Lockdown sees 57% rise in calls to stammering helpline

Action for Stammering Children Charity report the number of calls to their stammering helpline have increased by 57.6% over Lockdown.

In order to continue to support children who stammer and their families, the Helpline supported by Action for Stammering Children offers an opportunity to talk to trained professionals. The Helpline, which is based at the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering, is available to families and professionals seeking advice about stammering and calls are taken by the team of specialist Speech and Language Therapists.  

Since the beginning of Lockdown, the Helpline has seen a surge in the number of calls from concerned parents. 250 Helpline calls were taken in the final quarter of 2019/20, just before the Lockdown began. However, over the first quarter of 2020/21, therapists responded to 394 calls from worried parents and therapists seeking advice about how best to offer therapy during lockdown. An increase of 57.6% in the April to June period. Parents have been expressing particular concerns over managing their child’s stammering and increasing anxiety. 

Stammering is a speech disorder, affecting around 8% of children[1]. The condition disrupts verbal fluency and can result in difficulty getting the words out. Stammering can have a significant impact on a child’s social experiences and mental health. Children who stammer are more likely to be bullied[2], rejected by their peers[3] and are at risk of facing societal stigma into adulthood[4].

Due to Lockdown, school closures have seen a new reliance on audio-visual technologies for teaching and participating in lessons at home. This can be anxiety-inducing for young people who stammer, as was broadcast in a recent BBC interview with Thomas Grattoni-May

Accessing this Helpline can make a real difference for many parents desperate to support their child during the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19. The benefits of this service are reflected in the remarks from one of the parents who accessed the Helpline:

“I’m so grateful. [The speech & language therapist] was incredibly helpful and very reassuring and practical. I am really thankful. Your service is brilliant and I am so impressed by how quickly you got back to me.” 

Steven Gauge, Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Charity, commented: “It is incredibly important that children who stammer are not forgotten and that the specific challenges they face are addressed and adequate support provided. We have worked hard to ensure that this service has remained available during this very challenging time, and I’d encourage anyone who is concerned about their child’s stammer to get in touch”.

Elaine Kelman, Consultant Speech and Language Therapist and head of the Michael Palin Centre said: “The Helpline is a vital source of support to anxious parents who are bemused by the impact of Lockdown on their child’s speech and confidence, as well as to therapists who want to support these families and are seeking advice on new ways of working at this time. The specialist team of therapists are here to listen, explore helpful strategies and empower parents and therapists to support these children through such unusual times. The Helpline seeks to ensure that Lockdown will not lock down these children’s confidence to communicate”

[1] Yairi, E., & Ambrose, N., 2013. Epidemiology of stuttering: 21st century advances. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 38, p66 – 87.

[2] Blood, G. W., & Blood, I., M., 2007. Preliminary study of self-reported experience of physical aggression and bullying of boys who stutter: relation to increased anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 104, p1060 – 1066

[3] Davis, S., Howell, P & Cooke, F., 2002. Sociodynamic relationships between children who stutter and their non-stuttering classmates. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, p939 – 947.

[4] Boyle, M. P., 2018. Enacted stigma and felt stigma experienced by adults who stutter. Journal of Communication Disorders, 73: 50 -61.  



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