Author Stephen Hill from The How To Stop Stammering Centre www.stammering-stuttering.co.uk www.stutter-cure.com www.stutter-stuttering.com
How having a stutter affected my life
At age of five I attended speech therapy for first time. When we arrived I was shown to a little children’s play area while my parents talked to Speech Therapist, a man in his forties. I was unsure as to where we were and was listening carefully to conversation. It soon became clear that they were talking about my speech, he must be a speech doctor I thought, I did not know there were Speech Therapists at that point. After about fifteen minutes I was called over and therapist asked me various questions. As my parents were there I felt comfortable and safe and answered fluently. The speech therapist said something like “he sounds all right to me”. I was thinking, put me in Jean’s dining room without my parents there etc and see how I am then.
Going to speech therapist confirmed to me what I had always feared, I had a problem with my speech. The problem is very strange however as I don’t always stutter. So I thought about situations where I did. Pressure, feeling uncomfortable, meeting new people, these were situations which I had convinced myself would make me stutter, so I thought I just will not speak if I feel pressure or if I feel uncomfortable or if I meet new people. No longer did I put my hand up in class to ask or answer questions; I did not volunteer to be in any school plays, became less sociable and in general probably spoke a quarter words a fluent person would.
Also at this age I became quite clever, I was aware that I found b,d,g,k and v words harder to say than other words. “B” words were especially hard so what I started to do was to substitute “b” word to another word. For example “where do you live?” instead of answering “Birmingham” I would answer “West Midlands”. I soon became an expert at this and could think of substitute word at drop of a hat. This helped my speech to improve and people around me assumed that problem had been eradicated; however I knew truth. Having an older brother and sister I was aware that pressure at school would increase and that when I was in junior school I would be made to read out of school books and to answer questions etc. these fears were realised in junior school; reading out of textbooks was especially difficult. For example in a lesson like English, teacher would say something like, “today class I would like each of you in turn to read out of book on your desks starting with Abbott”. As we were chosen in alphabetical order I worked out that I was going to have to read ninth. I then counted down paragraphs hoping that ninth would be a short paragraph. I would then check which words I would have to read, hoping there were none of my difficult words in there, such as “b” words. By time it was my turn to read I would be a complete nervous wreck and was virtually guaranteed to stutter. The classes response was mixed to hearing me stutter, some of course laughed but at this age my best friend was one of strongest children in school and anybody who laughed at me, he would hit. People soon realised to keep quiet.
The stutter and its effects became more serious when moving to senior school, mainly because my best friend decided to attend a different school from me. During six weeks school holiday between leaving junior school and starting senior, I had a lot of time to think. At that time in my life I was a negative thinker and was thinking:
1.At junior school, I knew all teachers and most of pupils, at new school I will have to meet a lot of new people (teachers and pupils).
2.I felt very comfortable in junior school, I knew where everything was situated and it was quite a small school. The new school is around ten times bigger, I will not know where art block is for example and I am not very good at asking for directions. In junior school, I was one of oldest and tallest. In senior school I will be one of youngest and smallest. I therefore will probably feel uncomfortable in new school.