Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Starting to stutter at 18

I want to share with you the story of someone who started stuttering at age 18! It is a very unusual case which might tell us about stuttering itself.
I am 26 years old and study civil engineering. My therapist and people who stutter (PWS) say that my story is a bit unusual, since I’ve started to stutter at age 18. No stressful situation occurred at the onset of my stuttering. If this was the case, I’m sure I would remember, because it was only a few years ago. I’m sure that I have never stuttered as child. I have an older sister who stutters, and my whole family and our close friends know the differences between fluent and stuttered speech.

My story as a PWS starts when I was 18, attending 10th grade. I started to notice some difficulties when I had to say words starting with /r/. I would have to stop for a moment, before I would be able to say the word. At the beginning no one else noticed my difficulties, but I was very much confused. As time passed by, I talked worse and worse. Words starting with /r/ were not as much of a problem any more, but words starting with other syllables started to be a problem. My speech was still fluent most of the time, but after some 6 months people started to notice my problem. At this time, they thought that I’m kidding, but I couldn’t explain to them that I wasn’t jocking. Others asked me if I started to stutter, but I didn’t feel I was stuttering, since it wasn’t the same as other people who stutter whom I know. I felt angry at myself for having a problem that I have never had before, and I was already grown-up. That’s when I started to talk very bad and feel very bad about it.

Heavy stuttering started some 2 years after the onset, at the time when I started university. In addition to my disfluencies, I had repetitions, blocks, voice prolongations and facial muscles spasms (grimaces), as well as spasms of muscles all over body - I would move my arms as a orchestra conductor, kick my feet on the floor, and so on. That is when I started to intentionally use synonyms in order to avoid difficult words and I started to avoid almost all speech situations that I possibly could. It frustrated me a lot. Interestingly for me, at the beginning of a hard stuttering period, I didn’t stutter when speaking under influence of alcohol, nor when I spoke in English, a language that I have never knew perfectly.

For three years I couldn’t find a clinic or therapist, because people told me that no one works with PWS older than 18. In July 2003, I found out an Institute in Belgrade that works with adult PWS too. I immediately started a treatment with an experienced therapist. The first few treatments felt a bit silly, but soon I realised that if I want to improve my speech I will have to adapt to the treatment requirements. After only 6 months I have achieved big improvement, and I was extremely happy. Therapy consisted of individual and group treatment and included direct fluency shaping techniques with a lot of psychological counseling and some elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Therapy required a lot of work by myself, and for the first three months I was doing fluency techniques excercises 2h/day, 6days/week. I was attending ambulance treatment twice per week. Soon, I started to feel more self confidence and I could control my speech even in some everyday situations. I stopped to avoid speech situations. Stuttering was still there, but in smaller extent than before. I practiced direct techniques less than before, but used it in everyday speech situations more and more. In July 2004 I underwent intensive 14-days group stationary treatment led by my therapist. Not much I achieved in fluency, because I already spoke fluently most of the time; I felt a lot more self confident and free from fear of speaking in all situations. Afterwards, bad periods with more disfluent speech occurred only during very stressful situations, such as exams on faculty. Those ‘bad’ periods were characterised by low level of stuttering. Today, I still have some disfluences (light blocks), but I don’t pay attention to them and don’t find them disturbing to me. Since my intensive course, I stopped going to treatments. I continue working on improving myself as a person and a speaker. I occasionally attend self-help group and have participated in a live TV show talking about me and stuttering in general. After that show, I received many calls and messages from my friends and colleagues teasing me that I am a fake member of self-help group since I spoke fantastically.

I consider myself lucky not to have started stuttering early in childhood. I speculate that this absence of bad and cruel experiences connected with stuttering during childhood and growing-up actually contributed in great extent that I solve my problem with stuttering in such short time. On the other hand, I think I would never achieve this good results if I haven’t continuously practiced and followed therapy tasks and demands.

When I started with the treatment, my therapist asked me what I would consider as my goal in this therapy. My answer was “I would consider myself ‘cured’ if I were able to say anything that I want to, at any time in every situation”. Today, I can say that I reached this goal.

