A thousand things I’d like to say, sadly silence is my way (Willemijn Bolks)

About the author: My name is Willemijn, I’m an 18 year old girl from Holland and I make videos on YouTube. I want to go to art school. 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.

I made this drawing when I was 15. The title is ‘A thousand things I’d like to say, sadly silence is my way.’

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A thousand things I’d like to say, sadly silence is my way (Willemijn Bolks) — 55 Comments

  1. Willemijn, first of all, thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life! I think that your drawing is such an amazing way to show fluent people (like me) what it’s like to be in the mind of a person who stutters. I love that in your “about me,” you state that you are trying more to be yourself – I admire that so much! Thank you for sharing your beautiful representation of what it’s like to stutter. Keep being you!

  2. Willemijn-

    I think it is great that you are wanting to pursue your artistic talents! Your drawing says a lot, and I think it is very unfortunate that you have been bullied because of your speech. I am a graduate student going to school be become a speech-language pathologist and I was wondering if there was anyone that you ever saw for your stuttering, and if you had, I was wondering if you would care to share any experiences that you may have had with them that were positive? I would love to gain any insights as to what I could potentially do to provide a PWS with therapy that aided in improving their quality of life. What advise would you give me to help people that may feel the way that you did when you drew this piece?

    • Thank you! I never had therapy, my parents thought I would grow out of it and when I was older they didnt realise how bad it was. This gave me a lot of time to think about it myself. As for advice, I made a video that is also on this website where I give advice to people who hide their stutter. Its called ‘covert stuttering, my story’.

  3. Hi Willemijn,

    I do not even know what to say. This picture you drew is powerful and contains a lot of insight with how you must have felt at that age. This proves how a picture is worth a million words. Thank you so much for sharing it. You are an inspiration and role model to people. Your strength, confidence and expression is amazing.

  4. Willemijn,
    Congratulations for this very meaningful drawing. I have a French blog (www.goodbye-begaiement.fr) on stuttering and I am a contributor of this ISAD 2017. “Be the kind of stutterer you would like to meet”
    Would you agree if I post your drawing on the Facebook Page of my blog ?

    • Sorry for my late comment, but yes, thats no problem! You can post it anywhere you want 😉

  5. Hi Willemijn,

    I think your using your artistic ability was an amazing way to express how you were feeling about your stutter. The image really allows any individual to understand what a person who stutters feels like every time he or she tries to say something. I hope that everyone who sees this image shares it because it sends a powerful message about what talking is like to a person who stutters. I am happy to see that you are pursuing your dreams! Your confidence is truly inspiring!

  6. Hi Willemijn,

    It fills my heart with great joy that you are speaking through this wonderful piece of art. I appreciate the detail you drew from your thoughts to the “mind maze” and to your mouth. The maze has corners that are smaller, spinning gears that could kick your thoughts right back to start, areas slightly open but not big enough to fit through, and arrows points the wrong way. Your thoughts hold various expressions of your wants, needs, hopes and dreams. Thank you for sharing this unique and creative communication with the world.

  7. Willemijn –
    Thank you for sharing your artwork. It is a very insightful piece that a I think a lot of people who stutter can relate to. As a graduate clinician, I am currently working with middle and high school students who stutter. What advice would you provide to students in a similar position? Is there anything you feel the adults in your life (parents/caregivers, educators, SLPs, etc.) could’ve done to have better supported you during this difficult stage in your life?

    • Thank you for your comment. I am so happy for those students that they have someone that helps them at school.
      There was one person at that time in my life who helped me, and it was my geography teacher. For some reason he sensed when I was switching words and immediately said ‘no, what did you truly want to say?’. That made me feel so good. And he made eyecontact, didnt finish sentences. He was patient and kind. He listened and actually responded to what I said instead of thinking ‘yes she finally finished her sentence’. Super basic things, but things I had never experienced before.
      As for advice, I made another video on this website (about covert stuttering) where I give advice at the end of the video. Most importantly as a pws you have to realise that its not your fault and that its just a part of you. That hiding your stutter is kind of weird, because would a blind person also hide their blindness? Nope. They just deal with it as best as they can. Thats how I explain it, haha.

