Parents of Dom Barker, who suffered from persistent stammer remember their ‘witty’ son 20 years after he took his own life
- Credit: Gregg Brown
For Suffolk couple Alan and Helen Barker, 2014 is a time to reflect, take stock and look to the future.Twenty years have now passed since their son Dominic, who suffered from a persistent stammer, took his own life at the age of 26.
It was the tragic loss of their son Dominic that sparked the creation of Dom’s Fund.
The charity, which raises funds for research into the causes and treatment of stammering, is still going strong today.
Speaking at their Holbrook home, his parents regaled the story about the launch of the charity in 1997 and how it is has progressed over the years, along with people’s perceptions of stammering.
“We can’t afford to do things with what is happening in the brains of people who stammer, we don’t have those resources,” said Mrs Barker, 74.
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“We try to focus on research we think will have some practical outcome for adults or children with stammers.
“We wanted to do something positive out of something that was terrible for us. It is a long-term project. You can’t usually make a difference unless you have got some evidence.
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“To get evidence you need to do research projects, so we decided we would try to do this.”
Former solicitor Mr Barker added: “When we set up the trust, we put a considerable amount of our own money into it, so we were ready to go from day one.
“It is easier to fundraise if you have already got momentum. If you are doing it from a standing start, it is more difficult.”
Dominic, the eldest of three children, gained two university degrees and spent time working on a farm in Australia. His parents described him as being sporty, witty and amusing.
In the group’s latest newsletter, Dominic’s sister, Eleanor, said his death devastated the family, and they wanted the charity to help others who stammer and to prevent them from facing the same difficulties that he did.
After starting in Suffolk, the trust has worked across the country, including at universities in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle – it also has an international presence in South Africa.
The research influenced by the trust has included early childhood dysfluency, clinical strategies research, play-based research and technical research.
Mrs Barker, a former teacher, said: “It is not a particularly good anniversary for us, but it was suggested that it would be a good time to take stock. This is a kind of overview of what has been happening. I think it was quite important to do that.”
Looking to the future, Mr and Mrs Barker have said there is no one single goal for the trust, other than to continue with research for many years to come.
“We are not getting any younger but the need for it goes on,” Mr Barker said.
“We need to recruit other younger trustees who will carry on with it. Fundamentally it is funding for research.”
For more information about Dom’s Fund, or to make a donation, visit www.dominicbarkertrust.org.ukWork place challenge
Research funded by Dom’s Trust and undertaken by Clare Butler, of Newcastle University, found people who stammer experience prejudice in the workplace.
The research has claimed employers reject people with stammers because of concerns over the possibility of negative reactions from customers and other colleagues.
In light of the research, the trust invited local businesses to an open evening in October at UCS, with the aim of educating them on the challenges affecting people with stammers and how businesses can respond.
Among the speakers at the event was Ian Wilkie, a partner at EY, previously Ernst&Young, and co-chairman of the Employers Stammering Network.
He said: “We’re hugely encouraged that 10 leading organisations employing over 1.3million people have joined our network in its first year.
“These employers understand that employees who stammer bring high levels of resilience, empathy and creativity, which are invaluable attributes when interacting with customers, colleagues and the wider community.”