Speaking up about stammering

Leytonstone resident Nisar Bostan on the struggle to make himself heard

With senior partner of Ernst & Young (EY), a prominent top-4 accounting firm, Iain Wilkie

Nisar Bostan, left, with Iain Wilkie

For the best part of 19 years, I was oblivious to the fact that one percent of adults in the UK stammered. Only my closest friends knew I had a stammer. When I didn’t talk, they would explain that I was “reclusive”, “introspective” or “shy”.

To curb my stammering, I would employ breathing techniques, word substitution… or just skip an occasion altogether!

I stammer not because I am nervous, not because I am unsure about what to say, not because I am “stupid”. I stammer because…  I stammer. It is the most human aspect of me. It’s my greatest strength and sometimes my greatest weakness. My stammer is as natural and spontaneous as my arms and legs are. It’s just there. Always.

From many lovely people I bump into, I get sympathy. I appreciate their concern but it would help me and the myriad others affected by stammering, if we could substitute the sympathy for empathy, and both challenge and tackle prevalent misconceptions stigmatising this obscure condition.

My light bulb moment came last Christmas when, after a woeful university presentation,  I met a wonderful woman called Mandy Taylor, a trustee for the British Stammering Association (BSA).

We met at a pub somewhere (if my mum asks… I drank orange juice!). Being smart old me, I did everything I could to shroud my stammer but she stammered, stammered and stammered  some more. I can remember leaving the pub and feeling a  funny sense  of  relief – stammering openly was allowed.

Now, I am an ardent volunteer for the BSA, a charity advocating better awareness and treatment for those who have a stammer. I hop and skip into schools, colleges and universities and put a voice to a face.

There’s a lot of stammering during these presentations!

Through the BSA, I met BSA patron (and Labour politician) Ed Balls at the House of Commons (who, you’ve guessed it right… stammers himself!), and shadowed Iain Wilkie, a senior partner at Ernst & Young. I am forever indebted to the BSA for presenting me with experiences and opportunities that I would never have imagined possible.

With the help of a few others, I recently started a support group for those who stammer, which meets fortnightly.  If you are  affected  by stammering, please contact the British Stammering Association on 0208 983 1003, or alternatively join our closed Facebook group, the The British Stammering Association Group. Do not suffer in silence.