To help raise awareness of stammering, and the leading Doncaster group that works to improve its members’ communication skills by a wide variety of means, founder member and performance artist Bob Adams is not averse to crowd-pulling tricks.
He is rightly proud of what the Doncaster Stammering Association is about, and has achieved during the 20-plus years it has been in existence.
It is known as the best of its kind in the country, if not the world, said Doncaster man Bob, and is continually extremely active.
Members run shows and events, attract visitors from across the world, and attend stammering-related functions and events, along with their own fun and supportive regular meetings at The Point in Doncaster.
They work hard to raise awareness about stammering, not least because there is so much misconception about what it actually is and why people suffer from it, explained Bob.
He said: “We challenge people’s perceptions and the common belief that people who stammer are somehow weak, or inconfident.
“That is so far from the truth. I have stammered since the age of four, and for years I thought I was the only person in the world to have a stammer.
“I felt completely alone and tried all sorts in a bid to stop doing it. Of course, the more you try not to do something, the worse it becomes.
“It was not until my thirties, when I had some therapy through the NHS in Doncaster, that I reached a turning point.
“That was really good, and was followed by an intensive course in London.
“I had spent my life trying to avoid certain words for fear of stammering over them, but in fact stammering is nothing to do with nervousness. It is to do with genetic predisposition.
“The brains of stammerers are wired differently and around one per cent of people around the world are affected. It is also more common in males – roughly four males as opposed to one female stammer.”
There are two schools of thought about helping people who stammer. One is to try and stop it all together, the other to accept and talk more freely with it, to communicate more easily, said Bob.
“I would lower my eyes and put my head down if I stammered, feeling people would think me stupid.
“But therapy taught me to keep my eyes open and continue. The first time I did this and the person I was speaking to just waited for me to finish, I felt as if a massive weight was lifted from me.
“Stammering isn’t wrong…..it’s just something we do.”
Bob started the Doncaster Stammering Association to continue this work and the group has gone from strength to strength.
It has built its membership, hosted three national conferences and remained highly active in every way possible.
Performance artist Bob says the group will go out and add spectacles such as fire eating to draw people in, then open conversation about stammering and spark question and answer sessions, educating people in an easy, informal way.
“Our meetings are a real laugh, certainly not doom and gloom,” added Bob. “We practice our communication skills, and speaking openly and freely.”
Recently, members attended the Manchester launch of the 'Northern Stamma House' with the aim of stammerers in the north of England to “pool resources, ideas, energies and enthusiasm” to make a collective effort to help and support people within the region.
There were key-note talks from Alex Staniforth, and Jane Powell, plus a number of interactive workshops.
Alex is an inspirational, international speaker, challenging fear of failure and empowering audiences to change their mindsets towards adversity, said Bob.
Jane Powell, CEO of the British Stammering Association, gave an update on a new ‘Stamma’ campaign.
“Typically, people want to jump in and finish words off for someone who has a stammer,” added Bob.
“But it’s by far the best thing to wait and let them finish what they have to say.”
Stammering ‘expert’ Professor Paul Cooke from the USA will be visiting soon as part of a tour. He takes in the big cities of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and York…..and Doncaster.
“Doncaster is seen as the actual highlight of the tour. It’s a real honour,”said Bob.
“This is their fourth or fifth visit here and we are very lucky to be included. Paul is particularly inspirational, both as a person and as a speaker.”