18 comments:

Oliver said...

It would be good that he can record a video in YouTube for that we can verify his recuperation, and also that he show us those such techniques of fluency that his therapist taught.

Anonymous said...

That is interesting. I too had late onset stuttering. My junior year of college. Mine was shortly after a traumatic event. That may just be coincidental. It's been 6 years. My stuttering has progressively worsened. I just graduated. Started my first job. Take the bar in two weeks. I'm worried about the time when I actually have to go into court. Alcohol relieves my disfluencies as well. Which is why I have followed Pagoclone closely. To this point I have really considered medication. After reading this I will definately give therapy a good look. Although I do expect to have the same troubles you did finding a therapist. Do therapists even work outside the traditional 9-5? I have my doubts. I certainly don't have the time you did to commit to counseling. Thank you for sharing. I feel a bit empowered.

Tom Weidig said...

Oliver: I have spoken to him personally. The techniques are relatively standard techniques used in Van Ripper and fluency shaping. NO magic weapon.

Anonymous: Would you be willing to write a similar first-person report for my blog? It will of course by anonymous. Good luck with your bar exam!! My email is tom dot weidig at gmail dot com.

Anonymous said...

Bar Taker (Oliver is it?):

Don't sweat the "first appearance." I have PDS and have been an attorney since 1993. Trial judges will clearly ask you about it, but they will also remember your name which, trust me, is good. Best bet is to just focus on the Bar and push forward in career. First few years can be tough in terms of finding the right direction so hang in there. Enough advice. Good luck with the Multistate.

Anonymous said...

Tom. I would be happy to pass along my story. In two weeks of course. I promise it will not be as laden with grammatical mistakes as my last comment. Expect to hear from me in the not so distant future. To the anonymous encourager. Thanks. It's nice to know others have succeeded in the arena I deeply fear.

ora said...

To anonymous: You write "Do therapists even work outside the traditional 9-5? "

In my experience, the answer is yes, but generally they prefer to work during the 10-6 period, and may have only a few hours outside that time. I had a therapist for awhile that I saw on Sunday morning. He was a New Yorker, orthhodox Jewish with a big Jewish practice, and maybe that's why.

It probably also depends on where you live. The more choices you have, the more likely you'll be to find someone with hours that are convenient for you.

By the way, you should be looking for someone with a specialty in fluency disorders (which primarily means stuttering).

Patricia said...

This comment is in response to the anonymous person who experienced a late onset of stuttering. You mentioned that it coincided with a particularly traumatic event in your life. While some may not be familiar with other types of stuttering other than a developmental type, which begins in childhood, there are other types of stuttering. Just from your description it sounds very much like psychogenic disfluencies/stuttering. I would suggest you speak to a speech-language pathologist in your area, who is comfortable treating an individual with your characteristics. Therapy would greatly help to reduce your disfluencies.

T Not said...

I have a similar situation, all my life up until the age 23 i haven't stuttered, but now at 24, i noticed i can barely speak, i will start a sentence but while i'm talking, i will actually forget the words and try to find another word to replace them, leaving me stuttering or hesitating while holding on the to first letter of the next word i was going to say. its embarrassing.

Brendan said...

I must tell you this about myself because this situation is so rare I'm a PWS. I started at the beginning of this month. I also have to tell you that I'm 19. People are at a lost. I'm happy I'm not alone with stuttering at later ages.

Kimmy said...

Hi! I just began to stutter last month.I am about to turn 24 years old, and I didn't have a traumatic event happen either. I have my neurologist and speech therapist bewildered. However, within the 2.5 weeks I have been in therapy I have learned to speak more fluently. The tools they teach you really help and carry over into real situations and life. I'd definitely recommend it. The only thing I have noticed is when I get really nervous or tired I find myself struggling to talk at all... Every word feels like a stutter. However when breaks are taken properly things seem to go smoother!! So glad Ito hear others have had a late onset of stuttering!

