We need to talk about stammering
NIKI HINMAN talks to Marlborough author Tony Millett about his Parts of Speech, a frank memoir that tells the story of three generations of stammerers
From wartime to peacetime, Parts of Speech, a frank memoir from Marlborough-based author Tony Millett, tells the story of three generations of stammerers – all from one family.
It is based primarily around the impact of the author’s stammer on his life, with unsuccessful speech therapy and unexpected attempts at treatment – from the bogus to hypnosis.
“About 50 per cent of stammerers have an inherited gene, making them susceptible to developing a stammer once it’s triggered by some trauma or other,” says Tony.
There are not many books about stammering – and Tony believes silence is part of the problem with this disability.
“Silence around stammering has made it far worse for those who stammer and to a lessening degree it still does,” he said.
“Stammering needs to be talked about, faced up to and then faced down! I also aim to raise understanding of stammerers by showing the everyday hurdles they face.
“The story of my stammer and various attempts at speech therapy (from the bogus to hypnotism) illustrates the difficult past many stammerers were forced to survive.
“Of course, it can still bring serious problems to young lives. Speech therapy, where it’s available, has improved a lot.”
Parts of Speech exposes the everyday hurdles and glass ceilings a stammerer faces. It includes Tony’s career as a journalist – notably at ITN where he had the support of many of television journalism’s great newsmen and women.
“Tony has written a brilliant memoir to show how a stammer affected his life and the lives and opportunities of those close to him,” said Sir Trevor MacDonald who worked with Tony for more than 20 years.
“It’s a touching account of how the challenges faced by stammering can be overcome and should be essential reading for families around the country.”
The book records the challenges his father overcame as a professional soldier with a stammer. He was killed in Holland in December 1944.
“I needed to get my father’s war record and his stammer into print,” said Tony.
“I don’t remember him at all and I wanted to record his wartime service. He was killed in Holland when I was just under three years old. He’d successfully faced down the challenges of his stammer.
“But – except for two colleagues of his I got to know towards the end their lives – I had left it too late to discover many details about his stammer.”
The story ends on a very positive note with the author’s grandson Thomas, who had early, very effective therapy for his stammer.
Tony also sees his book as a political book in that it calls on politicians to ensure children who develop stammers get appropriate speech therapy.
“You will almost certainly know someone who stammers – eight per cent of us do at some point,” said Dame Jane Roberts, who chairs Action for Stammering Children,
“Tony’s candid, searingly honest and moving portrayal of three generations of one family affected by stammering is a powerful read.
“Its markedly hopeful tone warms the heart with the positive changes in attitude, advice and support now available, though there is still so much more to do.”
Sales of Parts of Speech will benefit the charity Action for Stammering Children, which supports and funds the Michael Palin Centre where Thomas had such effective help and support – as have many thousand other young people.
Parts of Speech can be ordered from your local independent bookshop or purchased online from browndogbooks.uk or Amazon