a dream to become a neuro rehab therapist. In the early stages of my career I was fortunate to have some great supervisors (also my managers), who nurtured my enthusiasm for neuro rehab.

In 2008, I took a senior post in a small department without access to clinical supervision within the organisation. I was holding a complex caseload, but for the first time also dealing with wider departmental and organisational issues. I felt the need for external supervision to develop my practice and take care of myself as I entered a more challenging stage of my career.

My line manager continued to oversee my work in post, particularly supporting my CPD, and helping me develop the SLT department. The separation of my clinical supervision to another time and place enabled me to attend to the needs of my clients, as well as my own needs, within this increasingly challenging work context. Through external clinical supervision, I had the freedom to reflect on the needs of my clients more deeply and my own journey more broadly.

Hawkins and Shohet (2007) discuss self-care as an important aspect of clinical supervision. Drawing an analogy between the ‘good enough helping professional ‘ and Donald Winnacott’s concept of the ‘good enough mother’. The ‘good enough mother’ may struggle to cope with the rigours of motherhood without the help and support of another adult, just as the helping professional may struggle to cope without the support of a supervisor. At this point in my career, I was faced daily with the devastating reality of people’s lives following brain injury. I was starting to develop quite strong ideas about addressing these needs with clients but also felt frustrated by the difficulties of achieving gains for my clients. I could easily have been worn down by these frustrations, but with wise and meaningful supervision, these difficult experiences ‘….. were survived, reflected upon and learnt from’ (Hawkins and Shohet, 2007). Through supervision, I became much more conscious of my concern to address my client’s ability to participate in their chosen life roles and started to think about how I could facilitate this for them.

It was at this time that my own personal circumstances changed. With a young family I was keen to be as present at home as much as possible without completely losing connection with my profession. I started to explore how to manage this change in my life and find a way to continue working within my chosen specialism.

Cathy and Sam have written about the changing role of supervision which ‘….. has now extended to one that supports and facilitates emotional resilience, opens up possibilities where there seem to be very few and fosters an individual’s personal/ professional resources to manage change’ (Bulletin, February 2013).

With this changing picture, refined by my professional interest and constrained by my personal circumstances, my supervisor helped me to consider diverse options as I stood at this fork in the road. I don’t remember who initiated the idea of independent practice, but I know that this path seemed daunting, much less travelled and insecure. I didn’t know how to begin walking away from the security of paid employment.

The supervisory relationship was a place of safety that allowed me to: test out ideas, evaluate the pros and cons of working independently, make plans and connections, review early steps and ask silly questions. I saw my first independent client in 2009, nearly six years ago. The transition to independent practice has been necessarily slow as I have been at home with my family, but this has brought with it opportunity to reflect on each small step in supervision and build slowly in confidence. With my supervisor’s support this process has been much smoother and more satisfying than it might have been as early ideas have come to fruition.

Work is not how I envisaged it seventeen years ago, but it does really work for me in the context of my life now. However, I could so easily have missed this path if I had not been able to access great supervision at the fork in the road.

Mary Ganpatsingh
www.communicationchanges.co.uk
@Comm_Changes

References
Supervision in the Helping Professions, 3rd edition (2007), Hawkins, P. and Shohet, R.
Supporting robust supervision practice, Sparkes, C. and Simpson, S. (February, 2013) Bulletin

10 Year Anniversary!

Together we have compiled some images and reflections to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

For 10 years as intandem, we have:

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Preserved our core values

 

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Valued and invested in our relationship

 

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Been consistent and flexible

 

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Balanced work-life transitions

 

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Collaborated and created links

 

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Developed a voice and used it wisely

 

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Enjoyed a freedom and openness to take different paths and perspectives

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Shared our experiences with individuals, groups and organisations

 

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Remained professional and reflective

 

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Stayed small and strong

 

 

 

Cathy and Sam

Reflections on what supports change and personal growth (2/2)

march14Continuing with our two-part blog post on the different strategies people employ to support change, this month’s entry reflects the voice of some of our clients who have generously shared their ideas below:

Dom: “When I am planning anything I am always trying to save myself energy and to plan anything I need to be energetic for. The first person I always go to is Marc. He is my best starting point. Then I go to Gary and then my parents. Marc is impartial, independent, and my friend. He wants to help out – he is my housemate and nearest carer. Gary (my paid carer), by contrast, is efficient and organised! All the things Marc isn’t. Asking Gary is like asking my Dad for something, but without the judgmental nature of my Dad! Plus I pay Gary and so I can expect the job to be complete and not forget stuff. My parents are like my safety net – the last line of defense.”

Here Dom identifies the importance of the initial planning process when contemplating change, as well as considering the personal demands the change involves – including the emotional and physical energy engaging in something new can take. He highlights the value of knowing who he can turn to for what when looking for support as different people bring a unique set of qualities and skills and are, therefore, more naturally suited to helping in some situations more than others. Finally, Dom signals that family are not always the first port of call and that being willing to pay for help can usefully bring consistency and reliability.

Tony: “With something I want to do that I am motivated about I rely on myself mainly. But with things I know I should do like going to the gym I need others to help motivate me. To get to the gym, Jane (my wife) keeps on at me and gives me a push! Knowing that it’s going to do me some good and make me feel better when I have done it also helps to get me there!”

Tony emphasises the importance of personal meaning and engagement when trying out something new. He also reflects on the significance of recruiting support from others for desirable but less intrinsically motivating activities. Finally, drawing on past experience to identify a sense of future achievement is highlighted as a helpful means of self-motivation.

