Have you ever spent time with someone who stuttered? Had a friend who had a stuttering issue? Seen a young child who went through normal developmental stuttering? It is a challenging issue and one that is difficult on the speaker, the listener, and impacts their relationships. When they try to communicate, particularly in an emotionally charged environment, they may encounter even more stuttering.
A word can become a blockage, an individual sound a challenge.
I knew a wonderful guy in college. Sweet, thoughtful, intelligent and interesting. He lived across the hall in the apartment complex, with his crew of roommates. When the guys were unobserved, just relaxed and hanging out, Mark was fairly fluent and able to interact easily and well, displaying his personality and intellect, an engaging and interesting guy. But the moment someone new was present, or particularly a girl, he became quiet. Words came hard, and he could be seen to struggle. He covered it fairly well, as he was well practiced since childhood in dealing with this. But, he was a different person when he was with intimate friends and when he was with others, primarily due to his stuttering and confidence. With friends who knew and accepted him, his stuttering was not even an issue, they all just let it slide, which in turn made it easier for Mark to work through it, minimizing the actual stuttering as well. But, with people who were not as aware of it, not as well known to Mark, he was less confident, more insecure about his ability to speak fluently, and this in turn made his stuttering worse.
Mark had attended speech therapy for as long as he could remember. When he talked about it, he said that it helped, but at times it didn’t help. He knew what to do to help himself, but nothing was a real cure.
Except when he sang. When he sang, he was completely fluent, all the time. He had a beautiful voice and had clearly worked hard to cultivate it. So, his speech was haunted by stuttering, but at the same time, his singing was flawless. He would laugh about it, unsure why, but also very clear that he had always been told that this was common for most stutterers.
As we became friends, I saw that his stuttering became less and less when he was with me, as we became good friends. Soon, it was common that while we were together, Mark was completely fluent. Our interaction was easy and fun, and we even completely forgot about his stuttering. At times, he did stutter, but because we were so accepting and used to it, disfluencies were not an issue. They were just hiccups in the road, not a pothole. With more confidence and comfort, the dysfluencies were less and less.
Mark never completely overcame his stuttering, but to see him work through it, accept himself, and build a life was wonderful. He was well aware that with the people he was closest to, he was able to nearly be fluent, but the confidence that he had with close friends also boosted his success.
Stuttering can attempt to steal the voice, but it need not.