Thomas Grattoni-May: Boy’s stammer ‘made worse by lockdown’

Thomas Grattoni-May: Boy’s stammer ‘made worse by lockdown’

Thomas Grattoni-May

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Thomas Grattoni-May said he had developed confidence to speak in class but had found online classes a struggle

A schoolboy with a stammer says he hopes that by explaining his difficulties in communicating during lockdown, he will help others.

Thomas Grattoni-May has a blocking stammer, which means his mouth is positioned but no sound comes out.

The 15-year-old said using audio digital platforms for lessons meant no-one could see he was trying to speak.

He said he was part of a “silent group… who have struggled in ways that others perhaps will not realise”.

The teenager, a pupil at Ashville College in Harrogate, said when lockdown meant his GCSEs were cancelled “it seemed like my world turned upside down”.

Writing in a blog, he said: “Everything I had been working towards for the last five years was in disarray and the stress levels rose considerably.

“Like many, as the stress levels rose, so did my difficulties in communicating.”

Thomas said because he was “hidden behind a computer screen” his teachers could not see that he was struggling to get his words out.

He added: “If I wanted to ask a question, I would have to time the unmuting of my microphone with my readiness to speak, but the more I thought about it, the more stressed I would become.

“I realised how much lockdown and online schooling was impacting both my ability to understand my teachers and their ability to understand me.

“I was missing a vital component of communication, the non-verbal form that I was completely reliant upon.”

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Lucy Mullender, who supports Thomas at school, said he did not try to hide his stammer but rather “embraced it”

Thomas urged other youngsters who have stammer “not to worry”.

“You’re joining a very special group of people who have succeeded greatly, like Sir Winston Churchill, Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Emily Blunt.”

Lucy Mullender, who supports Thomas in school, described him as an “inspirational student”.

Charity Action for Stammering said there had been a rise in the number of inquiries over lockdown about children stammering.

It said it hoped Thomas’s story would help support others.

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