Covert Stuttering: My Story (Willemijn Bolks)

About the Author: My name is Willemijn, I’m anย 18 year oldย girl from Holland andย I make videos on YouTube. I want to go to artschool. I’ve always stuttered a little bit, but when I was 12 it turned into a stuttering problem because I was bullied. I then started hiding my stutter. Now I try to not do that anymore and be myself.

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Comments

Covert Stuttering: My Story (Willemijn Bolks) — 45 Comments

  1. Willemijn,

    Wow, what a powerful, inspiring story you have! Thank you for being so vulnerable and transparent. As someone who has not yet had much experience with people who stutter, your video was very eye opening. I realized just how much stuttering effects daily life and interactions with others. As you mentioned, every decision that you made revolved around hiding your stutter; what you ordered, the questions you asked, your homework, etc.

    One thing that you said at the beginning of the video really struck me, “Why would I deserve help for something that was my fault?” I feel as if many people who stutter have this mindset and, in turn, they don’t receive the proper help and intervention that they need. As a future clinician, this encourages me to make sure that I fully understand and am aware of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of people who stutter so I can offer proper emotional support, counseling, and mechanisms for coping.

    Again, thank you for sharing your personal experience!

    Thank you,
    Sarah

    • Thank you so much for watching my video and commenting. I am happy to hear that my story can maybe help others, through you.

      Willemijn

  2. Willemijn,

    I am so thankful that you are sharing your story of overcoming the emotional aspect of your stuttering. I cannot even begin to imagine what your past was like when you hid such a huge part of what makes you, YOU. I am glad you are now able to speak with confidence and feel more positive about it. I like how you broke down many aspects of dealing with stuttering and ways to overcome the emotional effects. One thing that stuck out to me was speaking with confidence. I believe this is such a powerful tool for anyone, whether you stutter or not. People tend to feel the confidence of other speakers and react in more positive ways. As you mentioned, if someone speaks with hesitation, making it awkward, then the listener would feel awkward in the interaction in return. People will be more comfortable in speaking situations where the speaker is confident and is comfortable with their speech.

    You provided many great examples of how to build self-confidence for people who stutter and it is very encouraging for others to hear your personal story. As a fluent speaker, I can empathize with you and learn a little bit more about what people who stutter feel like inside. I can also appreciate how you shared parts of your story when the stuttering had very negative affects on your communication and how you changed your attitude about yourself and the way you communicate now.

    Thank you for sharing your inspirational story.

    MacKenna

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story and allowing us to see the “real” you. It is hard to imagine growing up feeling so isolated, only ordering what you could say fluently and speaking while eliminating the sounds you stuttered on. It is understandable after being bullied from such a young age that you determined to hide it. It takes so much confidence to stutter in front of people when the past has indicated to you something was wrong about your speech. As a person that doesn’t stutter, it is so important to hear your perspective including emotions associated with your stuttering. I also appreciate how you compared stuttering to a blind person trying to hide their blindness. It simply cannot be hidden. Your other point about having confidence I believe is critical. Self-confidence and being bold about showing your weakness to others tends to make speaking situations more comfortable for both the listener and the speaker. You are an inspiration, please continue to share your story to encourage those who stutter as well as educate others about the many aspects of stuttering.

    • Thank you so much for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚ I am glad I helped you understand stutter a little more.

  4. What a wonderful and beautifully-illustrated story with a very important message! My name is Judy Kuster and I have resources about stuttering online on the Stuttering Home Page (www.stutteringhomepage.com)including a section on covert stuttering at
    http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/infoaboutstuttering.html#covert
    I’m wondering if I can have permission to include your video on my resource with proper attribution. Please contact me at judith.kuster@mnsu.edu Thank you for your consideration!

  5. Hi Willemijn,

    Thanks for a wonderful video. I am positive that it will help many other PWS, and will help many SLPs get educated about covert stuttering.

    “Don’t waste any more time hiding yourself”.
    “I used to proud when I didn’t stutter; now I am proud when I stutter and don’t care”

    Wonderful words of wisdom. Thank you.

    Hanan

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the covert aspect of stuttering. I think that a common misconception is that stuttering is only about the overt aspects, but your story really educates people about how debilitating the covert aspect of stuttering can be. Iโ€™m glad you feel better now and can be yourself.

    Not only are you doing what is best for yourself, but by confidently stuttering publicly you are also portraying a positive example of people who stutter and thereby helping the world and those you interact with understand and accept you and those who stutter better.

    You are a talented artist and I enjoyed watching your video.

    • Thank you so much! I agree, thats why I thought I had to share my story to make people understand that stuttering is so much more than just a speech impediment.

  7. Hello Willemijn,

    Thank you for sharing your story with everyone else. You really are an inspiration out there for those who try to hide the fact that they stutter. I know that because I was one of those people. It can be hard to hide the fact that you stutter, especially if you have to do a lot of talking. I’m involved in Theater, so it can be challenging trying to move up in that business, when speaking fluently is everything in acting.

