HOW I DEVELOPED MY SPEECH IMPEDIMENT
I developed a speech impediment when I was 14 years old. Before then, I spoke fluently.
I remember the day well. The teacher made me read out loud, and I started struggling to breathe and speak at the same time. Like if I was running out of breath.
Mum took me to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, but he said I was either nervous or I had a trauma, as nothing was damaged.
I have never been nervous, being such a quiet kid, so it must have been a trauma. Perhaps losing dad 3 years before.
Years later, I have a theory. A guy said something to me that shocked me. One of them things boys say to wind up girls. I didn’t know if what he said happened for real or not, but I think that’s what must have traumatised me. It felt like a betrayal.
I was always such a quiet kid, although at 17 years old I started going out, so I never shut up ever since. All I needed was something to talk about, and nothing much happened before 17.
HOW DID IT AFFECT MY LIFE
For years I didn’t realise how much it affected my life.
I didn’t like saying hello or goodbye because I thought I would either not be heard or I’d be stammering so I wanted to avoid it all together.
I was once told to leave a part time job because I wouldn’t give a good impression on the phone to customers. It put me down but I knew it was true. Now I know this was DISCRIMINATION, as it is a recognised disability, protected under the Equality Act.
I had way too many times lemonade instead of Archers and lemonade as they rarely understand me.. Once I pretended not to be able to speak so I typed it on my mobile. It worked!! 🙂
I once was told “Look this is a serious company” because I was unable to answer to the recruiter on the phone, I had a mental block, luckily I managed to snap out of it, and it has only happened once.
I was unable to order a Domino’s pizza smoothly until their website came in. I adore McDonald’s machines.
If I don’t have eye contact, I find it difficult to speak.
When I’m upset or I feel insecure about the people listening to me, my speech is worst.
I disliked it when I took the bus, and I had to say “Thank you” in the end, as it would never come out smoothly.
If it’s noisy, I will feel less inclined to talk.
I feel safer talking in a closed quiet environment.
I speak more fluently in my own language in a different country, as the subconscious knows they cannot understand me, therefore not notice I have an impediment.
I started a job in an office in 2007, it involved ringing customers. I was going to give it a try, although I was worried it might not get me anywhere.
I was lucky my manager noticed I struggled with my speech, and since there were back office tasks to do, she allowed me to do that. They even asked her manager before I could apply to become permanent, and they agreed I could.
I knew one day a manager would challenge me to be on the phones.
My manager suggested to ask Occupational Health. They recommended to see my GP who then referred me to a Speech Language Therapist.
Her waiting list was quite long, 16 weeks, and eventually she saw me.
My unique speech impediment, the way the therapist described it was something similar to prolongating the letter O, splitting it into two. So if I say “Hove”, it sounds as “Ho-oove”. Rarely people understands me when I say this word. Then I quickly snap and say Brighton.
My speech therapist joined us in a group of 4 people eventually, and then she encouraged us to form our own independent support group.
CHALLENGING DIFFICULTIES AT WORK
And the time came, when a nasty manager questioned my pay rise, if I was not talking to customers.
I said I would go and speak to Unison, the work union that stands up for worker’s rights.
A rep came to me with a book called “Law at work”. There it described what a disability is. Speech impediment is a disability, as it affects our day to day for more than a year. It is covered under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Another rep called Human Rights, and they said they could not stop a pay rise because it would be seen as the manager’s feelings.
We had a meeting with my manager, who then spoke to Human Resources, and she had to shut up and authorise the pay rise. I tell you, Unison is the best money I’ve ever paid!
BEING HONEST THROUGH AND THROUGH
I started “coming out” at work, admitting I had a speech impediment, and this is why I struggled to speak. It has been very helpful as if we are on training, my colleagues would take over the “reading out loud” bit for me.
If I start a phone conversation with a company, I will tell them I have a speech impediment so they will have extra patience. I stopped saying “I’m sorry I have a speech impediment”, because a person on a wheelchair would never have to apologise, as one of my stammering fellows pointed.
