When did you first know you were different?


I am a graduate Speech Language Pathology student hoping to learn more about stuttering from people who stutter. I was wondering when you first knew that you stuttered? Was it a person who pointed it out to you or something that you just came to know on you own? Also, at what age were you when you felt comfortable with your stutter? What helped you to get there?

Lastly, is something that you would want a PWS to know that is between these two ages?

Thank you!!

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When did you first know you were different? — 5 Comments

  1. Great question. My earliest memory of stuttering was not the stuttering itself, but rather negative reactions from stuttering. I have vivid memories of my father yelling and screaming at me to “stop talking like, you idiot.”
    I remember he got so angry that his face turned red and a vein on his temple would throb so much that I could see it. I was about 5 years old at that time, and very naturally I internalized that stuttering was bad, and I must have been bad. My father seemed ashamed of me.

    Those early experiences were what propelled me into covert stuttering – doing everything I could to hide stuttering so I wouldn’t be exposed to such negative feedback.

    I finally “came out” in my early 40’s, so missed a lot opportunities and quite frankly, life.


  2. I lived a pretty active life as a child and had lots of friends and was well liked. My first recollection of stuttering was when I had to stand up and read in class. I then remember stuttering with my father and with school teachers but not with my friends. Then I began to stutter on the telephone. I remember a close friend saying how come you can talk to me face to face but not on the phone. I said “I don’t know”.
    In high school after a class I remember a fellow student asking me to say a word that I had blocked on in class. He said how come you can say it here but not in the class. I said “I don’t know”. I think that was the only time a school student ever asked me about my stuttering. I went from stuttering in class to stuttering with all school teachers to eventually stuttering with all “adults” and strangers. In the last year of my university degree (I lived in college with other students) I started to realise I would never be able to go out into the real world and function due to the severity of my stutter and I started to have suicidal thoughts. Then I heard about a 3 week stuttering treatment intensive which I went and did and came out totally fluent. I easily passed a job inteview and got a job. After 6 months my stutter returned with a vengence. I have been trying since that day to work out what stuttering is all about and what I need to do to stay fluent. In that time I have learned an amazing amount about all aspects of stuttering that I have learned from my own experience and also from talking to associating with many other people who stutter. Maintaining fluency has been a big part of my life and I put in as much effort to maintaining it as any other professional puts in to staying at the top of his game. I have never been comfortable with my stutter. I prefer to live my life in what I call “the land of fluency” rather than “the land of stuttering” as I am a completely different person when I am fluent as to how I am when I cannot talk because of chronic stuttering and associated social anxiety. Unfortunately for me my chronic stuttering is always their waiting to take over my whole being. I see what I have to do to bring back my fluency akin to pulling on a mask. A mask that can easily fall off. I have relapsed thousands of times and after each relapse I learn something else about stuttering. What I have learned is another story but I talk about a lot of it on my Stuttering Jack blog. Most people really dont come to terms with their stutter especially if it is chronic and severe with associated social anxiety and if they have been struggling with a fluency shaping methodology. Sure if it is relatively mild or free flowing (not blocking) then if you can come to terms with it then that is generally the best and easiest outcome and often better than living your life working with a fluency shaping technique. But not for me. Finally I would tell my 2 year old self to go with the flow little fella. Your life is set out for you and you will come to learn that your stuttering has been a blessing lot a curse. You might want to read the advice that I gave to a desparate 16 year old girl who stuttered badly.

  3. My first memory was that my parents told me I should stop imitating (aparently I must have met someone who stuttered, but have no memory who that might have been). Since than there were words like “stop stuttering”, “it’s your fault so you need to deal with it”, “you can’t speak”, “you haven’t done your homework as you don’t raise your hand”, “you cannot be in my class as you take up too much time stuttering” and “it’s no use studying, as you’re not getting anywhere anyway”. And also the LOOK in other people’s eyes, wondering what’s wrong with me, or feeling sorry for me, the look of witholding laughter (or openly), people hanging up the phone, etc.

    You can read in my paper in this ISAD what made the change. Do have a look. 🙂

    Stay safe and keep them talking

    Anita Blom

  4. Thank you for this interesting question!

    I knew very early in life that I was “different” in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.
    I started stuttering with my first sentences at age 3, but my first memories regarding stuttering are from age 4.
    However, even before then, I realized I was “different”. I taught myself to read at age 3, and I became aware this was unusual for my age, as my mother brought me around to people’s homes to show them what I could do.

    At around age 4, I started to become aware that my speech wasn’t the same as that of most people around me. I knew that speaking was something quite difficult, and I was aware that most other people – for some reason – were finding speaking much easier than I was. I wondered why, and remember thinking to myself: “Why is talking so much easier for other people, and it’s so hard for me?”
    And my stuttering was severe by age 4 – I remember stuttering even when playing when alone and talking to myself.

    But, as I’ve mentioned in some other replies on this page, I knew another person who stuttered from a very early age, one of my father’s first cousins. Knowing there was someone else having the same problem as me was reassuring – I knew that I wasn’t the only one to have difficulty in speaking, and that therefore this difficulty wasn’t a strange one to have.

    – Paul Goldstein

  5. I see that I missed some of your questions, so I’ll continue.
    Being really comfortable with my stuttering was not something that developed with me until my late 40’s! (This was close to 20 years ago. I’m now in my mid-60’s.)

    For about a quarter-century, from my early 20’s until my mid-40’s, I tried desperately to transform myself into a fluent speaker. I attended a number of different fluency shaping programs, and put enormous efforts into this. Indeed I met with some success, and enjoyed many extended periods of fluency (for weeks, and sometimes for months), with intensive daily practicing and monitoring of techniques in conversation.
    But my successes were always temporary, and sooner or later, my fluency gains always disappeared. It was very frustrating.

    Eventually I just decided to take an entirely different approach.
    I realized that the best thing for me was to simply accept myself for who I was, and who I am – a person who happens to stutter. I came to peacefully and calmly accept me as ME. And if I happen to stutter, so what?
    I find that life is so much less stressful this way, and indeed it has made me a happier person. I no longer am trying to transform myself into someone who I am not – I’m no longer exhausting myself trying to become a consistently fluent speaker. Yes, I have a disorder of speech fluency, and I accept that.

    Between these two ages (see my first response to these questions), there is a stretch of some 44 years – from age 4 to about age 48. My advice to PWS during this large stretch of time, from early childhood to middle age, is to remember that we all have our strengths, and we all have areas that we can regard as our challenges. We can work on our challenges if we wish to, but we are also free to accept ourselves as we are. We are all individuals, and can live life to the fullest in the way that makes us the happiest. It is not always necessary to be like everyone else. This is always a choice that we are free to make.

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