Make Room For The Stuttering

Changing The Way We Speak

Posted on: June 15, 2018

hand-to-ear-listeningI came across something in the “Notes” section of my phone from three years ago. I obviously felt it was important enough to write down. I’m not sure what lead me to read it again this week, but it really spoke to me.

“For years, we have gone to speech therapy to change the way we speak to make it more comfortable for others. We shouldn’t have to do that anymore.”

This brought back memories of when I participated in speech therapy for the first time as an adult about ten years ago. It was traditional fluency shaping therapy with the goal of changing the way I spoke. I greatly resisted this, without even knowing I was resisting!

I found it hard to learn the “targets” and even harder to demonstrate them. It felt mechanical and clinical and I couldn’t figure out why this wasn’t working for me. I also began to feel like I was failing and I wasn’t used to failing at anything. The harder I tried to “shape my speech differently” the more I failed to do so.

Finally, I realized that the reason I wasn’t succeeding with using fluency targets was because I didn’t want to use them. I felt like creating a different way to speak really just made me covert again. And more importantly, it felt like creating a different way to speak was more for the benefit of others than for me. It seemed like I was working at changing my speech so that listeners wouldn’t be uncomfortable and so that I wouldn’t have to explain why my speech was different than the norm.

People had told me I should try to be fluent when going for job interviews and giving presentations at work. But inside, I felt like that was taking my voice away, and I had been taking my own voice and hiding it away for years. This was the beginning of my personal realization that I didn’t want or need to be fixed and that I didn’t need to conform to be like everybody else.

We don’t need to make people feel more comfortable when listening to stuttering. We all need to just be patient and present communication partners.

Have you ever considered why you participated in speech therapy? A friend recently mentioned that his employer “made him” attend speech therapy sessions because a client was having difficulty with his stuttering. Thoughts?

1 Response to "Changing The Way We Speak"

“For years, we have gone to speech therapy to change the way we speak to make it more comfortable for others”: interesting point. It might be the first time I have seen this. If that is the sole motivation to use whatever speech techniques a pws uses, to the detriment of the pws’ own comfort and spontaneity, then I agree that it is does not sound right and it can hardly make communication enjoyable. However, for a person with a noticeable stutter, applying speech techniques might be a workaround allowing to order what he/she wants at a restaurant, talking to clerks in a store, and that might be a way that a pws can enjoy communication. To move the discussion one step further: does disclosing stuttering, or doing voluntary stuttering, serves to make the pws more comfortable? To make the listener more comfortable? To make them both more confortable? Is it more justifiable than applying speech techniques? If so, why would it OK in that context to make the listener more confortable, and why would it not be OK when speech techniques are being used?

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