  8. Willemijn, thank you so much for sharing your feelings about talking and some of the difficulties you face. As a graduate clinician studying speech-language pathology, your piece has given me insight about how my patients who stutter may feel about talking and stuttering. Is there any advice that you would give SLPs to help our patients who stutter address their feelings and thoughts about their stutter?

    • Thank you for your comment. Hmm thats a hard one, I only know what helps me 😉 I just draw my feelings or write a poem. Or I think of a symbolic story which helps me look at stuttering from another perspective. Sorry, Im bad at explaining haha.

  9. Willemijn-
    Thank you for sharing your personal experience with stuttering. Your artwork was very insightful. I’m a future SLP and feel like your artwork gave me a perfect visual to help me better grasp what it must be like for people who stutter. I have a feeling that I will keep that image in my mind for years to come as I treat future clients. I’m a visual learner and this definitely helped me to better understand a little bit of the frustration that PWS must experience when they can’t express what they are trying to communicate. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thats so cool that my drawing helped you understand covert stuttering a little bit more, thank you for commenting!

  10. Hi Willemijn,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts through this visual. Your artistic abilities as a 15 year old are way better than mine ever will be! This is very helpful to me, as a visual learner. As an individual in school to become an SLP, I have read about what a PWS may feel; However, I couldn’t think of a better way to capture the feelings into a drawing. This is a spectacular visual tool I would use in therapy with a future client who stutters, to relate with and perhaps create their own visual to express how they feel. Thanks for sharing your insightful piece of artwork! You are AMAZING!

  11. -Willemijn-

    I absolutely loved the visual that you made to explain your views on stuttering and how it effects your life. As a speech-language pathology graduate student, we discuss how stuttering across the lifespan can change in the way that if effects the individual. As an 18-year-old, I can only imagine the way that stuttering has made you feel especially having gone through a time when others bullied you. No one deserves to be bullied, but I love that you drew this visual and expressed your emotions on how stuttering makes you feel. I think this visual could be a great tool for me to use in the future with my clients who stutter. I could also use this as a guide to help a client draw how they view their stutter.

    I was wondering if you have made any other visuals since you made this one when you were 15-years-old? I would love to know if the way that you view stuttering has changed since you were 12 to 15 to 18 years old.

    I love that you said that you now try to be yourself. You deserve to be yourself no matter what 🙂 You are inspiring.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think its very helpful to draw what stuttering feels like. My view of stuttering has changed a bit, but this drawing still represents how it feels to hide your stutter. I have made a few animations about this topic but its all kind of the same thing, haha.

  12. Hi Willemijn!
    I enjoyed your art very much. Even at age 15, you were able to depict stuttering in a clear and beautiful way. I am in school right now studying to be a speech-language pathologist, and this visual you have created is a great way to help me understand what a person who stutters feels like. You have so many amazing thoughts that you would like to express verbally, but it is complicated, like a maze, which makes you just want to stay quiet. This is great insight for me to take into therapy with future clients. It made me sad to see that you were bullied for your stutter, but it is incredible that you have risen up from that and decided to be yourself. That is truly an admirable quality. If anyone thinks less of you because of the way you speak, that is a reflection on who they are as people, not on who you are! You are an inspiration!

