18th October 2016 – Airedale nurse doesn’t let her stammering get in the way of her dream job
Bethany Watson had wanted to be a nurse since she was six years old but thought it wouldn’t be possible because of her stammer.
Last week her dream came true as she started on ward 13 at Airedale Hospital as a registered nurse due to her determination – and help from the trust’s speech and language therapy team.
Bethany, aged 21, of Sutton in Craven, sought help from the service at various periods in her life to help her cope with big changes in her life – when she was about seven years old for a few years, then again when she was about 14 years old as a pupil at South Craven School to help her get into university and finally when she was applying for nursing jobs. She didn’t stammer at school or at home so very few people know about it, but she was ashamed and used to make excuses for why she had to leave school early once a week to see her therapist.
The recent graduate from the University of Central Lancashire said: “I used to think about my stammer every day .I was worried that my speech impediment would hold me back at university and unsure whether I could still do the job I’d always wanted – to be a nurse – as you have to talk clearly in an emergency.
“I used to find it a bit of a challenge using the phone – but I do it all the time now at work without even thinking about it. The staff are all very nice and that makes a difference. It’s all about how you feel about stammering, lots of people just stop talking. My stammer will always be there but the difference is I have people I can talk to about it. I never see it in a negative way and I won’t let it stop me succeeding in whatever I want to do.”
Stephanie Burgess, speech and language therapist at Airedale Hospital, talked through situations with Bethany that she may encounter and they came up with strategies to help her deal with them, for example, getting on a bus asking for a ticket to a particular place which can cause anxiety if there’s a large queue of people forming behind you.
Stephanie said: “There are some useful techniques such as slowing down your speech but it’s more about changing your mindset and believing it’s okay to stammer. The problem is often with other people making it an issue. They can get impatient and finish off your sentences rather than letting you have time to continue what you are trying to say.
“I believe if you have a stammer you can still do anything you want to do – you just need the confidence to get out there and do it.”
Bethany is still a member of a group set up about two years ago for women who stammer who have a very informal meeting once a month at Coronation Hospital, in Ilkley. She had never met another woman with a stammer before she joined the group. Stammering is rare amongst women – there are around four times as many men with a stammer – and so they can feel very isolated. The group was set up for them to talk to others who would understand.
It is estimated that one in every 100 adults has a stammer and 22 October is International Stammering Day to raise awareness of the neurological condition and the help available. It also aims to dispel some of the misconceptions such as people who stammer are less intelligent or that it is usually caused by some trauma in their life.
A good person to contact first may be your GP, where you can ask for a referral to a speech and language therapist (SLT). Alternatively, many speech and language services accept self-referrals from patients and parents.
You can contact the British Stammering Association helpline on 0845 603 2001 for advice about seeking help and information about the services available in your area.
On Monday 17 October, Stephanie took part in an all parliamentary event ‘Stammering Therapy Changes Lives’ at the House of Commons in London organised by the national Stammering Network to discuss the lack of provision of stammering therapy across the country and how to tackle it. Guest speaker will be Ed Balls, former MP, who has a stammer.
Airedale Hospital is currently in discussion with the British Stammering Association to roll out a national service using telemedicine so that people can get help from a therapist on screen no matter where they live so that the specialist speech and language service will become more widely available.