Outdoor education centre, Skern Lodge in north Devon is celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping to support pupils who stammer, through learning outside the classroom.

Child taking part in activity

Skern Lodge provides specialist speech and language therapy to help children who have a stammer.

In partnership with national charity The Fluency Trust and Swindon Council, Skern Lodge in Appledore hosts an annual residential each year where school children with a stammer take part in a five-day course which provides speech and language therapy. 

A typical day includes different speech and language sessions, mixed in with outdoor activities such as beach walks and camp fire sessions.

The aim is to make therapy fun and create constructive, positive memories for children, that leads to increased confidence and skills to face trickier challenges. 

Alex Ford, specialist speech and language therapist who helps students on the residentials, said: “Running our residential courses at Skern Lodge is always a highlight of the year. There is a magic that happens on these courses that cannot be replicated in a clinic room or online.

“These courses give young people time to explore stammering, build confidence and resilience, and together find that stammering doesn’t define them. They are wonderful just as they are.”

Alex Ford, specialist speech and language therapist.

In its 25th year, Skern Lodge and its partners hope to continue offering life-changing support. The residential runs each summer and hosts students between the ages of ten and 17, accommodating children from all over the country.

Teachers interested in sending pupils on this course can contact The Fluency Trust directly, or fill out a referral form here.

Skern Lodge, which is part of the Inspiring Learning brand, has been delivering outdoor activities, experiential learning and development training for a variety of schools since 1976.

All school programmes at the centre provide a mix of off-site and on-site activities, tailored and designed around the teacher’s requirements to ensure that aims are met. 

The effects…

The Fluency Trust says stammering is a neurological condition where someone repeats, prolongs or gets stuck when trying to say sounds or words.

Historically there has been a stigma in society towards people who stammer according to the charity, which has led to people taking extreme lengths to hide the fact they may have a stammer.

Common coping mechanisms are said to include avoiding social contact, staying silent, and changing words. The Fluency Trust says stammering can also vary depending on the day which can make it even more disempowering.

Across the UK, up to 8% of children will stammer at some point during their lives. Stammering can lead to difficulties for children in making friends, having the confidence to speak publicly in school, and in later life affect situations like job interviews.

Rich Thomas, general manager at Skern Lodge, said: “People who stammer can face many barriers to their communication and often need time and space to develop confidence – neurodiversity should be celebrated for the different ways in which we see and interact with the world.”

“One of my most memorable moments working with The Fluency Trust and Swindon Council over the past 25 years was overhearing that one of the young people, aged 17, felt confident enough to ring home for the first time and speak to his parents over the phone.”

Rich Thomas, general manager at Skern Lodge

Rich added: “Being able to give children the confidence and tools to tackle the challenges of everyday life is even more important for those who have disabilities such as a stammer. Our outdoor adventures complement the work of the speech and language therapists to give the children confidence and promotes learning which cannot be taught in a classroom.

“A residential is a unique experience for those who’ve not stayed away from home before, and we enjoy helping these children grow in both confidence and acceptance of their stammers.”

You can find more information about the residential via this leaflet here, or by contacting The Fluency Trust on 01793 466790. You can also visit thefluencytrust.org.uk for more details