Anonymous said...

It is such a relief to hear that I'm not the only one who experienced a late onset of stuttering and difficulty speaking. I'm currently 40 years old and at the age of 18, just out the clear blue, I started stuttering and having difficulty speaking in some instances. Sometimes I even experience facial tics in my mouth area and vocals. It has worsened over the years and very embarrassing. I never had this problem during childhood. For years, I've been researching and still don't have a clue as to what's going on with me. I have noticed that when I'm nervous, stressed out or under pressure, it worsens. But oddly enough, alcohol helps my speech and stuttering. I haven't seen a doctor about it, but my mother did suggest going to see a neurologist. Thanks for sharing your story. Maybe I can try seeing a therapist. I really wish I could find out what's causing this.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just realised this is an old thread. But I see the person above me commented recently!

I'm sorry for the massive wall of text, but I feel the need to explain everything that has happened.

Firstly, a little bit about myself. :)

My name is Natalie, I'm from the UK and I'm 23 years old. I am quite active, I ice skate 3 times a week and in the last few months I have started learning ice hockey. Now before you ask, no I have not had any accidents while skating, nor have I ever been hit in the head. I live with my boyfriend who is literally the nicest person I have ever met. I have been with him for almost 2 years now and we plan to get married next year in August. I have a good job, fantastic boss and I generally love my life. Obviously nothing is ever perfect, but I consider myself extremely lucky.

I started stammering extremely badly 2 weeks ago, completely out of no where! I have never had a stammer at all and I love talking. Now I can barely get the words out, it's all slurred and just all over the place! It all happened within a few hours. My body started to spasm and twitch and then I couldn't get the words out. I've been in the hospital since then with doctors struggling to find a cause.


The symptoms I have are;


A heavy stammer - very slight improvement, but I've been trying tips. I've been writing notes when I get too tired to speak.
Weakening of the right eye which causes it to drift and gives me double vision (not too much of a problem, but very annoying)
Random spasms - This could be just an arm or leg or my whole body, generally lasting a few minutes at a time. This went on for a few days but seem to have completely stopped now.
Chewing - it feels off for some reason, and swallowing is slightly more difficult.
Low blood pressure - this might just be normal for me, or most likely because of not being able to eat very much. It seems to hover around 84/53 - sometimes very slightly higher or lower. The nurses seem concerned about it but I have no idea why? (Probably nothing to worry about though)

Also, potentially not related but I've had nausea for 3 weeks beforehand and still now, this strikes daily and leave me barely able to move or do much. It can generally last anywhere between 1 - 6 hours. I tried to live my normal life around it. But now I struggle to eat. Eating leaves me exhausted and feeling sick. The doctors are not concerned about this much though, so I just let it go. But I want to eat! XD


My doctors did an MRI and a CT-Scan and everything looks normal. Not a stroke or disease or anything they can see. They have taken loads of blood from me to run tests, but they could take a while. They also have me set up for speech therapy to help regain a normal speaking pattern. But so far are refusing to let me out of the hospital! I feel fine physically and I can still read, write and understand the same. My balance is pretty much back to normal.

I'll honestly say, the first week I wasn't bothered at all. I was laughing my little head off thinking how weird it all was! I'm still not too concerned and I'm sure I can overcome this! I'm just so confused as to why. Why did this happen?

My boyfriend is so chilled with it all, he just really misses me. He says the flat is very lonely without me. He comes to visit everyday too! I feel so bad....

I made my best friend and my mum cry when I spoke to them over the phone. :(

I haven't cried at all. I just don't feel the need to. I'm just really confused.

It's really nice to hear of others who have developed a stammer later on in life. While the circumstances surrounding maybe aren't the same, perhaps there is someone out there who has had a similar experience?

Anyway, even if no one reads this or even cares, it feels nice to write it all out.

I wish everyone the best of luck in life!


kenneth majola said...