    • Thank you for your comment, I’m happy that I helped you understand stuttering a little more so you can help other people who stutter 🙂

  13. Hi Willemijn!
    Like several others who have commented, I am a graduate student studying to be a speech-language pathologist. I am so glad that I came across your post—your depiction of your own experience with stuttering is powerful. I think that this picture could really be such a huge help in teaching others more about stuttering and the emotions and difficulties that can be hidden beneath the surface. Since every person who stutters’ experience is different, I would be interested to see if this is an image that resonates with the feelings of other individuals who stutter. Regardless, your picture really opened my eyes and helped me better understand your own experience. I am saddened by the fact that you were bullied when you were younger, but I am so encouraged that you now just want to be yourself and not keep your stutter hidden! Do you ever talk about your experience with stuttering on your YouTube channel? I think your story and your talent with creatively sharing your personal experience could probably be such a great encouragement to other individuals who stutter and could help those who do not stutter learn to be better advocates and allies! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your beautiful drawing! I am so glad that I got to learn just a piece of your story!

  14. That’s the hardest maze I ever tried. Well done in portraying what it’s like to stutter!

  15. Hey Willemijn,

    Thank you for sharing this drawing and your video. I am a graduate student studying to be an SLP and enjoy listening to and seeing what you and others who stutter have to say about your personal experiences. I am interested in working with children and I know that you drew this when you were 15. What is something that I, as an SLP, could have said to you when you were 15 to help you to understand that it is okay to stutter and to boost your confidence?


  16. Willemijn,
    Thank you for posting this photo. This drawing is very powerful and has such meaning behind it. I am sure that this is exactly how many people who stutter feel. I am in graduate school studying to be a speech-language pathologist and I was wondering how a speech-language pathologist could help other children and teens who stutter to be more open and accepting of themselves? And ways they could help educate other children who may not understand what stuttering is?
    Thank you,

  17. Hello Willemijn,

    Thank you for sharing your experience through this drawing and your video. I think that this drawing is extremely important in helping clients relate to what they may be feeling. As an SLP graduate student with some exposure to PWS clients,I have some questions: Was drawing out what you were feeling very therapeutic? Do you feel that it helped you process your experiences? Lastly, what inspired you to draw this drawing?

    Thank you for this wonderful drawing. It is such an important visual representation of what PWS experience.


    • -Drawing my feelings helps me because the feelings kind of move from my head to the drawing for a second. Plus it helps you realise some things about what you are drawing.
      -It kind of did, yes.
      -I saw a lot of other drawings that were about mental health and I wanted to make one too to see if it could help me.
      Thank you!

  18. Hi Willemijn,

    Wow! Your artwork speaks volumes and I am so thankful that you shared it with us! I am currently studying to be a speech-language pathologist partly due to both of my brothers having communication-related disorders. One of my brothers also stutters, and also experienced some bullying when he was in elementary school. He in college now and studying to be a music teacher and following his dreams as well! Thank you again for sharing!

    • Thank you! My music teacher has a stutter as well! Everyone likes him and he is a good teacher, so I bet your brother will be too.

  19. Hello Willemijn,
    I am a first-year speech-language pathology graduate student and your artwork definitely helped me understand, visually, what stuttering is like for you. I’m always looking for future tips and ideas for my future clients! Do you think that encouraging a client to draw a picture of their feelings about stuttering would help them interpret it in a different way? For clients who maybe aren’t as artistic as you, do you have another idea how they can create a representation of their stutter and what it means to them?
    Thank you,

    • Thank you! It definitely helps. It doesnt have to be a good drawing, anyway, maybe print out a head and make them write words into it or something. I also used to visualize my stutter as a person, and thought about what I would say to that person and what I could do to make that person be nicer to me. Maybe that helps!

  20. Hi Willemijn,

    Thank you so much for your meaningful drawing. As a first-year speech-language pathology student, it is hard to figure out how a person who stutters must feel, especially someone who was bullied from it. Your drawing provides a creative representation of the frustration and discouragment you felt growing up. I am glad that you’re trying to overcome your fears and be yourself. As a future therapist, do you have any tips or recommendations that I could give clients on ways to overcome their fears?Was there anything specific you did that calmed you down?

    Thank you,


    • Thank you! I actually made a video about this where I have some tips at the end of the video. Its called ‘cover stuttering, my story’ and its on this website as well.

