Like many people who stutter, I’ve been to speech therapy before. Everyone has different goals going into speech therapy, whether it’s lessening your stutter, controlling secondary actions while stuttering, or wanting to erase your stutter entirely. Some people are successful in speech therapy and are satisfied with the techniques that they learn. But then there are the people like me, who try their best to implement techniques into everyday speech but just can’t get them to work in everyday scenarios outside of the office. Making time to go to speech therapy week after week and not being able to use my techniques well and consistently made me feel really frustrated and like there was something wrong with me.
When I started stuttering as a child, one of the first things that made me realize I was different from other kids was that in kindergarten I would be pulled out of class to go to speech therapy and would return with fruity smelling erasers and questions from kids asking where I went and why I got to go. I still don’t remember ever stuttering when I was younger, just the routine appointments to a big office with a nice lady who would ask me to read slowly off of cards – and I never questioned it. But outside of that room, people would ask me why I was stuttering. My responses would range from bursting into tears or complete silence. In turn, I would go home and ask my mom why people asked me that. She would say something like “it’s none of their business” or “you don’t have a stutter, you have a speech disfluency.”
Obviously, my mom and I both know better now, but at the time it seemed like a valid explanation for both of us. Those questions made me recognize how I spoke was different from others and prompted me to want to do more speech therapy to “fix” it. I’ve seen around 8 speech therapists in my life, going on and off from ages 4 to 18. I’ve heard and been taught just about every approach to stuttering there is: advertising to everyone, practically singing everything you say, strategic breathing techniques, and general acceptance.
I’ve had therapists who told me I just needed to tell the entire world I stuttered, meanwhile, I was being bullied at school and was going to therapy to figure out how to not stutter. I’ve also had therapists who’ve told me that it was okay to stutter in the office even if I was trying to use my techniques. Heck, I’ve even used “anti-stuttering” devices that go in your ear to help increase fluency. In short, you could say I’ve tried just about every trick in the book to not stutter, but you would never know that if you heard me speak. It’s taken me this long to learn to coexist with my stutter, but still some days are better than others. Like during National Stuttering Awareness Week, I would pray that a random person would make a comment about my stutter just so I could set them straight, ‘cause that’s just how motivated I would be. But other days, I’ll go out of my way to order food online just so I don’t have to talk to someone to place an order.
Speech therapy obviously isn’t a perfect science, especially for people who stutter, and what works for one person may not work for everyone else. I used to feel a lot of guilt for me doing speech therapy and my mom having to spend money on expensive fluency devices that still didn’t truly help me. But I’ve learned that nothing is ever a “quick fix” and how to accept the things I can’t control and to do the best I can with what I’m given in life.
Author Ashleigh a sophomore at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan majoring in digital photography. The 2020 virtual conference was her second conference. As the chair of the social media committee, Ashleigh wholeheartedly believes in the mission of the NSA and wants to make sure every teen who stutters feels safe and supported within the NSA. Not remembering a time when she didn’t stutter, Ashleigh wants to change society’s view of stuttering so that people who stutter don’t feel they have to live in fear about being open with their speech. Ashleigh always wants to empower people who stutter and continues to be inspired by their perseverance.
This piece is part of an ongoing series, written by our NSA Teens.