After coaching multiple PWS (People Who Stutter), I have concluded that one of the biggest challenges faced by PWS is that they believe that they will be cheating or will sound “silly” if they use the crutches. I have asked them what this means exactly. I have received the following responses:
- “I cannot just suddenly whisper in the middle of a sentence; people will think I am nuts!”
- “Imagine spelling my name to a crowd of people, I would feel so stupid!”
- “Using the crutches means that I am cheating, I am not truly fluent, I am just fooling people into thinking that I am”
- “If I want to use a word, I will use that word and stutter, why should I use a word that I do not want to use just to avoid a stutter?”
As a PWSS (Person Who Stopped Stuttering), I could not believe my ears. I would much rather use a crutch (e.g., spelling, whispering, using a synonym), than stutter. Each time that I stuttered, I felt humiliated, exhausted, defeated. I would replay the stuttering incident in my mind for days afterwards. Why would I choose stuttering over fluency?
Not once in using the crutches did anybody ever ask me “Hey, why did you spell your name and not just say it?” or “Why did you just use extreme pronunciation?”. It is because nobody cares about the way you speak until you stutter. People would much rather listen to extreme pronunciation, modulation, whispering, the use of synonyms, writing down words, than have to endure your stuttering. PWS have this belief that people are patient and kind, and while most of them are, all of them would prefer you not to stutter. It is embarrassing for the PWS, as well the listener. Nobody is obliged to wait for you to finish stuttering.
The main issue with not using crutches and continuing to stutter is that your mind forms new dysfluent memories and is not forming new fluency memories. As long as this happens, you will never self-cure. We need to retrain our brains so that fluency becomes a habit. Until such time, crutches are needed to avoid stuttering as to form fluency memories which outweigh the dysfluent memories.
The use of crutches is not cheating. It is like saying that taking medication for clinical depression, or using a wheelchair until such time as you can walk again, is “cheating”. If it makes things easier, why not? Why should we purposefully make our lives more difficult when there is an easier alternative? By taking control of our speech, we are taking control of our lives.