    I know it can be easier to keep your stutter hidden, but once you’re able to openly say out loud to everything that “I Stutter, but I’m also learning how to control it better”. I said those words right before the acting part of auditions for West Side Story, and after I said it I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I’m sure that must’ve been how it felt for you.

    You should be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there, and being open to stutter freely so people know. Stuttering is not a weakness I’ve learned, it’s a learning opportunity.

    Hope to hear from you.
    Thank you
    Ian Welsh : )

    • ohh theatre is my dream.. I used to act all the time before I started stuttering. After that I auditioned so many times but I never got a part and they always said it was because I couldnt have a script :(.
      Thank you!

  8. This is awesome. I’m going to save this video, your points were so clear and well summed up in the end and I felt your honestly through my computer. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think your points can make any person a better because you can look at many aspects of life, and use your points as a self-guide. It was powerful to hear that the emotions you had from stuttering were so overwhelming and the acceptance of your stutter reduced those negative feelings. You are a great role model for young kids, teenagers, and adults and I could see you helping others with self exceptance, beyond PWS. When you would hide your stutter, was there anyone that knew about your struggles, like your parents or a close friend? Thank you, again!

    • No one knew. When I just typed that there came some tears in my eyes, because that was such a lonely and sad period. (I didnt even realise it then though). Most people still don’t know I struggled with it. Most people think its normal to just stutter and not care about it, when its actually super brave when you can do that. I wish someone acknowledged that. All the people in the comments do though! Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. โ€œEvery decision revolves around my stutterโ€ (paraphrased because I have a bad memory ;)). This brought back so many memories. EVERYTHING revolves around whether or not I could say something.

    Excellent video!

    • Thank you for commenting. Yes, I bet a lot of people who stutter know what that feels like. Ugh. Waste of time ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Hey Willemign!

    I first want to thank you for sharing this video with everyone. I think to see a video about a PWS puts a new perspective to me on what are the covert aspect of stuttering. I am a future SLP and I want to help the children on my caseload with the experiences that you describe in this video. With that being said, do you have any advice for these children that I come across? I know you mention some of them in this video but what do you think is the most important? And last as a future SLP can you give me any advice to be an ally for a PWS?

    Thank you so much!

    • Thank you! Ohh that’s hard. Atleast tell them that it’s not their fault and its not something to be ashamed of. Just like someone else maybe has red hair or green eyes, they have a stutter. Everyone is different and that makes the world cool. And just listen to them with patience. Simple things but not everyone does them. And maybe show them some famous people who stutter so they can look up to them ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Willemijn,

    Wow! Such a fantastic portrayal of covert stuttering. Everybody should watch this! I was covert for 21 years and it’s been difficult to explain to people what covert stuttering is and why I stutter more now. But this accurately and articulately explains it. I will be showing this to all my clients who stutter. Thank you thank you!

    Courtney

  12. Hi,
    I really enjoyed your video. I am currently a speech language pathology grad student taking a course on fluency disorders. It is awesome how you have overcome your fear of stuttering. As a future SLP who might have clients who stutter, I was wondering what you found most useful in helping you overcome your fear?

    • Thank you! What helped me the most was just confronting my fears, and finding out that the things that happened weren’t as bad as I had feared. As I said in the video, ‘it was less bad than feeling the fear itself.’

  13. Willemijn,

    I was very touched by this video! I am a speech-language pathologist graduate student and am currently enrolled in a class about stuttering. I have learned so much about stuttering this year, but I know there is still so much more for me to learn. I used to think that achieving more fluent speech would be a huge success for anyone who stuttered, but you helped me realize that while fluency can be a goal for some people, having CONFIDENCE is equally important. I am happy to hear that you found your confidence this year, and I am impressed that you are sharing this message with others.

    I have heard about stuttering on purpose as a therapy technique. I never understood why that might help someone, but how you explained it as a tool to become more comfortable with new conversational partners makes sense. I will keep that in mind.

    While I am not an artist, I appreciate creative expression. Your video was beautifully made. I enjoy writing poetry and short stories, but have never felt comfortable enough with being vulnerable and using the personal things I struggle with as inspiration for my work. Have you used your stutter as inspiration for other artistic pieces before?

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your life. I admire your confidence. I hope it continues to grow!

    My best,
    Jackie Durnil

    • Thank you! Oh yes, confidence is important too. Wanting to be fluent just puts more pressure on me ;).
      Yes I use my stutter for a lot of art pieces (also my adhd and ocd).

  14. Willemijn,

    You are truly inspiring. Thank you for opening up about stuttering to so many people. Your video informs people about stuttering and helps people who might not be as confident as you are about their stutter. Your six points at the end of the video are great advice even for people who do not stutter. You did a great job on the video and the presentation of your message!

