Posted: 23.02.21 at 10:25 by Derek Davis
Nub News gets UP CLOSE with Eleanor Barker, a trustee at the peninsula-based charity the Dominic Barker Trust, who today talks of why having a stammerer in the work place can be a good thing and the superstars who refuse to let disfluency hold them back.
You would probably never know it at first glance but numerous famous people have struggled with stammering at some point in their early life, and are fortunate enough to have been able to control it.
Joe Biden, Ed Sheeran, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader), Emily Blunt, Elvis Presley, Bruce Willis, Lewis Carroll, Marylyn Monroe, King George IV, Tiger Woods, Nicole Kidman and Alan Turing, are among those celebrities that suffered in their childhood and many have spoken of the bullying they had to endure due to their speech impediment.
They all deployed various methods to overcome, or control their stutter and while exerts agree the condition can not be cured, it can be treated and that is why the research funded by the Dominic Barker Trust, informally known as Dom's Fund, is so important.
Eleanor Barker, is the sister of Dominic who took his own life at aged 26 and a Trustee of the fund set up in his name, is grateful of the positive examples of famous people raising awareness of stuttering, but cautions against thinking everyone can get the same outcome.
"There are lots of examples in the public eye that stammer and it is incredibly important to look at as a positive model but it is also important to remember there are two types of stammerers
"There are also some who don't find it easy to control their speech and their level of fluency.
"Even the ones that do, like Joe Biden, who are known as covert stammerers. they still stammer inside but they are able to modify their speech so they avoid problem words, but you can almost see it going on.
"Many of those people will say it is a constant issue for them even in a normal conversation or if they are work they are constantly thinking about what they are going to say and how are I'm doing to say it.The amount of energy and stress going into avoiding certain words or sound that you know you are going to repeat or block is huge.
"It is great to have positive people who have been able to overcome being as stammerer, but it is important to remember not everyone is able to control it.
"Generally though the message though is your stammer does not have to be a barrier to success, or is something to be hidden away at home or not talked about, because it is important for the Trust that it is not seen as some awful stigma
"That said, not all want to be open but that's a personal choice."
With so few overheads, the Trust does not own property, vehicles and no-one is paid, virtually all the money raised by Dom's Fund goes to either raising awareness or funding research.
Among the many projects the Dominic Barker Trust has helped fund over its 23 years was undertaken by Dr Clare Butler, lecturer at Newcastle University Business School who found employers routinely discriminated against potential employees who stammer and rejected them due to concerns about possible negative reactions from team members or customers.
However, the same piece of work uncovered the positive aspects a stammer can bring to a work place, especially in meetings or presentations.
"The contribution stammerers can make is becoming much better understood." said Eleanor. "For example, research at Newcastle University about stammerers in the workplace and they found the positive side was that stammerers were very good listeners and when they made a contribution they are very well thought through and precise.
"They are not going to go into a meeting and waffle for half an hour because they think it makes them sound important or whatever.
"Things have moved on with employers but there is still some way to go."
Understanding children that stammer, and differentiating between the various degrees has been important research, although Dom's Fund helps people of all ages and in various environments. Perhaps if something similar and been more prevalent in the 1990s, things could have been different for Dominic and hopefully the work the Trust is now doing has made a difference.
Eleanor said: "It is certainly true that the understanding and some of the support was not there for him. It was a combination of factors.
"One of the difficulties for someone who was very bright and educated to a high degree and had everything going for him, apart from the fact they had difficulties communicating. I suspect he just felt there was never going to be anything that would take away the issues he was finding with other people putting up as barriers.
"He had various types of speech therapy but there is no silver bullet, some therapies work for some people but not others. Facing barriers to the job market when you had done everything you can to prove you are capable and trained to do those jobs, is very difficult to here.
"The important thing now is the understanding and the awareness is developing and it is important for employers to meet stammerers and and not just discount them.
"Some of the things that were said to Dominic at interviews would just not be allowed to say today. Legislation has moved on."
Dom's Fund relies on donations and until restrictions are lifted over the next few months, fundraising has been seriously curtailed. People can donate via the details on the form, or by contacting Dom's Fund here.
The charity would also be interested in hearing from those that continue to research and would be happy to receive applications.
For more information about Dom's Fund go to www.dominicbarkertrust.org.uk