Don’t be ashamed – there is nothing wrong with you – Nicholas Mensah

Nicholas Mensah

About the Author:

My name is Nicholas Mensah. I am 19 years old. I struggled with my stutter throughout most of primary school and all of secondary school. It wasn’t until sixth grade that I began speech therapy (which has gradually improved my fluency).

For as long as I can remember, I have always been ashamed of my stuttering, going as far as to keep most ideas I had to myself during class discussions. 

When I was 12 years old, I attended a talk about the Christian faith and our relationship with God. The speaker started by asking the question  “Who is God to you?” and went around holding the microphone to random people. Since I was the nearest person, he chose me first (which caught me completely off guard). He held the microphone to me, and I forced out the words “Our Creator”. I forced it out because I knew my words would get blocked and since I had to force it out, my voice sounded rather babylike and high-pitched. The whole crowd went “aww”. What I felt in that moment was nothing short of sheer embarrassment. If I remember correctly, it took me more than a week to get over it. 

Another case happened about two years later when I was in form 3. A group of sixth formers would ask my name knowing very well that I would stutter on the first letter. They would then laugh at me behind my back. I actually didn’t know they were laughing until one of my classmates pointed it out. 

There have also been cases when people have asked me questions about myself (e.g. what subjects I did, my name etc) and because I blocked, they thought I had forgotten. Of course, this was quite frustrating for me. 

I knew something needed to change. The change I wished to speak was to get involved with speech therapy, which would help me with my frustration.

Speech therapy has shown me many techniques which have improved my fluency. However, such techniques can rarely be mastered in one day, and require much practice over time. I believe that with enough practice, symptoms can be improved to such a great extent that they become almost unnoticeable to the untrained listener. Lastly, it’s important to remember that stuttering is not usually caused by fear/anxiety. Thus, saying things such as “Calm down” and “Breathe” does not help the situation.

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Comments

Don’t be ashamed – there is nothing wrong with you – Nicholas Mensah — 36 Comments

  1. Nicholas thanks for sharing your story and some of the challenging situations you have faced from others judging you. Those experiences would not be easy for anyone to go through and it is natural to feel down after having people respond like they have.

    Just continue to remind yourself that while there are plenty of bad people out there in this world, there is also plenty of good people in the world as well who are more understanding and only want the best for you. Continue to strive to surround yourself around those people and when you have these bad incidents, just shake them off and know its not you, it is them.

    We can’t please everyone in the world and nor do we need to, but we can just do our best to surround ourselves with good people who respect us who we are and what we have to offer.

    Love your statement that there is nothing wrong with us!

  2. Thank you very much Nicholas for your story;it’ll go a long way to inspire others like yourself.

    You realized you needed change,and you found that in speech therapy.

    Continue to be you!

  3. One thing in your story that stuck out to me was when you talked about your classmates asking you questions that they knew would cause you to stutter. This world can be cruel and I’m sorry you had to go through that. Keep being you because there is nothing wrong with that!

  4. Nicholas, thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing the challenges that you have had to face. Younger school aged years can be so tough and the kids can be so mean and I am sorry that you had to go through that. This was such an inspiring story to read and I am glad that you decided to share it!

  5. Nicholas,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love how speech therapy has been a positive influence for you. I am in graduate school to become a speech language pathologist and work with students that stutter. You mentioned some techniques that have helped you with your stutter and fear/anxiety, can you share what those techniques were?

    • Of course. One of my favourite techniques is called the diaphragmatic breathing technique whereby you breathe gently in and out from your stomach. When you breathe in, the air should go into the stomach, not the chest. When you breathe out, the air should come from the stomach, not the chest.

      It also helps to prolong vowel sounds. For example, saying ‘haaaaappy’ instead of happy. It sounds strange at first, but it can make a difference.

      There is another technique called the ‘mushy mouth’ where you pronounce sounds very gently/softly.

      And finally, talking slowly.

  6. Nicholas,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. As a studying graduate clinician in speech pathology, hearing stories like this confirm that I chose the right career path. My goal as a speech therapist is to positively impact every person I work with. I’m so glad you had a positive experience. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Nicholas,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it’s amazing that speech therapy has caused you to see a different outlook. This world is cruel, but I think your positive outlook can inspire others. Thank you again for sharing!

  8. Hi Nicholas,

    Thank you for sharing your story! I find it amazing how your outlook has changed over just a short amount of time. What different techniques has your speech therapist worked with you on that you felt worked really well for you and ones that didn’t work quite as well? Again, thank you for sharing!

    • One of my favourite techniques is called the diaphragmatic breathing technique whereby you breathe gently in and out from your stomach. When you breathe in, the air should go into the stomach, not the chest. When you breathe out, the air should come from the stomach, not the chest.

      It also helps to prolong vowel sounds. For example, saying ‘haaaaappy’ instead of happy. It sounds strange at first, but it can make a difference.

      There is another technique called the ‘mushy mouth’ where you pronounce sounds very gently/softly.

      And finally, talking slowly.

      I would say talking slowly and diaphragmatic breathing have worked best for me. As for the ones which didn’t work so well, I would say I’ve struggled with the mushy mouth a bit.