    Elaine

    • Thank you! I didnt even realise that those six points can be advice for people who dont stutter, but now I watch it again I see what you mean! Ofcourse everyone has insecurities. I forget that sometimes ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Hi Willemijn,

    Thank you for providing me with such a detailed look into the life of someone who stutters. As a first-year speech language pathology graduate student, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about your ability to gain confidence and accept your stuttering. If you don’t mind, I hope to share your six points with my clients one day in hopes of helping them gain confidence. I thought it was amazing that you learned to be happy with yourself by stuttering more often and overcoming your fears. Like you said, if you are calm and okay with your stuttering, your listeners will be too. Your illustrations really added to the effect of your message.

    Thank you again,
    Aleigha

    • Thank you for watching and commenting. Ofcourse you can share my points, I’m happy you find them helpful!

  16. Willemijn,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. You are a powerful voice and example to others of overcoming your fears and being proud to show your own weaknesses! You emulate great CONFIDENCE! Stuttering is not something I struggle with, but I have many of own weaknesses that I try to hide from others. Your story has motivated me to forget about what others think and stop hiding those characteristics that I am embarrassed by. I love how you said that people are always going to be judgmental, and if you donโ€™t care, then no one cares! You really know how to OWN IT when it comes to stuttering. What a liberating feeling it must have been for you to free yourself from your fears and โ€œcome out of the stuttering closetโ€ like you described. I really like the artistic effect you added to your video. You are a great artist, and I wish you the best as you pursue art school one day!

    • Thank you for watching and I love that you got something out of it too! Liberating is the right word, haha. The first few times I was liberated I felt like I wanted to dance and jump around, I felt so free. Thank you!

  17. Willemijn,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I admire your continued persistence to overcome your fears, while also encouraging others using the six points you learned. I enjoyed watching your video, you are very talented!

    You mentioned you had asked for help, but you were discouraged when others made comments about how you โ€œdid not need it.โ€ Looking back, would you have asked a different person for help?

    Kind regards,
    Rocio

    • Thank you! I had no one else to go to, but maybe I would just try to explain it more instead of giving up.

  18. Hello Willemijn,

    I just want to thank you for being this vulnerable for people to see, it is absolutely amazing!!! There were many points within this video that I thought were fascinating! I loved that you mentioned that just stuttering was “less bad than feeling the fear itself.” This in my mind led me to one of your other points, that if you stutter with confidence it will change how others perceive your stutter. I spent 2 weeks working closely with a person who stuttered (as his Speech-Language Pathologist-Graduate Student) and a lot of what we worked on was just that! In feeling confident about himself, he noticed a shift in his perception and the perceptions of others. I also loved that you mentioned purposefully stuttering at the beginning of conversations as a statement of disclosure. I think that disclosure is so important because, you are right, if you are trying to “hide” your stutter, people may still notice and it becomes a “bigger deal” than just being upfront about it!

    Thank you again for your vulnerability!
    Paige Newland

    • Thank you for watching and leaving a comment! ๐Ÿ™‚ Disclosure helps a lot indeed!

  19. Hi Willemijn,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was so interesting to hear what lengths you went to in order to hide your stutter. I was so happy to hear that you were able to see that your stutter is not your fault and that you learned how to embrace it. You tell such a powerful message about how much your perception of yourself influences how others see you. That message really stuck with me and I really feel like I learned so much from watching your video. Thanks again for putting your story out there, you are an inspiration!

    Melanie Webber

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience! What an inspiration you are to not only PWS, but to those who do not as well. I do not stutter, but your video has reminded me to be myself and to accept the insecurities that I may have. You did a superb job creating this video and it tells a very powerful message. Thank you so much!

  21. Willemijn, thank you for sharing this beautiful, candid video about your story. The insight into your experience as a covert PWS is very sage. You are truly inspirational! I was particularly moved by your resolve to let the things that you were most afraid of happen and that it was “less bad that feeling the fear itself.” From your list, I was most challenged by numbers 3 and 6. Thank you for your bravery.. it has inspired me! PS: This has been my favorite ISAD presentation!

    • Thank you so much! 3 and 6 are challenging but good to realise them. Sorry for bad english, haha

  22. Hoi Willemijn. ๐Ÿ™‚ What a clear and fun way to explain what stuttering is about and the impact it’s had on you. I’m so happy to see where you are now, despite your tough journey. As I pws I can truly relate to the struggle and that makes me even happier to see you are sharing your positive message with others. I truly hope to see you at a European Youth Meeting, as you have so much to give to other young pws.

    Keep talking!

    Anita S. Blom, Sweden

      • There have been European Youth Meeting for young pws since 1995, organized by different organisations. ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep track of the Demosthenes FB group, as they will put information there a soon it’s available. Would love to have you there. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Anita