Teen Adult Stuttering

I had a severe stutter for more than 20 years.

How would you like to...

I understand.

Freedom of Speech: How I Overcame Stuttering

I had a severe stutter for more than 20 years. My memories of high school were clouded by the avoidance of calling girls, faking sick to escape oral presentations, and changing my words in an attempt to conceal the obvious. I stuttered and it bothered me tremendously.

In college I was dropping courses and changing professors to avoid any classes in which oral participation was mandatory. As a young adult, I was only considering careers in which I could limit speech as much as possible.

I was convinced that a night time janitor or cleaning airplanes for Delta Airlines might be my dream job. My story “Freedom of Speech” is a short version of my conquering stuttering.

Speech Therapy

In grade school I had several failed attempts at speech therapy. I got fed up with getting worse instead of better and begged to stop going. I struggled all the way through high school and all the way until age 23 before finding a person who could see into my soul.

Florence Filley, SLP at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s speech and hearing clinic helped to loosen the shackles of my stuttering. I will forever be indebted to her. I learned classic stuttering modification techniques such as easy onsets and light contacts intended to initiate words with a loose tongue, loose lips, and easy phonation.

Notice that teaching of these strategies presupposes you know when you are going to stutter. What do you think and feel just before the stutter? I’ll answer that later. I also learned to open up, admit I stutter, do voluntary stuttering in shopping malls, and start “coming out.” After attempting and failing to conceal it for so long, it took courage and commitment let down my guard.

I will never forget having lunch with the late Dean Williams, a pioneer in stuttering treatment and a recovered stutterer. When I asked him what the key to overcoming stuttering is he replied: “I’d want to know what I do when I stutter.” At first I felt cheated by the brief, succinct response. I was naively looking for one secret speech trick that would make it all go away if I practiced. I later discovered that I needed to know what happens:

1) Before the Stutter Ever Happens?

What cognitive and affective processes are involved in:

Question: Imagine you’re nervous about introducing yourself in front of a group. What if you knew exactly how to remove anticipatory anxiety and become calm before speaking?

2) During the Stutter?

What cognitive and affective processes occurred that led me to:

Question: What if you could become very consistent at self-correcting before and during a stutter? By sensing and releasing the tension right at the moment of a stutter you gain control and poise.

3) After the Stutter?

How does one explain:

This is known as mindreading.

Dean Williams was right! I had to know what happened before, during, and after the stutter. I can help you solve this puzzle.

Attempted Solutions Can Become the Problem

What are you doing that gets in the way of more ease and fluency? Take a moment and reflect. Take a piece of paper and list any habits you have that are intended to avoid and conceal stuttering. This is called “chunking down” your stuttering.

Do you...

When Attempted Solutions Become the Problem

Are these choices consistent with achieving freedom of speech?

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