A SENIOR hospital manager said her life has become easier since she stopped trying to hide her stammer.

Emma Birchall often speaks to groups and large audiences in her role as associate director of informatics at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and has managed to control the speech problem by highlighting it before she speaks.


Now she has highlighted her experiences to support of an awareness campaign launched by the British Stammering Association (BSA).

The 37-year-old said: "I’ve hidden my stammer all of my adult life, by substituting or replacing words that can cause difficulties, or ‘blocking’ on sounds completely so no sound comes out at all, but decided to get help and support for my condition just over two years ago.

“Since then, I have been a lot more open about my stammer, which has actually helped me get more control over my speech. I usually let people know about it before I start talking, especially if I’m addressing a large audience and this helps remove some of the fear that I once had.

"It also lets me use the techniques I have learned to improve my fluency. I did let my stammer control some of the choices I made in life but I now accept my stammer and realise that hiding it was more of a problem for me than the stammer itself."

Stammering, or stuttering, is a relatively common speech problem in childhood, but can also persist into adulthood. It usually occurs at the beginning of speech and is characterised by the repetition of sounds or syllables, prolonged sounds, or 'blocking', when a word doesn't come out.

The exact cause of developmental stammering is still unclear, although it is largely thought to be the result of the parts of the brain involved in speech being 'wired' differently.

A stammer can also develop as the result of a severe head injury, stroke or a progressive neurological disease, or through certain drugs or medication.

Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the BSA, said: “There are still too many misconceptions out there about stammering and about people who stammer. The stigma attached to the condition means that we don’t speak about it enough, but it’s only by talking about it we can overcome the misconceptions and stigma surrounding it. International Stammering Awareness Day is the perfect tool for us to go out there and tell our stories.”