  21. Willemijn,

    Thank you for courageously sharing your drawing with us. While it saddens me to read about your negative experience with bullies, it is very admirable that you have been chosen to take the path of least resistance and to just be yourself. I think that in a world shaped by unrealistic standards, people can get wrapped up in things that are not so important. As a student myself, I see how often I succumb to the pressures of society. I am glad to read that you have opted to look past what others might criticize and love yourself for who for you are. For all the people whose lives you have touched by sharing your artwork and short bio, thank you.


  22. Willemijn,

    Your drawing is powerful and provokes such emotion….Thank you for letting us see and interpret your work. I like to draw myself- so I love that your piece gave me a visual of your experience stuttering as a teen. I am studying to become a speech language pathologist, and I want to be able to work with PWS with a greater understanding so I can be an advocate and friend to those who struggle with confidence as a result of stuttering. I wonder if other PWS would feel a sense of liberation or acceptance through artistic expression like yours! To me, this seems like a wonderful way for children and teens to express themselves and explain to others what it is like to stutter. I would encourage any of my future clients to journal, draw, or create something as an outlet for frustrations or inhibitions. As an artist, I appreciate your drawing as a way to bridge the gap between PWS and listeners- a great tool to begin to understand someone’s point of view. Thank you Willemijn!!

    • Thank you! Art definitely makes you think about your relationship with the stutter, and thats already helpful!

  23. Willemijn,
    I saw your picture and then watched your video. Your journey to accepting your stutter is truly amazing. I am currently a first year graduate student taking a class on fluency. The picture that you drew reminded me of the “iceberg” analogy that is sometimes used to represent stuttering. It helped to reiterate the fact that there are so many more emotions involved in stuttering than just what the listener hears. Thank you sharing your story with us!
    Thank you,
    Kristin Johnson

  24. Willemijn,
    Wow! What a powerful drawing. I admire you ability to express yourself through drawing; that is a skill that not many people have. I am a SLP graduate student and I appreciate you opening up and sharing such a personal drawing with people like me. Your sharing helps me understand what PWS really go through. Your insight shows that there is so much more to a person that what we see; the emotions lying underneath are so complex and intense. Keep expressing yourself, it’s beautiful!

    Thank you for sharing,

  25. Willemijn,

    Thank you so much for sharing this drawing with us! Like many others on this forum I am an SLP graduate student. This illustration is one of the most insightful examples I have seen regarding stuttering. I love how the pathway from thought to speech is a maze with many blocks, set-backs, and dead ends. It is a great reminder that for many PWS there may be so much more that they want to say but feel unable to for various reasons. It is a wonderful reminder that there is so much more to stuttering than what is seen and that as an SLP it is so important to address these internal feelings as well. I feel like this piece is not only helpful for elciting empathy in others but for helping with introspection and identifying these feeling for other individuals who stutter and have difficulty describing how they feel.

  26. Willemijn,
    This drawing is a wonderful self-expression of your thoughts and feelings as a person who stutters. I appreciate your expression through art. I believe that through art, music, or other creative means an individual can express themselves without having to find the right worlds, which for a person who stutters can be a difficult task. Awareness of your covert struggles is the first step to overcoming and can be extremely powerful. Your picture allows an outsider, a person who does not stutter, to get a view into what it feels like to be a PWS. Thank you for sharing!!

  27. Willemijn,

    Your title “A thousand things I’d like to say, sadly silence is my way” caught my attention out of all the links. I am studying speech language pathology and am in a stuttering class now. This title and your drawing are a good representation, and this reminds me of the emotional components that occur along with stuttering. I can only imagine how challenging it must be at times. I think it’s amazing that you are not trying to hide your stutter anymore.

  28. Dank je Willemijn. 🙂 Your drawing says it all. Is it ok to show it, mentioning your name? As a pws talking in schools, your drawing is a great way to explain what it’s like to stutter.

    Keep talking!

    Anita S. Blom, Sweden