Before I started going to speech therapy I had been a covert stutterer. I was very quiet in front of family members, in front of faculty members that I work with, and my friends. It was difficult making friends because I did not like to stutter so therefore, I did anything to hide my stuttering by not talking, leaving the room, or not going out. I started speech therapy, August of 2012 and it is beneficial for me, but occasionally I still have times where I am afraid to talk to other people because I do not want to stutter or have them think that I cannot communicate correctly.
I have learned different strategies to use when I feel I stutter, which help me speak more fluently. Some of the strategies that I use are:
- Easy onset when I talk slowly. This helps me to a degree to have an easier time communicating.
- “Slide-outs” because I can slide out of a word that I get stuck on when I have a stuttering moment, and it helps me to feel more relaxed.
- Pausing also helps, because it gives me time to think of what I want to say and how to form my thoughts when I am with other people that I do not know as well.
Using these strategies helps me to have an easier time communicating, and it helps me at times to be less of a covert.
As a covert stutterer, speech therapy has made a great impact on me. It gives me more confidence that I can communicate, even though I might stutter, by knowing and using different strategies. Having a speech therapist who helps and is always there for me makes a big difference, because it gives me more self-esteem when I feel I am being a covert stutterer, to start using my strategies, instead of hiding my stuttering. Using and practicing the strategies that I have been taught, helps me to deal with being a covert stutterer.
Having my parents come to a speech session in January of 2013 helped them to understand what I was doing in speech therapy and how they can help me with what I needed to work on. Some of the strategies that I showed to my parents that work for me include easy onset, “slide-outs”, and pausing. I used those examples in different sentences that I demonstrated to my parents so they would be able to understand what I was doing if I had a moment that I was starting to stutter.
Before my mom came to a speech session in April of 2013, I wrote my mom a letter explaining the way I felt. In the letter, I explained how she could help me with my speech so I can have a better relationship with her. The speech session was focused on my mom understanding not to give me negative feedback about my speech. I also told my mom that I would discontinue asking her for input on my speech. As a matter of fact, I told her that I will take the responsibility of my action with my speech. At the end of the speech session, I gave my mom the letter and we discussed it. Since that time, I have been opening up a little bit with her but I know it is going to be a process.
I am closer with my dad and it is easier for me to talk to him. He does not tell me to slow down when I talk. I was able to have a good relationship with him because he does not give me negative feedback about the way I talk. My dad just came to the one speech session back in January with my mom so they could learn the different types of strategies that I have been working on in speech therapy.
I have used the “Personal Support Inventory” and the “Coping Survey Questionnaires” (CSQ), both developed by Lisa Scott (2012). According to Lisa, The Personal Support Inventory helps the client become more aware of their social connections and who they are talking to and are open with. It allowed me to be open with myself and see who I can become closer to.
Another tool that I use is called “Coping Survey Questionnaire” (CSQ). The CSQ teaches the client to become more aware of their thoughts and their nonverbal behaviors in different situations. This helped me to reflect and describe the way I was feeling and thinking at that time.
Another strategy involves recognizing and changing cognitive distortions which helps with the way a person feels about themselves. Cognitive distortion helps to focus on different areas that you might feel negative about. For example, I use the eCBT Mood application, which I downloaded for US $0.99 (www.mymindapps.com). It has helped me become less negative and pinpoint the cognitive distortions that I am using, such as labeling, mental filter, all or nothing, jumping to conclusions, and discounting the positives (http://addictions.about.com/od/overcomingaddiction/tp/cognitive_distortions.htm). There are many more cognitive distortions that a person can have. Knowing what they are, can help the person better understand themselves.
Being an effective communicator involves focusing on nonverbal communication such as sitting up straight, not slouching and good eye contact. This shows the other person that you are involved and are interested in what they are saying. I am currently working on my voice inflection which is challenging for me. Using specific vocabulary is very important to help avoid using filler words that I use, such as “ummm, ahhh, you know, like…”
My advice to others who are dealing with covert stuttering is to use a combination of speech tools and cognitive strategies. I feel that, it is beneficial when a person uses different types of speech tools that work for them. Not everyone uses the same strategies because everyone is unique and different. The important thing is to try different activities to help you think about how you relate to stuttering and how it affects you in daily life situations. Overall, it is a process dealing with covert stuttering that takes time, patience, and reflection.
I became a covert stutterer because I was embarrassed about the way I talked and worried that people would judge me. Before I started speech therapy, it was challenging for me to make friends and be out in the public because I was embarrassed with the way I talked. At times, I felt that people were watching the way I spoke and it made me not want to talk and just keep quiet. That was why I decided to keep to myself so then people could not judge me on the way I communicated. My family members understand that I stutter and they accept me for who I am. To this day, I am quiet at times in front of my family because I wish I could communicate and be fluent like everyone else. At times, I still wish I could hide, but I am trying not to be a covert stutterer. Getting help from my wonderful speech therapist has helped me to move forward in this process.
Lisa Scott, NSA, 2012 (Personal Support Inventory, Coping Survey Questionnaire)