Make Room For The Stuttering

Fast Forward

Posted on: May 16, 2011

Last week I talked with a young friend of mine who asked, “Pam, does it ever get much better? Or is it always going to be like this?” He referred to his severe stutter and how hard it is for him to communicate.

He has severe blocks and is very self-conscious. He feels people should not be “subjected” to listening to him. He doesn’t mind when people finish sentences for him. He finds it a relief.

He knows I disagree with him on this. I have told him that most people will be understanding and patient once they know he stutters. He says I really don’t know what its like for him, since I communicate easily. He believes he cannot be clearly understood and its not fair to make people listen to him.

When my friend asked me if things ever get easier, I gave him the optimistic answer. Even though I cannot relate to a severe stutter, I feel confident that with the passing of time and life experiences, that things will get better for him. At least in the sense that he may likely reach a point where he is not always so self-conscious.

In a way, it seemed he was asking me to try and predict the future, which of course none of us can. But those of us who live with stuttering, no matter the severity, know it deeply affects our lives. I have heard many people say it does get easier as we mature and are better equipped to let things roll off our backs.

In my case, things became easier after making the conscious decision to stop hiding and just stutter openly.

Yesterday, in a workshop about stuttering, a young mom was there to find out as much about stuttering as she could. Her four year old son has been stuttering severely since age 2. Her pediatrican has advised her he can still “outgrow it”, but she has him in therapy already. She is looking at other options, as she feels what he is currently doing with a speech therapist is not really benefitting her son.

She wants to learn as much as possible so that she can best support her son. At our workshop (Let’s Talk About Stuttering, to mark National Stuttering Awareness Week), this mom mentioned that she had never met an adult who stutters, so she was so glad to be with a group of about 10 of us. She wanted to get a sense of what life might hold in store for her child if he continues to stutter.

She mentioned more than once that seeing him struggle now, she keeps trying to “fast forward” to his future to imagine what it might be like for him when he starts college or goes to work. She appreciated hearing adults who stutter talk about feelings, worries and our successes. Two young men who are in college were in the group, and their confidence really filled this mom with hope.

She also mentioned it was so good to see and hear women who stutter. She said in all of her reading and research, she has learned about the predominance of men and boys who stutter. So she was glad to talk with women who stutter as well.

Have you ever tried to fast forward and imagine that life with a stutter might be easier than it is now? Do you agree with what I told my young friend that things will likely get easier for him as he matures and becomes less self-conscious?

And what about parents? Is it natural for parents to try and fast-forward and visualize their child’s life 10 or 20 years out? We gave this mom information about FRIENDS and the local NSA chapter leader also gave general information about support available through the National Stuttering Association.

12 Responses to "Fast Forward"

Pam, here I am again, I know I am a minority within minority – one of those whose stutter got soooo much better after doing some unusual stuff, but anyway here is my experience (again, doesn’t mean it is the same for others). I agree with him – you don’t know how it feels to communicate with severe blocks. I had them. And I know the feeling of subjecting my listeners to my stutter. It was very difficult to understand me – especially in English. I wouldn’t last long in Toastmasters for sure. I lived with such blocks until I was 40 – so I don’t know if I would ever mature enough to stop having them. But now I speak mostly fluently – with some minor problems which do not bother me anymore. To reach this point required very hard work – and willingness to endure fear and discomfort and weird looks. Refer him to Alan Badmington and John Harrison’s articles. His journey may be different, but he will have more options and he will see that there is hope. He can also write me directly – I do not endorse any methods, but I can share my story.

Hi Anna,
Thanks for the great feedback. My friend is in the very beginning stages of his journey, and his is very different than mine and yours, for as we know, everyone is unique. But the fact that he can take feedback from me, and disagree, and we can still engage, is very important. He may have already come across some of John H’s or Alan B’s works, as he has done lots of research into all things stuttering. I will send him your email address and suggest he write to you if he wishes. We never know which story that is shared that will be the one that provides that hope for someone out there.

I heard this question from a women that ask “did all my life i will need to struggle with this blocks?”.
I asked myself for many years this question,i looked at other stutterers and i was jealous at their success.
For me the real change happened when i took responsibility over my stuttering,when i understood that stuttering didn’t happen to me but it was something i did,when i understood that it is possible to stutter and keep the conversation up,
when i understood that i can change my stuttering form.
There are stutterers that when they live the life,stuttering stop being the most important thing in their life.
There are stutterers that learn to live better life with their stuttering.
I don’t know what will happen with this young person life,but he/she will pass a lot of changes,that probably will affect his/her speech .
I just recommended not to wait until the changes will happen,but to seek help and to find out what he/she can do to change his/her stuttering,and there are several possibilities to check and find , what is suitable for him/her.

Thanks Ari for the feedback. I like the phrasing you used – “change happened for me when I took responsibility over my stuttering”. This young person is steeped in change, and I hope that others chime in as well with their feedback.
Yes, it is possible to stutter and move forward with conversation, again a great way of putting it.
You always have such good insights to share!

