I was asked by The British Stammering Association to take some portraits of their members for a website and brand update to STAMMA.org
I knew very little about stammering before I was asked to take these pictures, it is a very under represented and little understood condition.
About 8% of children will stammer at some point, but most will go on to talk fluently. For up to 3% of adults it will be a lifelong condition. Stammering affects mainly men and every ethnicity.
There is no link between stammering and intellectual capacity. Like other neurological conditions, it covers a spectrum, everyone stammers differently and to different degrees. For some there’ll be periods of their life when they stammer less and others when they will struggle to speak. Many find that as they get older the condition improves.
Stammering has been used as a device to make people laugh and to indicate dishonesty or low intelligence. This stereotyping, and the frustration caused by the difficulty of talking with others, has led many to avoid stammering and find ways of sounding ‘normal’. You may know someone who stammers ‘a little’, or be surprised to hear that someone you know well tells you that they stammer. Societal expectations mean that people will often try to avoid stammering. They will anticipate speaking situations and plan for them. They may swap a word they expect to stammer on. Or they may keep what they say to the bare minimum. They may arrive late to a meeting to avoid introducing themselves.
The physical act of stammering can be a tiny part of the experience. The bigger part is often the mental machinations that someone who stammers endures. Anticipating times when they'll need to talk, the negative responses, the ever-present expectation that they need fixing or just need to breathe properly. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, anxiety and fear. Frustration that saying one’s name – the one thing that most people who stammer will find hard to say – will stymie their every encounter. The frustration of not being taken seriously.