Representatives of Irish Stammering Association visited Áras an Uachtaráin on Tuesday 1st December to meet with President Michael D. Higgins.
ISA Chairman Michael Ryan said, “It was an honour to meet with President Higgins and talk about the work of the Irish Stammering Association. We were made most welcome by the President and his staff on ISA’s first visit to Áras an Uachtaráin. We were pleased to be able to share the experiences of people who stammer and the work that ISA carries out to support them. This invitation underlines the importance that all voices in our society can have a place to be listened to.”
President Michael D. Higgins (seated centre) with Michael Ryan ISA Chair (seated left) and representatives of Irish Stammering Association
President Higgins addressed the group with the following words:
You are all most welcome here today to Áras an Uachtaráin.
I am very grateful to have this valuable opportunity to both commend you for the important work of the Irish Stammering Association, and to learn more about the issues facing citizens living with a stammer.
This year you marked the 21st anniversary since you were first established. During those twenty one years, the Association has admirably honored your mission to “ provide a nationally recognised voice for people affected by stammering. “
You have made remarkable strides in raising public awareness of stammering. For example, last month saw Ireland’s eighth National Stammering Awareness Day; a day which brought together an impressive array of expertise to discuss the theme of Education, Cooperation, and Communication.
Throughout the year your work in encouraging self-help groups including Skype groups for teens who stammer, and phone groups for men and women is invaluable, allowing people from all over the country to avail of your important service.
I was also deeply impressed to learn of the camps you organise, including your very successful drama camp, ensuring that the lives of young people with stammers will not be impoverished by lack of opportunities, or lack of outlets for creative expression.
There can be no doubt that the stigma surrounding those with stammers has reduced significantly in recent years. Today there is greater understanding of the issue and a greatly increased ability to hear beyond the stammer, and to appreciate the important and equal voice of all members of our society.
Parents whose small children stammer are no longer advised to simply ignore the issue, in the hopes that it will ‘go away’. Those who stammer themselves are less likely to find themselves subjected to the insensitivity that once marked a general ignorance about the condition.
This is all very positive, and the Irish Stammering Association can claim considerable credit for the many encouraging developments we have witnessed in this area.
I am deeply aware, however, that while the landscape has improved for those who stammer, there is still considerable work to be done if real equality is to be achieved for those living with this distressing challenge.
We know, for instance, that early intervention is key to helping the five per cent of children in Ireland who stammer. But sadly, such intervention can be dependent on which part of the country you live in, with waiting lengths varying and lasting up to a year and a half in some instances.
The lack of availability of services for adults who stammer is an issue of which I am very aware, and is one which must concern any society who wishes to be founded on equality and respect for all. In this regard I must commend your Association for the non therapy support you provide through, for example, your women’s leadership programme which enables the development of a positive self image and recognition of leadership qualities.
There can be no doubt that despite the strides that have been made in creating a more positive environment for citizens living with a stammer, challenges still remain.
It is most helpful to meet with you all today and to learn more about those challenges as we strive to create a society in which all our citizens can flourish and participate and make their individual and important contributions.
So may I thank you for coming here today and for the vital work you do.
People who stammer are individuals. We all have our own thoughts about stammering, and we have all had our own unique experiences of being a person who stammers.