It’s two days until Christmas and I haven’t bought a single present yet…this is because I’ve been happily busy in my new role as Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Children (ASC). I started two weeks ago and it has been a fantastic period and I am greatly excited for the year ahead.
In my first blog post, I want to let you know the achievements of ASC over the last year, which have provided the platform for big results for 2015:
- A generous legacy fund paid for a brand new wing at the Michael Palin Centre, which opened in August. The Lena Rustin Wing provides up-to-date equipment to train more therapists and space for group sessions with children and parents. Lena Rustin was an outstanding speech and language therapist who established a service for children who stammer in the 1970’s – click here to read more about Lena’s incredible work.
- A very exciting moment was when Zaki Dogliani, a 20 year old young man with a stammer who has attended the Michael Palin Centre since he was a child, joined the Monty Python team live on stage at the O2 in front of 20,000 people as well as appearing on Sky News with Eamonn Holmes to talk about the experience.
- Global Radio who own Heart, Capital, Classic FM, and LBC Radio, picked ASC to be part of their Make Some Noise project.
- On 22nd October, ASC marked International Stuttering Awareness Day with a visit from the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham MP to meet children, families and Speech and Language Therapists. Ed also ran his third Virgin London Marathon for ASC, raising over £90,000 in three years!
- For the 3rd year running, ASC funded the ‘Talking Out’ Residential Course arranged by the Stammering Support Centre (SSC) in Leeds. The one-week course builds confidence and self-esteem for young people who stammer held at Beweley Park Outdoor Centre, where the children can also enjoy mountain biking, zip wiring and canoeing.
We will continue to reach out to stammering children across the country, make sure ASC’s issues are on the agenda for our stakeholders and raise awareness nationally. Working with our fantastic Chair, Jo Hunter and Board members, I will help ASC continue to grow.
This year has also seen us sadly wave farewell to Dr. Trudy Stewart for her well-deserved retirement. Trudy managed the SSC and her wealth of experience and commitment will be missed. We here at ASC want to thank her for her incredible achievements and are extremely pleased that Hilary Liddle will be continuing her great work.
The last two weeks have been a learning curve, but one thing is clear: no child should stay silent because they feel ’embarrassed’ or ‘awkward’ or ‘a nuisance’. Speaking is a basic but essential means of communication, which I have taken for granted, until now.
This is why ASC will always prioritise speech and language therapy for children in the UK.
Next year, I will be spending a lot of time talking to the therapists and sitting in on sessions. To best advocate the work of the Michael Palin Centre, I will be doing the same assignments set by therapists for children and parents to understand the challenges. I will let you know how I get on in the New Year!
I have been incredibly moved by the stories of those who stammer and what they and their parents go through. But, I am now also moved by the commitment of the staff who dedicate their lives to helping those children and families.
In winding down for the festive break, I will get a good rest because next year I will be putting all my energy into helping to change the lives of children with a stammer and their families for the better.
Have a Happy Christmas and a fun-filled New Year!