My stammer became apparent when I was five years old. Since then it has affected me socially on multiple levels.
Despite my stammer creating certain obstacles academically, I always overcame them. When I was in my final year at University (from 2013/14), I noticed how minimal and basic support was for a stammerer and how lacking people's understanding of the disability was.
I saw through online research that children, teenagers and adults with a stammer had advice available to them, however I struggled to find this for students. So I decided to fill this gap by creating a campaign that would help support university students and staff who stammer.
With assistance from the Social Enterprise Award at The University of Warwick, trustees from the British Stammering Association (BSA) and the Employers Stammering Network (ESN), I was able to get the initiative off the ground. I created a website, Facebook page and Twitter account, and eventually came up with the acronym STUC (Stammerers Through University Campaign), pronounced stuck – to emphasise the feeling of being trapped by having a stammer.
STUC works as follows:
- a university signs a contract to become a partner of STUC.
- together we organise a focus group, to which anyone who stammers or who has an interest in stammering is invited. In this focus group we discuss what is and is not being done currently by the university to support stammerers.
- I then write a report to put these ideas together, which is presented at a seminar held a few months later, where a plan of action is created based upon the data collected at the focus group.
Founding STUC has made me more confident when talking to people, as well as presenting ideas, my beliefs and myself.
Having a stammer has (ironically) made me a better communicator.
Stammering hugely restricts the range of words available to those who stammer, and so I have become more selective in the words I choose, which has resulted in me blabbing and waffling less!
I would say that my work with STUC prepared me for the world of work in that I had the privilege to meet and talk with many people of varying levels or seniority: business partners, charity organisers, consultants, lecturers, students and more, which has given me experience in how to address different people. Whilst I considered myself to be well spoken, professional and approachable prior to setting up STUC, I believe I have become more so as a result.
In the interview for my current job it was one of the three interviewers who brought up STUC; she had seen it on my CV and asked me to explain it further. I hadn't mentioned it during the interview before then so I'm very glad she noticed it on my CV. I'm thrilled that I was able to talk about it because not only did I get to mention at the time that I stammer, but it proved that I demonstrate entrepreneurship, enthusiasm, passion, initiative, motivation, time management, strength and selflessness outside of my career.
Since launching STUC I have been overwhelmed by emails and messages from students, staff, organisations and universities offering their support – it's an amazing feeling to know that I am doing something worthwhile; fuelled by personal experience and a get-up-and-go frame of mind.
By Claire Norman, founder of STUC and Intelligence Analyst for Cifas