CHAPTER 19

THE SEMINARY STUDENT

As far back as I can remember, I've always stuttered. I remember early in childhood, asking members of my family why. I was never satisfied with their answers. One interesting theory was that it was due to my frustration over a toy fire engine. I was 2 years old, and the fire engine was too big for me. My feet could not touch the pedals, and it was suggested that I became extremely frustrated in my attempts to make the fire engine move forward. As a result of this frustration, I began to stutter. Whatever merit this theory may have, I've learned not to speculate. Suffice to say that much of my early childhood was spent trying to solve the riddle of my stuttering problem.

Because I stuttered, I had a very frustrating childhood. On a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the worst), I would rate my childhood stuttering at about a 6, with gusts to 8. I believe I was a normal kid, with average abilities in most areas. But because of my stuttering, I was alienated from potential friends and opportunities. I developed a tendency to frown which has plagued me most of my life. Even today, I am generally regarded as being unfriendly because of my tendency to look cross.

I have suffered educationally because of my stuttering. I would have done anything to keep from contributing orally during class, or from formally giving oral reports. I would even refrain from asking questions, or sometimes I would pretend not to know the answers to questions if I was called on. All of this dodging during school tended to keep my grades down in the average category. I believe now I could have earned much higher marks had I not stuttered.

As I embarked on high school days, I entered one of the most frustrating times in my life. Much of the normal high school life is social in nature, and I felt alienated from most of it. I never did much dating during my high school years because I was too afraid to talk to any girls. I was sort of black-listed form the "in crowd" because of my stuttering.

I would like to relate a particular incident which captures the frustration and embarrassment of my high school days. The incident occurred in my English class during my junior year. There were a couple of guys in the class I has been hanging around with, and I really wanted to be friends with them. I had been making strenuous efforts to keep my stuttering to a minimum around them. As part of a class assignment, we were to team up into small groups, and give oral reports on a short novel. I was teamed up with my two "friends". As you might imagine, this proved to be one of the most embarrassing situations I have ever faced. We got up before the class, and each gave their portion of the report. I was the last to give his report, and I was tied up in knots in anticipation. I started my report in a very choppy manner, and then I lost all composure. I suddenly locked on a feared word, and I couldn't break the lock. I just stood there in front of the class, and I groaned on like an automobile trying to start on a cold morning. My face turned many shades of red, and I believe I did some slobbering as well. Before I was done, I had locked on several other words, and as I walked back to my seat, I remember myself as a very humiliated young man. I also never seemed to click with those two "friends" after that.

I have been frustrated with several "therapies." I remember in grade school, once a week I went to a school therapist. This was a frustrating experience because I never did much stuttering in front of the therapist. I remember when I was in junior high, my mother took me to the family doctor. I did not stutter at all in front of him either, but he prescribed "tranquilizers" as part of my therapy. He said that this was "the newest thing". I never felt the "tranquilizers" helped at all. More recently, I went to the speech therapist at the university I am now attending. Among other things, she said I should do relaxing exercises, and I should slow my speech down in stress situations. I feel this particular therapist helped somewhat, but I still felt frustrated and helpless. She could not adequately explain to me why I stuttered, and the best she could offer me was minor improvement over the rest of my life. She spoke in terms of "control" but not "cure". It seemed to be another "band-aid" approach to speech therapy.

I would like to relate at this time, the events that led to finding out about the National Center for Stuttering's Therapy Program. By my early teens, I had learned to be apathetic about my speech problem. I decided the less I said, the better off I would be. In fact, in my late teens, I even used alcohol and drugs excessively, partly because they relaxed me and I didn't stutter as much. However, I was jolted from my apathy at the age of 20, when I received Christ into my life. I could no longer tolerate staying quiet. I had to tell others about what He had done for me.

I found out it is pretty tough to be a witness for my faith with a speech impediment, however. I also began to realize I wanted to begin to train to become a Christian Minister. I knew, however, that something had to be done to improve my speech.

My parents saw an article in a Long Beach newspaper which told of the amazing work that the National Center for Stuttering was doing in the area of stuttering therapy. My parents bought me a copy of a book, Stuttering Solved. This was only the beginning of a new life frame. I read the book and I knew this was the answer to the problem. Here was a therapy which pin-pointed the physical mechanism of stuttering, and which set about to attack the problem source. This was definitely not a "band-aid" approach to speech therapy. After reading the book, I contacted the Center and signed up for one of their seminars on the West Coast.

The seminar in San Francisco was two full days of intense therapy. I left San Francisco on cloud nine, knowing the Air Flow Technique was going to work. And it has! But I do not wish to paint a completely rosy picture. Old habits die hard, and stuttering is definitely a set of bad speaking habits. The power of stuttering seems to be in the fear of speaking. Fear is a powerful thing. That is why, as a necessary part of therapy, we have a set of practice exercises to perform each day, to make the new Air Flow Technique more natural than the old habit of locking the vocal cords and stuttering. It takes discipline to do the exercise that is needed everyday. But the rewards are definitely worth it. I would estimate that I have attained about 95% fluency. Generally, if I encounter a problem, it is because I have not used the Air Flow Technique properly. I must evaluate the failure, and then set about to correct the problem. I believe one of the strengths in the "technique", is that the ignorance about stuttering is replaced with knowledge. If problems are encountered, they are then to be analyzed and corrected.

I am convinced that 100% fluency is within my grasp. The Air Flow Therapy has changed my life, given me the opportunity to help myself which is very exciting. I am looking to the future with confidence, not with fear, and I am forever indebted to the National Center for Stuttering. 


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