Friday, June 12, 2009

Leys persists

Leys persists with his campaign to get Google change their policy regarding stuttering cures:
Tom, I thought you and your readers might be interested in this story.

Following the BSA’s complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority has just made adjudications against five more ads from two organisations, and The adjudications have been published today at http://www.asa.orguk/asa/adjudications/public/

These adjudications have been made because the organisations in question did not respond to the ASA’s requests for data which might have supported their claims.

An additional benefit of these adjudications is that Google, who ran these ads, are deemed to be affiliate marketers, and thus bear responsibility for accepting ads which infringe the advertising codes.

So we have written to Matt Brittin, the Country Director of Google UK, pointing out that, once again, Google has been found to be taking money for ads, without taking responsibility for their content We also reminded him that, in addition to the British Stammering Association, many other authoritative people and organisations – including the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and the Stuttering Foundation of America – have already advised Google that stammering cannot be ‘cured’. That is why we have all asked that stuttering/stammering should be included in the Google ‘Miracle Cures’ policy, so that ads of this kind will no longer be accepted by Google.

We will carry on reporting ads to the ASA which feature misleading claims about stammering treatments. Google, we hope, will reconsider their position.


Anonymous said...

Google is a corporation. Its only reason for existence is to make money. Google presumably makes money from advertising, and is doing nothing illegal (as far as I can see). Unfortunately, Leys can jump up and down and complain about advertisements all day and all night, but Google will not care at all because they're making money.

A more effective approach would be for these stuttering organizations/associations to raise awareness of stuttering treatments, so that people do not get sucked in by disreputable treatments. Maybe the ASA and BSA, etc. can buy some advertising time on Google. By the way, what exactly do these stuttering associations do??????

Leys Geddes said...

Yes, of course all corporations need to make money, but very few of them take money, and do not take responsibility, for the ads they present to their customers. So anything we can do stop Google and others giving the false impression that stammering can be cured, or overcome easily, is, surely, a good thing?

It would be great if the British Stammering Association had enough money to advertise on Google and elsewhere. But, as we don't, we use our resources as best we can; for example our successful campaign to encourage the Government to adopt an Early Intervention policy, our campaign to train more SLTs in EI and our campaign to educate school teachers. Go to and find our more for yourself.

It might also interest you to know that, in their latest published annual accounts, the BSA received £110,000 income from donations and legacies whilst the Donkey Sanctuary received £20 million.

I have nothing against donkeys, but the truth is that until more people are prepared to speak out, we stammerers will remain inaudible and invisible and our condition will never be widely understood. And the income of the stammering/stuttering charities/non-prifits will remain pitifully low.

So why don't you see what you can do to help?

Anonymous said...


You asked:
"So anything we can do stop Google and others giving the false impression that stammering can be cured, or overcome easily, is, surely, a good thing?"

It would be a good thing if it weren't a waste of time. Google would not care as long as they are making money, and not breaking any laws. Remember, we're in a recession. I agree with you that what they do is morally wrong, but it is not illegal, so they won't stop.

You also said:
"the BSA received £110,000 income from donations and legacies whilst the Donkey Sanctuary received £20 million."

The thing is that stutterers can take care of themselves, but donkeys that are a abused and neglected really need help. You will find stutterers in all walks of life. They may be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, cleaners, accountants, scientists, business-owners, etc. I know of very severe stutterers who are quite successful and satisfied in life, and have never availed themselves of any stuttering organization. Sure, there are those that find it difficult to live with a stutter - so they visit speech pathologists. There are those who become depressed, and psychiatrists and psychologists may help. In general, stutterers can take care of themselves.
The original question still stands: what exactly do these stuttering associations do?????? Why should I donate to the BSA and not to the Donkey Sanctuary or the Hare Krishnas?

Leys Geddes said...

I agree with some of the things you say, Anonymous.

Surely, anything which reduces the amount of advertising which gives stammerers and non-stammerers the impression that the condition is no problem, and can be cured, is A Good Thing? For too long, it seemed to me, people who stammer have grudgingly accepted these ads, when we could have been doing something about them. Whether we will get Google to change their policy, and include stammering in their Miracle Cure ban policy, is another matter but, again, it's worth having a go. Already a large number of advertisers have asked by the BSA, or been told by the Advertising Standards Authority, to change the wording of their ads. So we are changing things and making progress.

You may remember that there was, and still is, a campaign to get YouTube to reclassify those videos which show people stammering, or pretending to stammer, which had been classified as Comedy. As it happens, YouTube have not done so, but you will find that the campaign has caused change, because there are now far fewer people taking the P (not sure of Tom's policy about rude words) out of stammering videos and far more people who stammer have put up videos of their own.

