I don't put my hand up

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Paul Stella, 12, is in Year 8 at St Thomas More Catholic school in Kensington, south London. He cannot remember not stammering. This interview was carried out by email.

"When my words don't come out easily my mouth sometimes changes shape. I screw up my eyes and go red. Then I get terrible butterflies in my tummy, as I feel I won't find a way out. I try to get over the problem word but then another will get stuck, and another.

I often stop talking and take a few breaths to calm myself. I close my eyes as well while doing this; I don't like to see people's reactions. Mostly it works, but sometimes people lose interest or run out of time. They try and finish what they think you were saying.

I stammer more if I'm talking to someone I don't know, less with my family and friends. I never stammer when I sing or speak in different voices I've invented. Teachers are mostly sympathetic and give me the time I need. I have a good way of dealing with registration. When my form teacher calls my name, I reply, 'Es ma'am,' which should be 'Yes ma'am.' If you say it fast you can't hear the missing 'y'. I often know the answers in lessons, but I avoid putting my hand up. If a teacher asks me directly and there's a short answer I'll say it. If it would mean a long explanation, I'd say I didn't know.

At primary school I felt left out; I never got chosen to do anything. I'd like to perform, especially with my different voices. When I started in Year 7, my maths teacher asked me a question and when I couldn't answer without stammering she thought I was taking the micky. I got a detention.

It wasn't until my form tutor intervened that she realised it was true."

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