My stuttering began when I was around 15-16 years (I'm currently 20).Initially, I thought that maybe it was my anxiety issues but it started getting worse around 18 years. It was was very weird for me and people who knew me growing up. There is no family history of stuttering. Its weird or me cuz I have really bad social anxiety and so I really struggle to speak fluently even in small groups or when I'm raged. I guess I feel better that I'm no the only one with this problem although I still wonder why some people stutter at a late age. And its also interesting that this late onset of stuttering begins around mid-teen.

Nkalipho said...

My stuttering began when I was around 15-16 years (I'm currently 20).Initially, I thought that maybe it was my anxiety issues but it started getting worse around 18 years. It was was very weird for me and people who knew me growing up. There is no family history of stuttering. Its weird or me cuz I have really bad social anxiety and so I really struggle to speak fluently even in small groups or when I'm raged. I guess I feel better that I'm no the only one with this problem although I still wonder why some people stutter at a late age. And its also interesting that this late onset of stuttering begins around mid-teen.

Samantha M Sanchez said...

I know that this is really late and everything but I'm about to turn 18 in about 3 weeks and i just picked up stuttering around last year but it bothers me because I never had it growing up. And it's not like a traditional stutter.. I don't really know how to explain it but when I try to talk to someone my words sometimes get caught in each other and they come out like as if I'm missing a couple letters in the words. And makes me mad and when I get mad because it keeps happening I'll try to say a sentence and you wouldn't be able to understand any of the words that are coming out of my mouth. But if I take a breath and try to say it again it'll come out perfect. And when I try to read anything out loud I mess up all the time and no one knows what I'm saying and I know it's not like I can't read because I love to read but when I try to let the words fly off my tounge like a dove they come out more like a car crash. Its just really frustrating and i wanna know if therapy could help me. Maybe it's all in my head.

Samantha M Sanchez said...

I know that this is really late and everything but I'm about to turn 18 in about 3 weeks and i just picked up stuttering around last year but it bothers me because I never had it growing up. And it's not like a traditional stutter.. I don't really know how to explain it but when I try to talk to someone my words sometimes get caught in each other and they come out like as if I'm missing a couple letters in the words. And makes me mad and when I get mad because it keeps happening I'll try to say a sentence and you wouldn't be able to understand any of the words that are coming out of my mouth. But if I take a breath and try to say it again it'll come out perfect. And when I try to read anything out loud I mess up all the time and no one knows what I'm saying and I know it's not like I can't read because I love to read but when I try to let the words fly off my tounge like a dove they come out more like a car crash. Its just really frustrating and i wanna know if therapy could help me. Maybe it's all in my head.

Unknown said...

My daughter whom will be 15 in June came home with a pretty serious stutter out of no where today. She has serious social anxiety also so I wonder if that might have anything to do with it.

Shahbaz Hussain said...

Thanks a lot for this post.I had similar but somewhat different experience.Throughout my childhood, I was a great speaker.Although, I learned to speak late, by the age of four, when I started to speak I speak fluently.This is something that accounts of my family memories and my own experiences confirm.In fact, reading out loud from the book , something that we as a child always have to do at schools in class, was my favorite practice.My Urdu and English teachers always picked me to read out loud from the book in class.However, by the time I entered in 8th grade, having age of fourteen years, things dramatically changed.First of all something great happened, what really changed was that I became much faster in speech.This thing amazed both me and my teacher, I started reading, speaking things, at fabulous speed.Everyone, including me, seemed to enjoy this.However, I soon started losing control over my speech.Initially, it was just about speed, I started speaking at the speed that everything sounds meaningless, like a gibberish. I tried hard to slow down but I could help speaking fast.Plus I also found it difficult to speak words that I used to pronounce well.What is worse, sometimes what happens with me it that I stuck meanwhile I am speaking.For example, I was trying to speak something to my teacher when I got stuck, I tried to speak but words couldn't come out of my mouth for some time.Part of that could be explained through 'my minds work faster than my tongue' logic.For all of my teenage, this situation persists.Though with the advent of adulthood I naturally calm down and learned to control my speech.Please explain it.