My name is Ramesh. I have stammered since the age of four and am writing a blog for World Voice Day to share my experiences with stammering and also strategies that I have used in order to work on, and improve my speech.

Before we get going with this blog, I thought it would be best to define what is meant by stammering and the population who are affected by it. Stammering is when someone repeats, prolongs or gets stuck when trying to say sounds or words. There might also be signs of visible tension as the person works hard to get the word out. But it is different from the occasional repetition that everybody experiences. Stammering is a condition which impacts 8.5% of children under the age of 5 (Reilly et al) and 1% of the adult population according to a survey asking people whether they stammered which was conducted by The British Stammering Association (BSA), Action for Stammering Children and YouGov in November 2018 and December 2019 (Stamma, 2020).

Stammering from an early age meant that I had to find ways to deal with my life and what it may put in front of me. The two areas that I recall experiencing some challenges are education and employment. In education, I can remember struggling to answer to my name when the teacher called out the register, having the odd child mimic the repetition of my speech and doing presentations whilst at University. In the world of work which, can be competitive in its nature, I had to find ways to deal with job interviews and also how to put myself across to my colleagues. What I have learnt is that even though these challenges are profound at times the solutions to such challenges are also very helpful and transformational. There is a lot of help out there and I am now going to spend some time talking about the solutions and what I learnt from them.

As humans we are a species which operates best as a community and collectively. Being a person who stammers can be very isolating when one does not know others who have a stammer. It was joining a community of people who stammer that I was fortunate to meet some very inspiring people. I am grateful that I can now call these people my best friends. It was sharing stories surrounding stammering that shaped my worldview of stammering and moved towards more acceptance with the condition. There are several groups that people who stammer can join; these are run by charities such as Stop Holding Back and Stamma. I help run the group in North Hertfordshire for Stamma. It is in such communities that people can speak about stammering in a non-judgemental way. I have learnt that sharing is a key way out of the isolation and acceptance of stammering. Sharing and speaking about my own experience means thoughts and emotions become powerless as the power of the thought and emotion is shared with others.

I am passionate about personal development and I always try to find new ways to develop myself. This mindset has helped me manage my stammer and to keep on moving forward as a person. My personal development journey has taken me travelling, going on courses in Mindfulness, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Life Coaching, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mental Health and Wellness and teaching it, as well as reading and meditating. Going travelling was helpful for my development as a person who stammers because I have been to places such as the Sahara Desert where people speak limited English. These experiences meant that I had to get out of my comfort zone to communicate with others. Going on personal development courses and teaching such courses has enabled me to build a deeper understanding of myself and strategies which I can use to help overcome my own anxieties and fears. This is helpful to me as a person who stammers because I feel that without such anxieties and fears I can express myself in whatever way I intend to. I gain a lot through the insights of reading and the stillness in meditation. It allows me to understand myself and build a deep connection to myself and the world. It is through this deep connection that I started to accept my stammer and to let go off any anxiety and fear that I have surrounding myself and stammering. I meditate mostly today in my walks in nature and by doing everyday tasks such as eating in a more mindful and present way. I find this stillness and presence gained from living mindfully gives me a way to peace. This peace leads to forgiveness and acceptance to whatever may be going on within me. A book I strongly recommend on stammering and self help is Redefining Stuttering by John Harrison. I recommend this book as it gives a holistic view on how stammering can be managed. The focus of my improvement in fluency has come through having a better understanding of my physical body, mind and connecting with self and the world around me.

Therapy has taught me some useful solutions to managing my stammer too. I use these everyday as it gives me the freedom to express myself in the way that I intend to. The most powerful tools in my toolkit are disclosure of my stammer to others and speaking more in different situations and people. Disclosure is powerful because others know what to expect which normalises the conversation that I have with others and it also takes away the internal pressures of having to be fluent and “normal”. This creates a freer and happier way to communicate. Another technique involves speaking to people in different situations and places. This increases the comfort with speaking and reduces my fear of speaking which leads to an increase in my fluency. This process can be described as exposure therapy.

As we end this blog I would like to share that being challenged by a condition such as stammering should be seen as being positive even though it can be very challenging at times. I understand those who may be going through a tough time with their stammers and other conditions right now. However, there is a place we can reach where we can live with it peacefully and release our anxieties and fears. It is a journey. I hope this blog has given the reader confidence, peace and the hope that through whatever is going on for us there is hope and solutions available that can help us. It may be challenging to face our fears and anxieties but by facing them comes the peace, love and energy to live the life that we want and one on our own terms.

References
Reilly S., Onslow M., Packman A., Wake M., Bavin E., Prior M., et al. (2009). ‘Predicting stuttering onset by age of 3: A prospective, community cohort study’. Pediatrics. 123:270–277. Stamma (2020) “Stammering in the population.” Accessed from: https://stamma.org/news-features/stammering-population? gclid=Cj0KCQiA6LyfBhC3ARIsAG4gkF9xWDVUEIRt8RLItxjFYmdNssbceIrJAOZNzM9AR1jRqg3_aJNtvkaAuMZEALw_wcB Date accessed: Friday 17th February 2023.

 

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