My parents tell me that I stuttered severely from the time that I first began talking. I don’t remember any part of my childhood when I did not stutter. My name is John, and I’m a corporate attorney.
As is common with other childhood stutterers, I suffered the humiliation of class presentations, starting in elementary school and extending through all of my schooling years. I remember classmates struggling to suppress laughter as I repeated syllables, tensed my neck, and sometimes swung my head around. I had a few friends, but mostly liked the safe isolation of reading.
My parents didn’t understand—they tried to be supportive by finding speech therapies, but did not know how to handle the day-to-day experience of living with a child who stuttered severely. My three siblings frequently teased and mocked me, some of it captured on home videos that I still find very painful to watch (and my sister found it painful too—after watching it in her 20s, she tearfully apologized for how mean she was). I also vividly remember my mother mocking my speech in a few instances and telling me how difficult it was to listen to me. I don’t hold a grudge against my family—my parents didn’t know what it was like to stutter, and my siblings were too young to understand. But at the time, it hurt me deeply.
The only serious speech therapy that I remember receiving was a multi-week Precision Fluency Shaping Program (PFSP), I think when I was in early middle school. It was expensive, but it did help for a while—I spoke very fluently for a few months, before regressing back. I did one refresher weekend and would return to it from time to time, because it was the only fluency program that I was familiar with. But I felt like it made me speak unnaturally, and it was exhausting, and it seemed to work only sporadically, and it did not give me tools that I could use in high-stress situations when I needed them most.
My speech started to improve significantly only when I was in my 30s, as I became aware that it was possible to control stuttering. But it was a lengthy process because I didn’t have specific roadmap to fluency—I stumbled into things that worked with a little general guidance from a few that had beaten stuttering themselves. I started reading aloud for 30 minutes a day, for example, because I found that that improved my speech. But I felt like there was nothing I could do when hit by a stuttering panic attach.
I found Lee’s book when looking on Amazon for books related to stuttering, and immediately read the entire thing and started to learn and implement the crutches. I’ve worked with Lee for a few months, and at this point have experienced several months during which I don’t think a stranger would have ever seen me as disabled—my wife sees me hesitate or repeat a syllable a couple times, and I feel like she knows that I briefly stuttered, but no one else does. (Lee and I have debates about whether breaks of a few seconds on a phone call would make me appear disabled—I’m very happy that at this point my speech incidents are a matter of debate.)
I still have some fear from time to time, but I think it is driven by the actual situation rather than my speech—e.g., I feel nervous about the content of a conversation (e.g., there are high stakes, or it is an uncomfortable subject) and I’m so used to feeling fear about stuttering that my general nervousness transforms into the old stuttering fear. But it is getting less and less.
When I do feel fear, Crutch 11 is very effective for me—it gives me a way of speaking that I know I can use to be fluent. At this point, however, in spite of speaking frequently every day, I probably deliberately use Crutch 11 to deal with fear about once a week. I actually use Crutch 11 far more often simply because I want to be a more effective speaker, and I know that I am when I speak slowly, with full stops and extreme pronunciation.
There is one remaining area where I feel like I have not beaten stuttering—speaking foreign languages (to me, any language but English). I don’t speak foreign languages very often in my life right now, and I would have to go out of my way to do so, and so I don’t think it makes sense to work on it right now. But if that changes and I start needing to or wanting to speak foreign languages, I know exactly what I need to do to speak fluently.
I wish that I had found Lee’s methods decades ago. If I had, I’m certain that I would have beaten stuttering no later than my early 20s and avoided two more decades of suffering. I can’t recommend Lee’s book and the methods highly enough—they are the only resources that I know of that give a practical, working, step-by-step method to becoming an ex-stutterer, who thinks about stuttering as little as those who never stuttered. I also recommend World Stop Stuttering Association, as it offers all of Lee’s books, many video-lectures on them, over 1,000 coaching videos and more. It’s a program that’s long overdue.
JOHN, San Francisco, March 2021