Purpose People who stammer
|Motto Our vision: A world that understands stammering|
Legal status Registered charity, and company limited by guarantee
The British Stammering Association (BSA), a charity since 1978, is a national membership organisation in the United Kingdom for adults and children who stammer, their friends and families, speech and language therapists and other professionals. Based in London, it is run by people who stammer. BSA promotes awareness of stammering, offers advice, information and support to all whose lives are affected by stammering, initiates and supports research into stammering and identifies and promotes effective therapies. It describes stammering as a neurological issue and estimates that about 700,000 people in the UK have a stammer.
The Association's chief executive is Norbert Lieckfeldt and the Chair is Tim Fell.
In September 2010, the Association announced that Ed Balls, who was then a Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, had become a patron of the Association. BSA chief executive Norbert Lieckfeldt paid tribute to him for having been very public in his declaration that he too knows what it's like to stammer and has at times struggled with his speech.
David Mitchell, author of Black Swan Green, a novel about a 13-year-old boy who has a stammer, is also a patron of the Association. BSA's other patrons are Sir Andrew Bowden MBE, Dame Margaret Drabble DBE, John McAllion, Nicholas Parsons LL.D. OBE, Arwel Richards and Baroness Whitaker.
The British Stammering Association is a member of the European League of Stuttering Associations and the International Stuttering Association. At its World Congress in Brazil, the International Fluency Association awarded the IFA Consumer Award of Distinction 2009 to the British Stammering Association.
The Association's Scottish branch, BSA Scotland, was founded in 2004 as a focus for Scottish campaigns, events and support services as well as to engage with the Scottish Parliament.
Advice, information and support
The Association operates a helpline and offers information packs for parents of children under 5, primary and secondary school children, teenagers, adults who stammer, speech and language therapists, teachers and employers. It can also signpost callers to their local NHS Speech and Language Therapy Service.
Research and publications
Between 2004 and 2005 the Association published a research journal, Stammering Research, which was edited by Professor Peter Howell of University College London. In 2010 the Association produced research showing that children with signs of stammering are more likely to overcome the problem if they receive help before they reach school age.
The Association produces an information pack. To increase understanding in schools of stammering, the Association has produced an online resource for all teachers and school support staff in England and Scotland. It includes guidance on how to identify children who stammer and strategies on how to support them in both primary and secondary schools.
The Association publishes a magazine, Speaking Out, now published exclusively online. The spring 2011 issue included an article in which BSA member Richard Oerton recalled his own experiences with King George VI's speech therapist Lionel Logue who is featured in the film The King's Speech. An interview with Neil Swain, voice coach for the film, was published in the summer 2011 issue. The spring/summer 2012 issue included an interview with the actor Charles Edwards, who played George VI in the West End stage version of the film.
The Association has campaigned for several years to eradicate misleading advertising claims made by stammering treatment providers. Some claim, for example, that they can "cure" stammering − but it is not possible to "cure" a stammer, in the accepted medical sense of the word. Accordingly, the BSA believes such claims not only give false hope to those who stammer − but also give people who don't stammer the false impression that stammering can easily be rectified. Respectable healthcare companies carry out independent trials on large numbers of people, over long periods of time, before claiming any benefit for their products or services. The campaign has been conducted by, firstly, encouraging treatment providers who are making doubtful claims to provide supporting data and, if they cannot do so, to moderate those claims; and, secondly, in cases where the treatment provider has not co-operated, the Association has reported their advertisements to the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who have investigated the claims and, if they prove to be unsupportable, have instructed them to remove the offending advertisement and amend any future claims. As from 1 March 2011, the ASA, and thus the Association, have also been able to act against misleading claims made in editorial copy on websites. Following a complaint by the Association, on 13 July 2011 the Advertising Standards Authority issued an adjudication against a website which said: "Discover how to stop stuttering with stammering cure that works".
BSA's chief executive Norbert Lieckfeldt, who describes stammering as "the hidden disability", said the charity had received calls from members who said people were asking them about their stammer for the first time, because of The King's Speech. The film had created a "good opportunity" for people to talk about stammering. He said: “Suddenly it has become a thing that can be talked about, which is very important for us...For those people who are engaged in conversations about it, their situation will have changed for the better.”
However, the Association criticised comedian Lenny Henry for his opening sketch for the 2011 Comic Relief, during which he spoofed the film and grew impatient with Colin Firth's portrayal of King George VI as he stammered over his speech. The Sun reported that the British Stammering Association had branded the sketch as "a gross and disgusting gleefulness at pointing out someone else's misfortune".
Speaking in support of the Association's stance, Labour MP Kate Hoey said: "For many people, particularly youngsters, stammering is not a joke – we need to ensure that help and support is given as early as possible and, most of all, we need to educate the public to understand the impact it has on people for the whole of their lives".
In May 2012, the Association criticised a headline and story on the front page of The Sun mocking newly appointed England football manager Roy Hodgson's rhotacism.
Commenting on the media coverage of Ed Balls' stumbling over his response in the House of Commons on 5 December 2012 to the Autumn Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Norbert Lieckfeldt said: "The experience of a lifetime of stammering gives an edge to a personality, something to rub against, and I'd prefer that over smooth glibness any day. This is also the advice we at the British Stammering Association would give to anyone who stammers who is considering a career in politics".
Employers Stammering Network
To mark International Stammering Awareness Day on 22 October 2012, the Association announced the forthcoming launch of the Employers Stammering Network, an alliance between employers and the BSA, which aims to create a culture where people who stammer can achieve their full potential. The network was launched on 9 May 2013 with a reception in the House of Commons hosted by Ed Balls MP. As of August 2015, 14 UK employers have signed up to the BSA's Employers Stammering Network. They include Accenture, the Civil Service, DHL, EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young), The Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Dutch Shell.