Pop Idol Gareth Gates’ inspiring ‘stammer school’

Speech and language therapist Lauren Wright with Gareth Gates
Speech and language therapist Lauren Wright with Gareth Gates

A speech and language therapist from Maidenbower has returned from an inspirational weekend at Gareth Gates’ first Stammer School.

Lauren Wright, who normally works with children and young people in Surrey and West Sussex, headed up to Bradford to take part on June 2 and 3.

The ‘stammer school’ provided a weekend retreat for primary school children who have a stammer, and children travelled from all over the country to take part.

Former Pop Idol winner Gareth, who has himself struggled with a stammer from a young age, set it up.

“He does still stammer now, but it’s more manageable. It’s something he’s had since he was three years old - he’s had various speech therapies for it,” siad Lauren.

“When he was younger he felt quite isolated. He didn’t know anybody else that had a stammer.

“He wanted to create the school to bring people together.

“It went really really well. A lot of it was about self-acceptance - not working on techniques for managing a stammer, but helping them to understand what stammering is, and helping them deal with the negative thoughts asssociated with stammering.”

She said people who have a stammer are often reluctant to speak, not because of the stammer itself, but for fear of how others will react to it.

Many grow up with negative experiences of talking to other people, and will come across as very shy and reluctant to contribute in class.

“You find with a lot of children who stammer, it holds them back from doing the things that they want to, they don’t tell jokes because they can’t get the words out at the punchline,” said Lauren.

“Gareth Gates is a good example for them because he didn’t let a stammer hold him back from singing.”

By the end of the weekend, they had young people happily interacting with each other, telling jokes, and in a couple of cases, singing or playing the guitar in front of others.

Since the weekend, organisers have already had reports from parents, saying that their child is now much more confident.

“Part of it is normalising it,” said Lauren, “helping them see it’s not something you should be ashamed or embarrassed about. For a lot of children, they were the only one at their school that had a stammer.”

There will be a similar event in Bradford this October, and Lauren said she would love to see a similar thing set up locally.

For more about the course, search for ‘Gareth Gates Stammer School’ on Facebook.

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