I have been a stutterer from early childhood. I experienced all stages of stuttering and probably most of the related sufferings in social interactions.
In this article, I want to tell you the obstacles we, stutterers, face and how this impacts our lives. I want to share my story, reflections, and advice on how to make stuttering your superpower.
What is stuttering?
Definition by Merriam-Webster:
Stuttering is a disorder of vocal communication marked by involuntary disruption or blocking of speech (as by abnormal repetition, prolongation, or stoppage of vocal sounds).
In short, it’s a speech diffluence characterized by the impossibility to pronounce certain alphabet letters in words smoothly. It depends on internal factors such as mood and amount of conversations and external factors such as familiarity with people — it’s easier to speak with your close friend than in front of a group of strangers.
Natural solutions, which are developed intuitively to say these hard letters are:
- Avoiding hard to pronounciate syllables like ‘Hello’ in Russian — ‘Privet’ and use more familiar like ‘Salute.’ Or rephrasing sentences.
- Repeating words until they are complete — ‘P-p-p… — P-p-r… — P-r-i-i-i-v-v… — P-r-i-i-i-vet’.
- Swallow and switch to the consonant sounds — ‘rifet.’
- Adding fillers ‘Umh’, ‘Aaa.’
- More than 70 million people worldwide stutter, which is about 1% of the population.
- Stuttering affects four times as many males as females
- Stuttering can be cured
According to stutterhelp.org, there are four factors most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering:
- genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who also does);
- child development;
- neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter);
- family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering).
How did I get my stuttering? In a simple and ‘effective’ way.
In snowy and cold winter, I got a not severe concussion after not-perfect sledding into the tree. I was five years old. A bit of dizziness for half an hour (which I enjoy because I like drunk funny falling into the snow). Later this day, I attended a Christmas party, where I had a lot of fun communicating with kids and fooling around. The next day I couldn’t say a word. This is this typical neurophysiological cause where there is micro-trauma of the brain and a lot of stress on the same day.
My world changed. Every year it more and more influenced my life and my behavior in social interactions. An interesting fact is that I have had undulating periods depending on the season of the year. Sometimes I got minor stuttering, and sometimes I could not say a word without issues.
When I was eleven years old, I started working with the Delayed Auditory Feedback application. This program solved my issues with stuttering a lot for a while.
The stuttering came back five years later in a severe form when I was a teenager. Then I started combating over again with an expanded set of tools and motivation. A lot happened on my journey with a stuttering companion after.
Impact of stuttering
Loneliness in an extraverted world. Sometimes you have a feeling that you are excluded from noisy groups of people who are genuinely having fun and late-night after-party philosophical discussions.
Lost opportunities. Fear of being poorly judged, wastefully spend people’s time pronouncing the same simple sentence during a minute. You might avoid negotiations and essential conversations, which can move you forward.
Non-verbal. You avoid looking straight in the eye of people. In conversation, you often have shifty eye movements. This decreases trustfulness and profound perception of what you are saying.
Difficulties in finding a partner. In youth, we want to show confidence to attract partners, to show ourselves in the best shape on the first date. It might be challenging to express your feelings verbally and tell your partner a funny story about yourself with stuttering.
Physiological. You might often develop physical tension in a chest area and speech apparatus.
Difficulties in speaking new languages. New languages mean learning new workarounds to avoid uncomfortable letters.
You are brave. Stutterer, you are a courageous individual—one of the most. Every conversation becomes a challenge. To talk to a girl you like first will take double courage at least to approach. Triple when you start talking to her.
You have great fortitude. In a hyper-communicative extraverted world, it’s hard to adapt having stuttering. From childhood, other kids look differently from you. You probably won’t be able to respond to verbal assaults at school, and the only thing you can do is respond physically or keep cool.
You are a tactician. When you face difficulties with some words or are in bad shape for smooth casual conversation, you subconsciously start developing a strategy. You’ll be thinking about what you’ll be talking about in the following phrase, prepare for tomorrow’s meetings, and repeat your lines.
You are gifted. Stuttering is your life challenge. Never think that is something terrible. This natural challenge will push you to search for solutions to the problem. You will start developing your voice, breathing technics, meditation, or dive into your childhood with a psychotherapist. Stuttering pushes you to think early; if I cannot talk like a bird, then I’ll find ways to get emotional relief. That’s often reading books.
Voice. People who suffered from stuttering and were cured have the deepest, persuasive and artistic voice I’ve ever heard.
You are in good company. Many notable and famous people experienced stuttering, from Aristotle to Winston Churchill and Joe Biden.
List of stutterers - Wikipedia
People who stutter include British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, orator Demosthenes, King George VI, actor James…
Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF).
According to stamurai.com, delayed auditory feedback (DAF) devices and software work on the principle of choral effect. They introduce a delay between speech production and auditory perception. The delay can be typically customized to be between 50 and 70 milliseconds. Researchers have observed that a delay of 50 to 70 milliseconds can reduce stuttering by around 70%.
This was the most effective method that helped me shape my voice, eliminate stuttering when speaking slowly, and use deep and bass voice tones. The first application I was using was abandoned nowadays as a no-name desktop application. Currently, I am using an IOS application Fonate DAF.
Many actors stuttering in real life don’t falter on the stage, staying in the role. Acting can help you to speak normally to people. It doesn’t mean that this is insincere. You are just playing a person you want to become. For instance, an extroverted and chatty individual.
Try to find good artistic courses which include extensive speech practices. These will allow you to obtain valuable tools to speak without stuttering.
Stuttering origins often are physiological traumas and can be a source of different mental issues. Some of the stuttering cases have deep roots which can be solved by using professional help.
Pieces of Advice
Never stop. There are different degrees of stuttering. Some of them are very bad. But you should always search for new ways to overcome it. There are no shortcuts and immediate solutions.
Never be jealous. Stuttering is your gift and part of your life. It can be solved at some point. I was jealous of people who could talk all the time quickly. But this path leads only to anxiety and misery.
No excuses, no complaints. Go out from your comfort zone, talk to people. Use words in which you are confident and talk. To cashiers saying ‘Thank you, to consultants in a shop ‘I am l.oking for ….’. This should be taboo for you to say, ‘I cannot do it because I am a stutterer.’ Never say that.
Always talk to people like you haven’t got stuttering. It’s not an easy task for you, right? Forget about stuttering. Always tell what you think. Good people will always wait till the end of the sentence. Tell them the entire thought, don’t hide it because it’s hard to pronounce.
Visible confidence. Verbal communication is much less critical in conversation than non-verbal. Do not lower your head and look at your feet. Stutter every letter looking calmly into eyes, don’t hide it and be ashamed.
Recommendation for non-stutterers
For those who are working or communicating with stutterers.
- Don’t say ‘repeat’ or ‘say it again’. A person has already with efforts formulated entire thought. Ask clarification questions instead.
- Don’t end the sentence for stutterers. Allow them to say even if they spend a minute to finish the sentence. Next time they will tell it faster.
- Respect and be patient, even if a stutterer is your opponent and you have an emotional conversation.
Thank you for reading!