Research Panel Event 30 Years On

On Monday 16th September, Action for Stammering Children held a research panel event at The University College London. Dr Claudine Provencher, a former trustee, a dedicated friend of the charity and a person who stammers herself chaired the event. Over sixty friends, supporters, therapists and Stambassadors also attended, along with our three guest speakers who have carried out extensive research in the field; Margaret Leahy, Professor Kate Watkins and Dr.Naheem Bashir. The aim of the evening was to celebrate and discuss the past 30 years of research around stammering and explore where future research might be heading.

Margaret Leahy

Margaret Leahy, who worked in the Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies in Trinity College Dublin, presented a timeline of 30 years of research in 30 minutes. She highlighted how much more is known now about the neurology and genetics of stammering than was understood 30 years ago and that we now have good evidence to show what therapy works and what doesn’t. “We don’t know everything,” said Margaret, “but we know a great deal.” Whilst there have been huge strides forward, Margaret reminded people that, “The stereotype and the stigma are alive and well and flourishing.”

Professor Kate Watkins from The University of Oxford was next to speak. Kate’s music-filled presentation talked about how stammering works in the brain. In order to do this, Kate talked about how MRI scanning has enabled researchers to compare brains of those who do and do not stammer. This has linked very specific neurological differences in the brain to stammering. Kate talked through her research which is showing that Transcranial Direct Current Brain Stimulation (tDCS) combined with conventional therapy is leading to increased benefits and increased durability of those benefits for adults who stammer.

Dr. Naheem Bashir was last to the stage. Naheem stammers himself and was awarded the Travers Reid award in 2018, for his PhD research into stammering. Naheem presented a selection of some of the most interesting recent studies in the field is areas such as pharmacology, neuroscience, brain stimulation and AI as well as new therapy approaches like teletherapy. Naheem ended with a passionate plea to future researchers; “Don’t research stammering. Do research for people who stammer.”

Kate Watkins speaker
Professor Kate Watkins

The subsequent discussion explored whether there were aspects of stammering that have not been adequately addressed by research to date. Differences between stammering in males and females was highlighted by Professor Kate Watkins as an area where more research could be useful. When looking at what more should be done to support young people who stammer worldwide, the overwhelming sentiment in the room was that there was still a need for a more accepting and empathetic attitude to those who stammer. Words like kindness, time and patience were discussed as avenues to create such an environment. Margaret Leahy, captured the mood best as she movingly reminded people of an old Irish law which declared that, “Stammering is entitled to time.”

Huge thanks to our speakers and everyone who attended, and those who watched the live streaming of the event on Facebook. Please see links below of our speakers’ presentations and our Facebook live stream. Do join the debate on Twitter on #Stammer30.

Action for Stammering Children is proud to have been able to support research into stammering over the 30 years since it was founded. We continue to fund research through the Michael Palin Centre and we are currently supporting a three year PhD research project with UCL into the links between stammering and mental health. If you would like to support the Charity and help us to do more to support children who stammer please do click the donate button above.

Download Margaret Leahy’s presentation here

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