6 November 2023
Now in her final year studying medicine at university, Woldingham alumna Phoebe Avbulimen spoke eloquently about the wonderful work of Action for Stammering Children on last month’s BBC Lifeline appeal programme, which raises funds and awareness for the charities it features.
The programme was presented by actor Colin Firth, who became involved with Action for Stammering Children after portraying King George VI in The King’s Speech. Phoebe has been involved with the charity since attending and benefitting from one of its courses as a teenager. As well as contributing to the charity’s research projects, Phoebe is passionate about raising awareness of its work and taking up opportunities such as this.
Although the BBC Lifeline appeal for Action for Stammering Children has now closed, you can find out more about the charity via its website.
Below, Phoebe explains more about her involvement with Action for Stammering Children:
Phoebe Avbulimen, Woldingham alumna
I was one of three young people who featured in the Action for Stammering Children BBC Lifeline appeal programme to talk about our experiences of having a stammer and our involvement with the charity. The appeal was presented by the actor Colin Firth, who portrayed King George VI - who had a stammer - in The King’s Speech. The appeal aired ahead of International Stuttering Awareness Day on Sunday 22 October.
I was aware of having a stammer when I was around eight years old, noticing there was ‘discomfort’ in getting words out of my mouth. But it wasn’t until I was older that I learnt it was a stammer.
Having this speech impediment made it particularly hard in school. I found myself becoming more withdrawn and less confident, which was the opposite to my natural personality. Lunch and break times could also be scary because I was anxious about how I would speak and how people would perceive me.
Nonetheless, I have not let having a stammer hold me back and I am now in my final year of medicine. I think having a speech impediment has made me more understanding of people who have differences and more determined to treat everyone kindly.
I became involved with the Action for Stammering Children charity when I was a teenager and attended their two-week intensive course. This taught me techniques like pausing and speaking more slowly. I joined its Youth Panel in 2017, which was a confidence-boosting experience because until then I did not really know many other young people who stammered. I no longer felt like the ‘odd one’ out.
Now, I am involved in research into childhood stammering with the charity by being part of its public steering group, identifying the ‘Top 10 research priorities into stammering’. Stammering is not yet fully understood and research has an important role in shaping understanding about it.
Fortunately, as I have grown older, I have become more confident in myself and more accepting of how I speak. I have also developed ways to manage it. I have now met a lot more people who stammer. Some will disclose but others may not. One in 100 adults have a stammer but it is more common in young children - almost 1 in 10.
One thing I would like to share with others who have a stammer is that it doesn’t have to define you. People are more interested in what you have to say, not how you say it.