STAMMERING SUPPORT GROUP
One of them became our clear leader, keen to do things, she deals with most of the tasks.
It has been very helpful to form part of this group, I have learnt the following:
1. Stammerers think everybody will notice their speech impediment – not true. It matters the most to you mostly.
2. People tends to say “I also stammer or used to have a stammer” but they didn’t/don’t really and make us feel a bit sceptical.
3 .We had a belief that our stammering would go away on a determined time/event.
4. When we shout, sing, are alone or with children or pets, we don’t really stammer.
5. We always almost stammer in the letter that our name starts.
6. Phonetic alphabet is a lifesaver.
7. Internet is even a bigger lifesaver.
8. When we see red lights (we are stammering), we should stop and start again when calmer. Going through red lights is not doing us any favours, but our emotions betray us and make our speech worst.
9, If you have a disability and you apply for a job, they must shortlist you.
10. We use a “buying time” technique, pretend to think of the word but we are trying not to stammer.
11. Some stammerers like their sentences finished, some hate it. (I can usually finish my sentences 🙂
12. We are most likely going to stammer with someone whom we look up to or are fearful of.
13. In our stammering group, we all have different sorts of difficulties. Some get stuck with the S, some with the W, or R, I personally struggle with the letter O, S, or saying “nine”.
HOW OTHER PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOURS AFFECT US
Will not know how to react and might laugh at our stammer.
Might lose eye contact with us, out of shame.
Phone advisors will hung up on us claiming the line is not clear.
LIFE ALTERING MOMENT
A lady on her 50s with a speech impediment joined our group. She was a psychotherapist and her technique was to substitute words to avoid stammering.
She read a book “Speech is a river”. It explained how speech should be unconscious. We stammer because we are conscious about it. We worry about what they will say, think, understand, if it’s noisy, if we will stammer, if we will be understood and so on. We put ourselves under such a strong psychological pressure that we naturally boycott our own speech.The key it says, is to speak unconsciously. To switch off that worst critic on you. It is easier said than done.
I had to change my address for my car insurance. They wanted £35 for the privilege of doing so!
I emailed them, no answer. I sent them a Tweet, and they asked me to ring.
I said I have a speech impediment. They agreed to change it and charge my credit card, only I said it was lost, so the bank cancelled it.
They wanted me to ring to take payment. I refused to and indicated how it is a recognised disability and that they could not accommodate me.
They agreed to waive the £35, and also the £15 for insurance increase as they could not offer me a bank account to pay into.
I shouldn’t have to be forced to ring.
A friend mentioned it was a bit dishonest of me. I said, excuse me, £35 to change an address? I’m not being dishonest, I would pay for it if only I didn’t have to ring.
AN INTERESTING NIGHT
This guy wrote a book about his experience stammering, and has been doing speeches about it too.
He explained he stammered on his name, and his boss asked him to change his name. He did, and for 20 years they called him a different name.
Later on, he stammered on his fake name so he gave up and went back to his original name.
He sometimes makes use of the volunteering stammering technique. Stammer on purpose in advance so you won’t get blocked. I personally never made use of that.
After his speech, we mixed between the public and exchanged experiences.
Nobody knew we were running a stammering support group in Brighton. A lady said she wished she knew about it when she was living here.
Another lady said she would like to come but she felt like a fraud, as she was no longer stammering.
It turned out that we would have love her to come, to give us some hints as how she overcame her stammering. She said that she did by stopping caring about it.
THE SO CALLED SPEECH THERAPIES
I went to a British Stammering Association event in London, and I witnessed a guy who had been in the “McGuire” program. He showed us a video of how bad his stammering was, and how he managed to make full sentences without blocks.
I personally found it terrifying, they sound like robots. They do controlled breathings and they push your boundaries to get you out of your comfort zone.
I am of the belief that a person does not need techniques. Rather go deep inside themselves, to find out what is causing it. I have personally never explored too deep, but there are many things/people claiming to have the solution, only I guess they don’t really.
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