  9. Hi Nicholas,
    I just want to take the time to thank you and appreciate you for sharing your story! I think it’s awesome that you decided to take on speech therapy and that it was able to bring new techniques and methods to your speech and how it brought you hope to practice and seek for the future. I also want to mention that there are people out there that will never understand what you go through, and I apologize for all the negativity you were given, just remember you just need to focus on the good of those who will support you and that want to see you keep striving. I also want to ask, I notice you mention that, “saying things such as “Calm down” and “Breathe” does not help the situation, in your eyes what would help you in situations like this for those who want to help, but don’t quite know how?

    • Hello Jessystar1129,

      I think it would help if people waited patiently for stutterers to finish. Even though they have good intentions, trying to offer advice sometimes makes the stutterer more self-conscious, creating even more anxiety. Also, thank you so much for reading and replying to my story.

  10. Hello Nicholas,
    I really enjoyed reading your experiences and learning more about how therapy has helped you. I had a question about your experience with the classmates who were disrespectful to you behind your back. I was curious whether this experience had been one of the main decisions that led you to choose to receive speech therapy or if you chose this step because you wanted it for yourself? Thank you again and I look forward to your response.

    • Hello alissadc79,

      It was actually my seniors who made fun of me. One of my classmates simply actually alerted me about it. This experience actually occurred years before I started speech therapy. I started speech therapy because I thought it what was best for me.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story Nicholas!

    As someone who is studying Speech-Language Pathology, I was very happy to read that you enjoy and notice an improvement in your personal experience. I really liked how you pointed out that those strategies will not help you over night, however with practice and consistency they definitely have a positive outcome. If you don’t mind me asking, what lead you to a speech therapist and what was your initial reaction after first learning some techniques? I look forward to hearing more from you, and again, thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for reading! Regarding my decision to start speech therapy, I was preparing for university and thought it was necessary to improve my fluency before going out into the world. To be honest, I initially thought some of the techniques sounded rather weird. But after realising how efficiently they can work, I was pleasantly surprised.

  12. Hi Nicholas,
    Im happy to hear that you had such a positive experience with your speech therapy. I am currently studying to become an SLP myself. Do you have any advice for future SLPs? When working with PWS, what are some Do’s and Don’ts every SLP should follow?

    • Hello Destiny,

      I would say expose the stutterer to as many techniques as possible, but don’t rush through them. Give PWS sufficient time to practice each technique before introducing the next one. Also, allow PWS to apply these techniques in social settings (under your supervision of course). And keep in mind that every stutterer is different; some of us block, some of us repeat words, some of us prolong sounds etc etc. So what might work for one stutterer might not necessarily work so well for another stutterer. Find what works for each individual.
      Hope these help, and best of luck in your studies!

  13. Hi Nicholas, thank you for sharing your story. I think it is wonderful that you have found speech therapy to be helpful in improving your speech. I am currently studying communication sciences to be an SLP and I am interested in the area of fluency. I am wondering what is some advice you would give to speech therapists that work with elementary aged children to try and help them with some of the psychological aspects surrounding fluency.

  14. Hi Nicholas, thank you for sharing your story. I can imagine you had a difficult time. I am pursuing my career as a speech-language pathologist. From your therapy sessions with the SLP, what did you find to be the most useful?

  15. Hello Nicholas! It is very nice to hear how speech therapy has helped you thus far. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you.
    -What is your favorite thing that your Speech therapist did while helping you?
    -How did you get past being made fun of by your peers?
    -and Lastly, How has your attitude changed toward stuttering since you were younger?

    Thank you so much and my best wishes are with you!

  16. Hi Nicholas!

    I was happy to read that Speech Therapy has helped you with your fluency. I’m a senior in college hoping to graduate and work towards becoming a Speech Therapist. What tips might you have for a therapist when working with someone such as yourself? What have you done in therapy that has been the most effective in improving your stutter?

    Take Care,
    Julianna Arellano

  17. Hi Nicholas!

    I loved reading about your journey! My favorite part what when you talked about your faith and how God created everyone with flaws that make us perfectly unperfect.I also liked how you shared about your experiences with speech therapy and how there is not a treatment or cure to stuttering, it’s simply just accepting that it is apart of you but it does not define who you are.

  18. Hello Nicholas!
    While reading your work, it reminded me of my childhood and the similar challegnes we faced as kids who stutter. I also went to speech therapy for a long time and I totally agree that telling a PWS to “slow down” does not fix anything! You are so right, there is nothing wrong with us! I admire your thoughts dearly and I wish you the best luck on your future endeavors!

    All the best,

    Carlie

  19. Hi Nicholas,
    I am so sorry you had to experience that. Can you tell me more about your trigger for your stutter? I noticed you mentioned fear and anxiety. I would like to learn more about what you experience to have a better understanding. Also, thank you for your bravery and sharing!

  20. Hi Nicholas,
    As a future speech pathologist, I’m happy to hear that speech therapy has improved your fluency! What are some activities/speaking situations you worked on during therapy? Thank you for sharing your story!

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