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“You didn’t tell me Stephen had a stutter,” said Jean. “He hasn’t” said my mother in a shocked voice. This of course had been first time I had stuttered.
“Well he’s been stuttering quite badly here today,” said Jean, a slight over-reaction as I had only stuttered around dining table, not in garden etc.
My mother was obviously concerned and shocked but so was I. I had heard this conversation and although did not know what a stutter was, I was aware they were talking about my speech, not about how good it was but about how bad it was. This obviously made me feel paranoid and self-conscious.
Eventually my mother turned up to take me home but before leaving had a discussion with Jean in front of me about what had happened in dining room. This of course made me even more aware of my failings. When we arrived home my parents sat me down and started to ask me questions about my day, this was not a normal event; they were listening to my speech. I was now feeling comfortable and did not stutter, I imagine this would have left them feeling confused. For rest of that evening I spoke fluently and eventually went to bed.
When in bed I always think about day I have just had and also think about what might happen tomorrow. I thought that was a strange day, I was looking forward to going to Jean’s house and was originally enjoying myself playing football in garden but then in dining room I struggled to speak. I tried to analyze why that might have been and came up with following three conclusions:
1.I may have struggled, as I did not feel comfortable.
2.I may have struggled because I felt under pressure.
3.I may have struggled, as I was having to speak and socialise with people I did not know.
All of above were new situations for me, as a four year old boy everything was made very easy for me, I rarely came into contact with new people, rarely felt under pressure or uncomfortable and if I did normally had my parents close at hand to help and comfort me.
I then thought about what might happen on next day, I have to go to school, no problem, then I have to go to Jean’s house, oh no I thought, and then started to imagine myself in dining room and could see myself stuttering when talking. What I am doing is pre-predicting failure which normally means failure. This is a common trait of many stutterer’s. I then started to worry and found it hard to sleep.
At school next day I was totally fluent but as predicted stuttered quite badly in dining room. Jean didn’t phone my mother this time but before leaving to go home they again discussed my speech in front of me. What I was hoping for but did not ask for was that somebody else could look after me but unfortunately I had to be looked after by Jean for around a year. My speech confidence became shattered and stutter started to rear its ugly head in other areas, i.e. at school, and home etc.
Stephen Hill is somebody who has overcome a stammer/stutter and who now helps other people to achieve fluency. Stephen runs one to one speech courses held in Birmingham, England. For people who are unable to attend there is a seventy minute dvd available.