SPEAKER of the House of Commons John Bercow and Leeds MP Ed Balls officially opened a treatment centre for people with stammers and speech impediments yesterday.
The Stammering Support Centre, located in the Reginald Centre on Chapeltown Road in Leeds, has been open since April and provides specialist services for both children and adults.
The Shadow Chancellor, who overcame a stammer as a child, was influential in securing Department of Health funding for the centre, which employs four therapists and caters for the entire region.
Mr Bercow, whose son Oliver has a stammer, was visibly moved as he listened to young people who have been treated at the centre.
He said: “With identification and specialist intervention, the effect of magnificent centres like this on a child’s life can be transformative.
“No child should have to cower in the classroom when their teacher has no patience for their slow speech.
“There is no question this centre is transforming lives at a modest cost. We must build on the magnificent gains seen here.”
Trudy Stewart, consultant speech and language therapist, said: “It’s one of those things as a speech therapist working with people with stammer as I have done for 30 years, you have a little dream to open a centre to provide specialist services for people in the region and here we are today.
“When Ed Balls was in power, he commissioned a feasibility study to look at where it should be and what the impact would be then secured the money from the Department for Health was put to one side so we could use that capital to development.”
The centre has five treatment rooms, including one large enough for group therapy sessions.
Uniquely among stammering centres, it is fully equipped to support both adults and children, some as young as eight.
The centre also features artwork by Hebden Bridge artist and stammerer Michael Peace who was inspired by the power of communication.