January Blues?

By Balshen Izzet, Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Children

The festive period is now just a distant memory and the January blues are biting BUT not in the office of Action for Stammering Children (ASC)!

Excitement is all around here, because our little charity has had a great start to 2015, including meetings at the House of Commons, a piece in Glamour magazine and confirmation that Oscar-winner for The King’s Speech, Colin Firth, will be speaking at ASC’s inaugural Gala dinner.

It’s been three years since the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow, and the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, officially opened the Stammering Support Centre in Leeds. Joining them that day was seven year-old, Thomas Grattoni-May, who receives therapy at the Stammering Support Centre in Leeds for his stammer.

Three years on, the Speaker and the Shadow Chancellor have invited Thomas to come to the House of Commons to let them know how he is getting on. Thomas’ blog about his experience at the House of Commons will go online soon – watch this space!

It was a very proud moment for ASC to see, Sarah Wheeler, a specialist speech and language therapist at the Michael Palin Centre, featured in January’s Glamour magazine. She talked about the job satisfaction she experiences working with children who stammer, encouraging them to push their comfort zones.  Their resilience inspires her every day.  ASC’s office is based at the Centre so we see the hard work, dedication and care the therapists devote to the children and families using the Centre.  We want to thank them all for their AMAZING work.

More brilliant news is that ASC’s Vice-President, Colin Firth, who is always happy to give time from his busy schedule, will be spending a whole evening with us to support our first Gala fundraising dinner. Colin has kindly agreed to be interviewed by Samira Ahmed, a BBC journalist and trustee of ASC, about his experience researching and playing the part of King George VI in The King’s Speech.

In other news, ASC has learnt that actor Benedict Cumberbatch, star of The Hobbit and Atonement, was recently interviewed about his role in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazis’ Enigma code during the Second World War. Benedict speaks about Alan Turing’s experience growing up with foster parents and later developing a stammer, aged four.

I asked the Michael Palin Centre’s Head of Speech and Language Therapy, Elaine Kelman, for her insight on this. She explained that the latest research findings tell us that stammering results from genetic and neurological factors: there is no evidence that it can be caused by early psychological issues or a child’s upbringing.

However, with early intervention from trained therapists many young children overcome their stammer. And that is why ASC supports the Michael Palin Centre and the Stammering Support Centre to deliver this early support and help other therapists around the country to do the same.

Since Benedict has taken an interest in stammering, I’ve decided to drop him a line and invite him to come and see the life-changing work that is undertaken every day at the Michael Palin Centre.

I’ll keep you all posted.



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