Cara: “It’s useful for me to set goals for myself, both short- and long-term when trying to make a change. Having something tangible to work towards keeps me focused and moving forward. Encouragement from other people – family, friends, or people inside therapy – gives me the strength to push myself and try new things. I’m very inspired by other people who stammer and their stories. When I see someone living their life in a way that I thought was impossible, it motivates me to change.”

Here Cara foregrounds the value of structure and a clear idea of what she is working towards from the outset, which she achieves by breaking bigger aspirations down into smaller, more manageable steps. She identifies recruiting the support and encouragement of others as a valuable means of promoting a more experimental attitude to change and fostering greater risk-taking. Cara also cites the importance of meeting others with similar experiences for inspiration and the re-definition of what is possible.

Walter: “My current approach to ‘new growth’ is to be tough with myself in taking on new challenges in which my stammer is likely be “an issue’ – especially at work (e.g. chairing meetings, talking in senior meetings) – having decided that I am happy to present myself as someone with a speech problem. It would otherwise be all to easy to spend the rest of my life internally using my speech as an excuse for not doing things, while externally trying to present myself as fluent – that if anything would cramp new growth. The other important new developmental thing I have taken on is to be proud to talk about my stammer and how I handle it – it is, after all, an extremely tough course on which to find oneself, much like SAS selection in psychological terms, and, as a person who stammers, I am proud of how I am surviving it and keen to project my pride in that survival.”

Walter signposts the importance of courage and being willing to challenge himself to take risks and step outside of his comfort zone. He highlights the value of working hierarchically as a means of doing this. Walter also advocates being more honest and genuine with people rather than attempting to hide any communication difficulties from them. Being aware of the short- and long-term costs of not making the change is also cited as self-motivating. Finally, Walter highlights the value of developing a kinder and more compassionate understanding of the day-to-day challenges of living with a communication disability, reframing openness and a willingness to share his personal experience of stammering as an act of pride and personal achievement.

I thank everyone who has contributed to this two-part blog post for their time, self-scrutiny and insight, and hope that their diverse examples inspire you to consider the ways in which you support your own change process – and to even contemplate trying out something new.

Sam

Stammering therapy from the inside

‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet’
– Aristotle

As some of you will know, I have been involved in editing a book on co-authoring stammering therapy knowledge with Carolyn Cheasman and Rachel Everard at City Lit over the past few years. My first foray into the world of publishing books, it has been an adventure that has taught me a great deal about patience. The idea of the book – to provide people who stammer and their therapists with a shared platform to reflect on their different experiences of stammering and therapy – originated from discussions Carolyn and I began back in the early 2000s. At that time we struggled to find a publisher who considered client and therapist accounts to be valid evidence. Thankfully attitudes have since changed and, over a decade later, our determination has paid off as the book was finally published this month:

 

 

 

 

The collaborative process of editing has been both predictably and surprisingly time-consuming; a journey, marked interchangeably with highs and lows, that has required considerable resolve, good humour and willingness to compromise. Despite or possibly because of this, I have found the experience deeply engaging and satisfying. I sincerely hope the final publication serves to inspire both therapists and people who stammer to continue to collaborate and extend the boundaries of thinking about stammering therapy.

‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples’
– Mother Teresa

Yalom (2008) first drew my attention to the phenomenon of rippling. The value of listening, bearing witness to and learning from the stories, wisdom and expertise of my clients is precious to me, and the idea of passing the importance of this on to others has provided the personal meaning, commitment and perseverance to see this project through to its end. I hope the book illustrates the significance and potency of listening to those central to the therapy process, yet who all too often remain unheard. The integration of client and therapist perspectives invites a paradigm shift, where insider accounts are included not simply as an adjunct, but as a robust, integral source of information in their own right.

To mark the publication of ‘Stammering Therapy from the Inside: New Perspectives on Working with Young People and Adults’ there will be study day at City Lit on 9th May 2013 focusing on several themes from the book. The Right Honourable Ed Balls MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be speaking at the official launch of the book at lunchtime. Having contributed to one of the chapters in the book, he is also hosting a second celebratory event at the House of Commons later that evening. I cannot help but smile with continued disbelief at the thought of marking the publication of this book in such a way. It seems incredible, when I think back to the early discussions about the book with Carolyn, to consider how small ideas can be sown and in time grow in such surprising and unpredictable ways.

Sam

The Stammering Open Space

I’d been to see Sam a few times before she introduced the idea of a group session. At first I was sceptical, after all I’d been trying to hide my stammer from everyone: family, friends, colleagues etc. so why would I want to be in a situation with people I didn’t know and be open about having a speech problem? Well that turned out to be exactly the point: the opportunity to be in a safe & non-judging environment, where I didn’t have to try to hide it!

The moment I arrived I was happy that I’d had the courage to attend – the session completely exceeded expectations and was actually good fun and a lot of laughs. The other guys were a lot like me, which was the biggest surprise of all. Everyone was open, honest and going through the same things, which made me realise that I wasn’t actually alone in any of this – and that’s really encouraging. We all have varying degrees of stammering and each of us different aspects we struggle with. Listening to everyone’s experiences and how they deal with their speech has definitely helped me overcome some of my obstacles and has made the whole process of speaking that much easier. Being able to share, push the boundaries and experience something new in a group environment is incredibly beneficial and I’d encourage everyone to try it at least once. And of course, did I mention the superb tea, coffee and biscuits that are on offer as well…?

See you at the next Open Space, cheers.

Joe