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Life with a stammer

By Fiona Reid
Life with a stammer

KING George VI, Joe Bidden, Lewis Carroll and Moffat’s Leys Geddes . . . what do they have in common?

All four have been known to stammer . . . and all four never let it stop them doing great things. Leys, 68, has suffered from a stammer since the age of three.

His speech condition has been the cause of major life lows, such as being fired for his speaking quirk, but it has also seen him grace TV screens, attend premieres and rub shoulders with the likes of former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and fellow stammerer Ed Balls.

Speaking about life with a stammer, Leys said: “In the 1950s, understanding was so low it was assumed I needed to be taught how to speak.

“It certainly got me down, frustration, fear of public speaking and bullying, but I hope it hasn’t held me back. When you stammer, you need to be very resilient.”

Leys was keen to never let his stammer get the better of him, turning down high paid jobs in proof reading to make sure he didn’t bury himself away in a quiet office.

He said: “My career choice is some proof of doing what I wanted to do. At age 19, I turned down jobs with big ad agencies as a copywriter because I could see I was in danger of choosing a non speaking career.”

Instead the father-of-two went on to forge an impressive career in marketing in London. And when he was cut loose from a job because of his stammer, he had the last laugh by going solo and taking with him his former employer’s clients.

Over 750,000 people in the UK are affected by stammering and keen to help other stammerers live up to their potential and avoid fading into the background, Leys became involved with the British Stammering Association.

He said: “I wanted to see if I could use my marketing and healthcare experience to help the cause, particularly as I had once been fired for stammering.

“I’m always open to talking about stammering. It is the most invisible, inaudible, misunderstood and underestimated condition.

“It is not caused by nervousness or some character flaw – the root cause is actually a neurological disorder, similar to dyslexia, but affecting the speech.

“There is no cure and very few people ever find a way to control their speech completely.”

Leys served as the association chairman and during his time a true life film about the struggle of a king trying to overcome a stammer, The King’s Speech, was released in 2010.

Starring Colin Firth, the film brought stammering into the limelight and did a lot to promote the association and the help available.

Leys said: “I went to the premiere, did much of the media work and I met the writer of the film and the stage play, David Seidler, and interviewed Charles Edwards, who played King George VI in the play.”

Leys has also appeared on ITV’s Daybreak and BBC Breakfast to discuss stammering and offer advice to others.

And offering advice now to those living with a stammer, Leys said: “Get on with life. Use your skills. Talk and learn to stammer confidently. Understand why you stammer. Don’t apologise for it. Be open about it; don’t try to hide it, or you will hide yourself.”

What should you do if your child stammers?

LEYS’ advice is to arrange to see a speech and language therapist (SLT) if you have any worries.

He said: “Try, if possible, to see one who specialises in stammering and, best of all, one who specialises in childhood stammering.

“The sooner you do something, the better. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t hide it, as it’s not your ‘fault’ as a parent.”

For full information on stammering, go to





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