So, as I see it, the general rule in both these cases is nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I know that many people live happy and successful lives, despite their stammering. But many don't, and there is still prejudice and a great deal of struggling, worrying, frustration and non-fulfilment. Not everyone in the States can afford a SLT, not everyone in the UK has a free NHS SLP in their area, and millions of people still don't understand anything much about stammering or what to do aboout it. And I'm only talking here about the US and UK, not the rest of the world, much of which has never even heard of an SLT, never mind seen one.

Even here, in the sophisticated ol' UK, no Member of Parliament stammers audibly, no high-profile leader in business or any other career stammers audibly and stammering hardly ever features in the broadcast media - unless as a dramatic device, often for comic intent, or to denote psychotic tendencies. As a result, people who stammer have virtually no public voice, literally.

I have told you some of the things the BSA is doing but, if we had £20 million, which might yet include a fat cheque from you, we could:

1. Educate teachers and parents (possibly on TV) so they would get young children into therapy as early as possible;

2. Provide far more training for speech therapists, most of who are not up to date with modern therapies and currently give stammering a low priority;

3. Educate politicians, and others in authority, about the benefits of helping people who stammer to grow up more able to achieve their ambitions, make more of their work and social lives and contribute more to the economy;

4. Do a lot more research. We already know that stammering is a neurological condition, but it’s incredible that 80 million people in the world stammer, yet we don’t know exactly why, and there is still absolutely no sign of a ‘cure’.


Anonymous said...


Can it be that we stutterers have a false opinion of how others perceive us? I remember a person on a particular stuttering newsgroup who was convinced that the general public hates stutterers, and that they find us ridiculous (some people agreed with him). That has certainly not been my experience. Whenever I stutter severely in a social or professional situation, people are usually very patient and there is really no problem. I know a stutterer who tried internet dating a few years ago. Whenever he made contact with a prospective date, he always said "just to let you know upfront that I have a stutter". The reply was usually, "so what" or "no problem"; they did not see the stutter as an issue at all. Oh, that reminds me of a scene from a 2008 Doctor Who episode ... here it is:

Maybe the general public understands more about stuttering (and are more tolerant of it) than we give them credit for. Do we really need a stuttering world leader or a stuttering Big Brother contestant to raise public awareness of stuttering, or do we just need them to "legitimize" our own stutters - to make us feel "normal"? Anyway, Big Brother contestants are forgotten after a few weeks ... does anybody actually watch that crap?
We stutterers are usually able-bodied, intelligent people with much to offer society, yet many of us hide ourselves away because we wrongly believe that people will ridicule us or think we're odd. If we are "invisible", we only have ourselves to blame.

I wonder what percentage of the donations to the BSA comes from the non-stuttering general public. I may be wrong, but I suspect that the bulk of the money is coming from the stuttering community. There are much more important issues in the world than stuttering, and much more worthy charitable causes. Remember that there are wars, famines, poverty, natural disasters, animal cruelty (including donkeys), environmental problems, health issues, etc. etc. etc. We stutterers can generally take care of ourselves.

Of the 4 items you listed that the BSA would do if they had £20 million, I think the last one (Item 4) is by far the most important, and something really needs to be done about the poor state of stuttering research.

Item 1 has been done for many decades. When I was 5 years old (many, many years ago), I exhibited the first signs of stuttering. My teacher contacted my parents, and speech therapy was organized (which didn't help).

Item 2: I agree that speech pathologists have a very poor understanding of stuttering. This has been recognised for a long time, and this is why alternative treatments have started - such as Valsalva and McGuire. So I don't see much input required from BSA.

Item 3: I think I've written about that above.

Leys Geddes said...

I wish I knew who you are, Anonymous. Have we not talked about the need for PWS to come out?! Clearly we have different views, and have had different experiences in life - all of which is good - but I wish I knew where you are coming from and what your life experiences of stammering have been so far.

Yes, probably many stammerers have a false, and thus far too negative, opinion of themselves - or, more accurately, of the effect their stammering has on others. And I agree that in many cases we probably have ourselves to blame for being overlooked, invisible, inaudible, etc. This is one of the main points in the video 'Stammering needs a louder voice' - - which explains a lot more about what we should be doing in the UK, and possibly elsewhere too.

But, in my case at least, I have always been happy to speak about my stammer and have felt it useful to say, particularly in circumstances where I am meeting or addressing a lot of new people, that I have stammer. However, despite all this, I have been fired for stammering, almost lost my job three times because clients were initially prejudiced against my speech and, only a few weeks ago, was told at a local council meeting to hurry up with my speech, or I would be cut short, because time was running out. So were these and many other instances more about them or me?

Yes, I should think most donations to stammering charities/non-profits are from people who stammer or those who know them. Why? Because only they understand how it can be a life-changing condition. The big trick is to get people outside Stammering World to understand this too. And you could help here.