Pam, you have a great way of facilitating discussions – one day i hope to see you on your own talk show. Of course his stuttering is different, but from what you said, it is more different from yours than it is from what i had. With your stuttering your listener doesn’t have to wait and hold inside his or her head the beginning of your sentence. They do not have to see your struggling. They do not have to see your face contorting – I used to puff my cheeks, squeeze my eyes shut, my chin would quiver and my jaw would clench. This could last for several seconds, which for me were eternity. So if he has something like this, it may be not enough just to decide stutter openly. But since there are people, including me, who with various methods were able to overcome this kind of blocking, he has hope. I am not saying I overcame stuttering, but I forgot when last time I had such blocks that I just described. When you reduce your stutter to mild, you can proceed with acceptance and openness and such. But with full blown blocks – it is very difficult.

“He feels people should not be ‘subjected’ to listening to him.”

I’m saddened to read this. He has every right to communicating as anyone else – we are subjected to trash on tv and celebrities everyday whether we like it or not (like I give two craps about Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump). THAT I can’t tolerate. If someone is nice to me and respects me, I give them all my attention and time they need.

Things will get better but things are more challenging for us regardless of severity. Plus, we live in an age where we have online communities to rant, vent, learn and support each other.

Of course it gets better! 🙂 Get your friend on Twitter 🙂

I think it is entirely natural for a parent to fast forward and worry about college/marriage when a kid is only 4. I think you can only listen and acknowledge the pain and love this mother has, and show her he can have college and marriage even with a stutter. I do think there is always hope too – not hope in a magical fluency necessarily, but hope in a better way of dealing with it and feeling about it. Human lives unfold in ways we cannot predict. I’m not one for giving people false hopes in the stutter disappearing, but there is always hope for being in a better place. Some good speech therapy may help this young kid, plus being in friends too.
As for the young man – I do relate to not feeling like my listeners should have to listen to me stuttering. My stutter is not severe as you describe his – but I can relate to that feeling of being unentitled to speak or be listened to. If he can get some good therapy and self help he will realise there is hope and love out there for him too.

Pam, about the young kid – again I am not entitled to giving an advise, but I can share what I did. My girls displayed some stutter when they were may be 3 or 4 yr. and my mother was very worried and urged me to get them in therapy. At that time I didn’t read yet Wendel Johnson’s book, but I remembered my own experience with speech therapy and how it didn’t help and only made it worse, so I forbid everyone to notice their stutering or their mistakes in language. I just remembered this fear of speaking that I had and wanted them never develop one. My mother always tried to jump in and correct them – “no no, don’t say it this way, say it this way”. I said her not to comment ever on their speech. Not on “stutter”, not on pronunciation not on grammar etc. Guess what. They stopped “stuttering” and they are now 19 yr and without stuttering. But what they had at this young age were some repetitions and hesitations, not long blocks. So with this kid it maybe an entirely different story.

Anna, it is said that every child goes through a period of natural dis-fluent speech as they develop language. Of course I am not a professional, just expert with my own stuttering, but every parent is going to do what they feel is right and best for their kid. This mom- she was very supportive and demonstrated that she is accepting of him even if he always will stutter. I agree with what you say about the fear – that is worse than the actual mechanics of speech. No child should have fear like that. I stuttered more pronouncedly as a young child, and I remember being afraid of how my father would react. I learned to not stutter, by not talking, so I would not be yelled at, which made me feel there was something wrong with me. A parent’s attitude, in my opinion, is key to how the child will learn to feel about his or her speech.

Pam, in my case I think many factors contributed to the fear and feeling of inferiority, the belief that I cannot speak well – bullying, criticizm from teachers, and other factors. But I never relized how my parents were obsessed with correctness of the speech in term of pronunciation and grammar, until I observed how my mother tried to interrupt my daughters at almost every word – she didn’t even realize it I think, it was just her desire to hear them speaking properly. Do not speak so fast, come on, don’t pause like this, say what are you going to say, don’t say this, repeat after me etc… She wanted the best of course, but I could only imagine what impression I developed about my speech – it probably was never good enough. I am not saying that this mother is the same, I do not know, but some SLPs may inadvertenly create this feeling of incompetency in the child, the feeling of being different and having not normal speech. This was the feeling from which I tried to shield my girls at least until they were old enough to cope with it. Fortunately they stayed home until 5 or so, and home influence was the only one they had.

I think it’s natural for a parent to wonder about their kid’s future. I think showing them is the best way to help put their mind at ease. That’s exactly what you guys did. My Mom has said to several times, she hates to see me struggle. Parents want to do anything to take away that struggle. Just tonight, I closed my eyes fast and hard while talking to my Mom. I stayed with the struggle until I got out what I wanted to say. It was really hard to allow myself to struggle like that because I know it makes her uncomfortable.

Yes, every parent worries about their kid’s future, and will do much to make it happen. When my son was speech delayed, we chose therapy early because we knew we’d never look back and wish we hadn’t, but if he didn’t outgrow it we’d always wish we had. (Something worked. No worries about his verbal communication.) You should hear me at the table telling him to eat with his mouth close and drink “properly”. Why? Because someday that might reduce the number of people who are comfortable around him.

Then I worry that I’m making him self-conscious over something he can’t help.

As a society, we expect experts to know all and be all-powerful. We expect doctors to make us better. It’s a necessary hope, but makes it harder when the expert fails.

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