“Believe in yourself. Keep talking.”
Bradford College intervention officer Abid Hussain is joining forces with a national charity for people who stammer, to use his voice for good.
Abid hopes to inspire young people who stammer, let them know of the support available to them and tell them that they can achieve anything.
Advice during Fresher’s Fair
This month, as students return to college, Abid will work with the charity STAMMA, using a promotional stand to share the important message about supporting people who have stammers.
Abid has published blogs setting out how he was affected by a stammer from a young age. He explained: “The earliest memory of me stammering is from 1988, ten years old and in middle school.
“My form teacher … was known for being very strict and regimented. The majority of the students were scared of her. Being told off included shouting at you like the infamous Sir Alex Ferguson hairdryer and being jabbed in the chest.
“With my brothers and friends at school, initially the stammering was not apparent. Soon as an authority figure i.e. dad, uncle and teachers spoke to me, everything changed. The words I wanted to express were in my head but were not resonating from my mouth. I felt like the signals from my brain to my tongue had shutdown. This then initiated an increase in my heart rate, sweating and trying to speak. Yes, trying to speak.
“Why me? What have I done to deserve this? When will this stop? I kept asking these questions to myself over and over again.”
Yes Mrs Cunningham …
In his blog, he explains how, as a child, he set his alarm for 5am to practise what he was going to say to his teacher that day: “Yes Mrs Cunningham, yes Mrs Cunningham …”
With little support from school and at home, Abid described how he shut down and spoke only to people he knew would support him. He said: “Was this the correct way to deal with this? Definitely not, but I had no choice.”
His life changed when he got to university. He said: “No one laughed when I spoke and no one finished my sentences. The presentations definitely dragged on but I was talking. Words were coming out. I was respected, listened to and not interrupted or bullied.
“The confidence I gained there was unbelievable and this changed me as a person for the better. With this, my aspirations and my outlook on life changed.”
“You can do this”
Among the greatest milestones on Abid’s journey was a presentation he gave on the Ebola virus. On the morning of the presentation, he was wide awake at 5am. Despite his fears, he made his way to the lecture theatre. As he started to give his presentation, he stuttered, but encouraged by his fellow students, the words slowly began to flow. “I kept going. I couldn’t believe it. When I finished I looked up and all I could see were smiles. I truly believe this was the day that my mindset changed. I was determined not to let stammering ruin my life.”
Abid has been in education for 21 years, working at Carlton Bolling school for 14 years before coming to Bradford College in 2017.
During a mental health first aid course in early 2020, he and his colleagues began discussing how everybody has a story or something about themselves that can inspire other people. Abid said: “Then lockdown came, which meant I had a lot of time to think about this.”
At first, writing about his experiences was an often emotional experience, but it soon became easier. He sent the blogs to STAMMA, which accepted his work straight away.
No-one to stop me now
Now 43, Abid’s job involves speaking all the time – something he would never have dreamt of when he was younger. He said: “My stammer’s still there. The first few minutes before every lesson are nerve-racking. I think to myself, “Will my students laugh?”. These same thoughts and feelings eat me up, whether I’m teaching a class of 20 or in one-to-one tuition.
“But once I start, my confidence builds and there’s absolutely no one to stop me. Now I cannot stop talking. Why should I? I’m making up for the time I lost over the years.”
STAMMA stall at Fresher’s Fair
Abid will be promoting the work of STAMMA at a stall during Bradford College’s Fresher’s Fair. He said: “There may be students who have a stammer, who are going through this process of starting at College and don’t feel they have the support they need, people who don’t have anyone to talk to and have bottled up their feelings. Student Services is there to help.
Believe in yourself
“My advice to students who have a stammer is, keep talking. Believe in yourself and seek support, so many charities offer support groups now.”
He also has advice for people who speak to people with stammers. “Don’t finish their sentences off. It’s very demoralising when people do this. Give them the time to speak – a few seconds’ delay is enough to give them time and support. Be there for the and give them time and support.
“Now I just want to help students. If I can help just one student, it will be more than enough.”
You can read Abid’s articles on the STAMMA website:
Student Services at Bradford College
Our various student services teams offer a wide range of help and support to make sure your time with us is safe, enjoyable and supported. Need help? Contact our friendly Student Services team on 01274 088 088 or email email@example.com
Founded in 1978, STAMMA, the British Stammering Association, is a registered charity. Its mission is to support anyone who stammers in the UK and tackle the stigma, ignorance and discrimination that people who stammer often face so that they can live their life in full and with dignity.
Find out more at www.stamma.org