The points you make at Items 1 and 2 above are wrong. Things have changed since you had therapy at the age of five. It is now possible to do great things if you can get a child into the right kind of therapy as soon after onset as possible. However, because we have a National Health Service in the UK, where local authorities decide their own spending priorities, the availability and quality of the service varies wildy. This is not Macdonalds, where a Big Mac in Budapest is exactly the same as one in downtown Boston. So one of the main jobs for the BSA is to concentrate the minds of the Government, the local NHS authorities, schools and parents on giving speech a higher priority and giving SLTs the training they need to provide Early Intervention.

Apart from our agreement on the need to do more research, I am reluctant to take you advice on these other issues, because you appear to be advocating that we should do nothing.

But, bear in mind that there is not much likelihood of anyone getting a substantial research programme off the ground until those politicians and other people in authority understand the difficulties we face. Which kind of takes me back to where we started...

Anonymous said...


Yes, stuttering can be a life-changing experience, and people who stutter have been known to suffer workplace discrimination and are misunderstood by some people. But these kinds of experiences are not restricted to stutterers. I know a lady who suffered workplace discrimination because of her weight. She eventually took her case to the equal opportunity commission and got compensated. There is no "overweight person's association", and there is no need for one. In general, the public is educated enough to know that overweight people are not necessarily stupid or lazy, yet there is still discrimination against them. Prejudice is everywhere - against overweight people, against racial minority groups, against ugly people, against anybody who is different. But that doesn't mean each of these minority groups needs an association. Educating the public about stuttering sounds like an admirable thing (and it is), but I've found that a lot of people are patient and tolerant of my own stutter. But there is the occasional idiot who isn't - and no amount of education will change that
I am a stutterer with decades of experience in the fine art of stuttering, and I simply do not see the need for a BSA-type organisation. And I struggle to see what important things such an association would do with £20 million. However, I can clearly see the benefit of the donkey sanctuary.

Leys Geddes said...

I'm glad you came back - and, after so many exchanges, may I call you, Anon?!

But I think that, after this exchange, we may well have to agree to disagree.

I recognise that, just because I am doing something, I think it is important. So possibly there is a danger of losing one's objectivity. However, I recognise this too, and always seek opinions from others - and take account of them.

I hope I have given a decent explanation of what I want to do and why I think the BSA, and other associations, are so necessary.

But let's put aside for a moment all my aspirations for a brighter future, made possible by suddenly finding a few £ million in the BSA's bank account, and concentrate solely on what we are doing now.

If the BSA was not here, as you suggest, it would have the following consequences:

1. There would be no independent and authoritative helpline service in the UK to support people who stammer.
2. There would be no independent and authoritative website, designed for people in the UK, and providing information for people who stammer, their friends and families, teachers, employers and employees.
3. There would be no body to represent stammerers in discussions with the UK Goverment, about Early Intervention, adult therapy, teacher training, etc.
4. There would be no organisation seeking to train UK SLPs on current therapies for stammering, particularly for Early Intervention.
5. There would be no conferences in the UK providing a neutral ground for those interested in stammering.
6. There would be no reference point for those wishing to set up self-help groups in the UK.

Is that enough to make you think again?


Anonymous said...


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I still don't see the need for a BSA - at least not a BSA that needs millions of pounds in funding.

As far as I know, early intervention in stuttering is happening even without BSA involvement. Teachers and parents are generally quick to notice the signs of stuttering, and can choose to deal with it by contacting SLPs.

Training of SLPs is already happening in universities without BSA input. In my opinion, the stuttering component of these university courses is inadequate for adult stutterers in particular. For this reason, we have seen the emergence of independent therapies - like Mcguire and Valsalva ... no involvement from BSA.

A website providing information for people who stutter (including self-help groups) is useful, but it would be very inexpensive to run. Speaking of self-help groups, once they get started, there is minimal need for any input from a BSA-like organisation.

So, I think that a £110,000 income should be much more than enough for the BSA to meet its needs. It might sound ironic, but your posts have alerted me to the plight of donkeys (I wasn't aware of that), and I will be making a donation to the Donkey Sanctuary as soon as I get my next pay cheque.

Leys Geddes said...

Now, Anon, the things you say in your paras two, three and four are just not right. Come over here and take a look for yourself.

The good thing, however, is that you have kindly given your approval for a stammering charity in the UK to receive up to £110,000.

Last month, I saw an exceptionally healthy donkey in the Basque Country, near Guernica: nice coat, big furry ears, strong hooves, everything. Whenever, I think of him in future, I shall also think of you, and the good work you are doing.

Do you want to talk about the NSA or the SFA now? You never know, but we might be able to agree on something.