Did I stutter?

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A few days ago I tweeted an article (that unfortunately I forgot to bookmark) about the move, "The King's Speech." I've yet to see this movie myself, but I'm very interested in checking it out as it focuses on a topic near to my heart - stuttering. I mentioned this when I sent my tweet out and a few minutes later I got an email from JG:

I follow you on twitter and noticed your tweet about stuttering. I too stutter and I am just wondering how it has affected your career? How are you able to speak at conferences and stuff without stuttering? Sometimes the word i will stutter on is a proper noun such so its kinda hard to avoid it. Anyways Just wanted to reach out and I think its always cool to know that people have the same issue as yourself!

I'm not sure how well known this is - I don't really hide it - but I struggle very hard with stuttering. I'm not sure when it started, but I'm pretty sure in college. Like most nerds I was teased in high school, and I can distinctly remember not being teased about stuttering. (I was fat and into computers - so take a wild guess as to what I was teasted about.) My major issues are with "Leh", "Deh", "Meh", "Neh" sounds. So words like Linux, database, Google, are words I struggle very hard with. I've gotten very good at avoidance. For example, I'll use the "Lie-nix" way of saying of Linux. I'll say "back end" instead of database. When you practice using alternate words for many years it simply becomes second nature. Sometimes it's hard. When my family I went to see "Gnomio and Juliet", I knew I was going to have a hard time. My stomach was literally clenching up as I moved forward in line. I ended up saying "5 tickets for Juliet", as if I had forgotten the name, and then said something like "Oh wait - um" and I let the saleslady correct me. It was 100% intentional but it got the job done.

The article I tweeted also made mention of something I had never known. Apparently some stutterers have an easier time when singing or acting. For me, when I present, I typically have no issues stuttering. Presenting feels... different from most social situations. If I'm presenting on a topic I like and the audience is into it, it's very comfortable to me.

But then immediately after the presentation when I'm speaking one on one - the problem returns. Weird, right? JG also mentioned having issues on the phone. My boss likes to tease me about preferring IM over audio, but the fact is, phones scare me too. If I know I'm calling for someone and their name is one I'll have issues with, I'll typically practice the name beforehand, or, when I call, I'll pretend like I've momentarily lost the name of the person I'm trying to reach. Having that second or two to 'stumble' around kind of lets me come back to sound from the side and get it out.

At the end of the day - I'm lucky. I can communicate. It's only problem words - not the entire language. I've met folks far worse than I am and I hear how they have to struggle. At the end of the day - I look it like my dandruff. There is a long list of ailments that are far worse than flakes and a stammer so I'm just going to live with it.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Jason Fisher posted on 2/21/2011 at 1:40 AM

I don't have a stutter issue, but I've had several friends with the condition through the years, and that "difference when presenting" is an interesting note. A good friend of mine had a strong stutter in high school, but through college became convinced that he needed to be in the ministry. Eventually, he did pursue that goal and he has never had an issue with his stuttering while actually presenting, even in front of 500+ people in a large church service. It's fascinating what our brains seem to be able to do and not do, even when we seem to have no insight into what our own brains are doing to us.

As always, thanks for sharing (and thanks to JG as well).

Comment 2 by SuperAlly posted on 2/21/2011 at 2:14 AM

Nice post to share Ray, thanks.

Comment 3 by Ben Nadel posted on 2/21/2011 at 7:08 PM

Ray, I had no idea at all; and, I've talked to you one on one a number of times.

I was watching a documentary about stuttering one time and they found, at least for one patient, that if you hear a recording of your voice AS you are talking (using a feedback loop), it can really help.

Clearly, you manage your stutter; but, I thought you might be curious to try that out for yourself. Maybe it would even be a fun little FLEX Project - to take in an input and then pipe it directly back into the output. I think there is supposed to be a tiny delay in the input/output feedback loop though.

Anyway, just thought it might be interesting.

Comment 4 by Larry C. Lyons posted on 2/22/2011 at 12:09 AM

Right after I finished my Master's degree, I worked on a 2 year research fellowship with the Hollins Communications Research Institute (http://www.stuttering.org/). Their Hollins Fluency System is a very effective form of therapy for stuttering.

When I did the data analysis looking at the effectiveness of the therapy program, we found that immediately after the 19 day very intensive therapy program, well over 95% of the participants spoke fluently. Over a two year followup, that percentage was well over 75%.

You may want to check out the program: http://www.stuttering.org/


Comment 5 by Micah Brown posted on 2/22/2011 at 1:30 AM

Ray, I've never spoken with you one on one but have listened to several of your online seminars and get together's. I have never noticed any issue with stuttering in the least. I would imagine this is a tough thing to get over and you have done a great job.

Comment 6 by Blair S posted on 2/25/2011 at 2:46 AM

I was affected by stuttering while growing up. My parents sent me to a speech therapist to see if that would help. It did help a little, but it wasn't a cure-all. The speech therapist said that my brain would formulate sentences faster than I could talk, and because of that I would stutter. As a kid I would really stutter if I was excited about something and trying to tell someone. My father would tell me to slow down and pronounce each word. (It is the same thing that Bo Jackson does)

As an adult, I'm affected sometimes when I get excited about something that I'm passionate about. But it does not affect my day to day communication at work.