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Stammering: an underestimated speech impediment

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

The problem with many communication problems is that they are invisible. Take, for example, a stammer, or a stutter.

When a stammerer approaches you, they generally look no different. It is only when you hear them speak – or indeed, stammer – that you are caught off guard and your reaction is perfectly natural. You may also think that the nucleus of the impediment is encapsulated in these moments, when their words are delivered with dysfluency. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The one thing that most people are amazed to hear about my stammer is the impact it has on the bulk of my day. I often compare it to having a second full time job. It is not only what you hear verbally, but it also relates to the unrelenting mental grind in my preparation for the delivery of most words.

If the process could be drawn on a canvas it would appear like a mechanical maze, harnessed from a rich and quirky colour palette.

Only as I have grown older have I become more comfortable about talking about my stammer. So much so, that I wanted to publish my thoughts. And there is where my book, Let me finish, was borne. A mostly jovial account, it details the intricacies of living with this incurable impediment.

For many stammerers the thought of talking about their problem is terrifying - or so I am led to believe - and for many years, I too, was less than forthcoming. Then something clicked. I never heard it click, but there was a change in my outlook. I realised that addressing the elephant in the room myself, truly is, a good thing.

In conversation I started to encourage questions; by leaving metaphorical breadcrumbs. I encouraged people to ask me how it works, I encouraged people to ask me what words or sounds are tough, and importantly, I encouraged people to ask me what they can do to help.

And as the title of my book suggests, to Let me finish, is a fine place to start.

The book is essentially helping me, to help people understand the problems that a stammerer faces every day. With my inherent love for writing as the driving force, it felt like an outpouring of experiences that have weaved throughout my life.

I found the process therapeutic, as I finally had the opportunity to explain how difficult school was, how hard job interviews are and how awkward blind dates can be – and also, how terrifying a best man’s speech is. And even those who have known me for most of my life, were amazed.

If communication problems are invisible, it can be difficult for people to comprehend them. Unless of course you offer them a glimpse inside – and it was this thought that inspired my book.

Speech therapists are wonderful, they do a great job to help people like me. But hearing experiences first-hand is invaluable. And in this instance, these experiences comes from a guy who has suffered with stammering for many decades, who realised that a great form of therapy is to ironically, talk about it aloud.

Read more about "Let me finish" here.



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