FEATURE: Stammering is not a stigma

Dave Bradley talks about his life long stammer and how singing with Actually Gay Men’s chorus has helped develop his confidence.

Dave Bradley

Dave Bradley

I was born with a stammer. My parents tried to help me with various treatments such as speech therapy (breathing exercises) and hypnosis. The doctors even gave me Valium when I was 4 years old to try to cure me! I am now 46 years old and still have a stammer. I have now accepted that I will never speak as fluently as most people, or hold a conversation with people who I don’t know very well.

A lot of people are not sure how to react when a stammerer attempts a conversation with them. Bizarrely I have had people think I am deaf, I have been refused entry to bars because door staff think I am drunk, I have been mocked, laughed at and even ignored because of the way I talk.

When I was at school most social activities scared the hell out of me. In my late teens I took part in marathons and numerous other long distance events, because it gave me a sense of belonging to a group without having the need to talk.

This sense of participation has remained with me throughout my life. I joined Actually Gay Mens Chorus and I sing regularly at karaoke (for the record I don’t stammer when I sing – people are always surprised by that). I entered the X Factor auditions twice (once even making it to the second round).

For most of my life my speech impediment has dictated what careers I would follow. I settled for a career as a baker because I knew it wouldn’t involve a lot of speech. When I moved to Brighton eight years ago and joined ActuallyGMC, this gave me the confidence to be more sociable and accept that a stammer was not a stigma. Since then I have worked in recruitment, performing job interviews and making phone calls, which is something stammerers would normally avoid. I now work as a Brighton and Hove bus driver.

Socially, it can be a nightmare meeting new people and, for a lot of people who do stammer, the thought of forming a relationship with somebody they like can be very daunting.

Will this somebody accept the stammer? Will this somebody find it difficult getting to know the person who stammers? These factors make it very difficult for the person who stammers.

Luckily in all of my relationships, partners have been very supportive in all of this. Not sure whether ‘luckily’ is the right word. Are stammerers just over-anxious when it comes to forming lasting relationships? Maybe there is actually nothing for that person to worry about. That’s the question many people who stammer ask themselves.

With this in mind, special mention has to go to my husband Terry Bryan (when this is published we will be married) He has never let the stammer get in the way of our relationship, even in the early getting-to-know each other days. This gave me massive confidence to pursue any career, that before I would have thought impossible.

There is a misconception that stammerers need curing with therapy to lead a normal life. That is not true. There are various websites such as www.stammering.org that are aimed at stammering awareness.

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