Over 25 years ago two teens met at a practice group for people who stutter on LI, NY. We were the only two females out of 20 men in a room of people who stutter. I was 18 and Lisa was 19. The goals of these meetings were to practice fluency tools and that was it. Most of these people were graduates of either airflow therapy or precision fluency. At the time, we were airflow graduates. We were scared that we would stutter and not be able to use our tools effectively. Only fluency was acceptable at these meetings. Stuttering was not allowed. Acceptance was not spoken about at that time. We focused at the meetings and were fluent, but the fear of stuttering was a concern. These were successful business men who wanted fluency for promotions. They weren't going to accept blocking and stuttering from us.
Lisa and I were and are very different in many ways. Lisa was blonde, tall, thin and outgoing. I was more average built with curly hair and painfully shy (I am definitely not shy anymore-LOL). I was the covert stutterer who wanted to hide. We exhanged phone numbers not realizing both of us were petrified to use the phone. (which is funny when I think about it now) We tried to call but hung up when anyone else answered. Luckily caller ID was not invented then. Not to sound old, but they didn't even have e-mails. A few weeks went by and we saw eachother at Hofstra University on the unispan (bridge). We realized we were both attending the same college (this had to be fate). Lisa was a speech pathology major and at the time I was an accounting major. We were so different, but so alike in one way-stuttering. Stuttering had devastated us. It ruined our academic lives and dominated how we interacted with others. I still remember Lisa walking up to me with a big smile and asking if I wanted to go to the Rat (campus eatery) to get a cheeseburger. Those were the best words I had ever heard. I felt so alone at the time. I was a freshman and was afraid to speak. Lisa had been enrolled in speech therapy at the Hofstra clinic. I had taken airflow privately but was having difficulty using it outside of the clinic. When we stuttered, we hit it big time. Blocks and silent pauses as well as facial contortions. She offered to take me to the Hofstra Clinic where I eventually enrolled in airflow therapy. It was exciting at first. We did it together, gave presentations and I even got a job on campus answering phones in the admissions office. We were flying, fluent and life was good. One problem, we never really accepted the fact that we would still stutter and when we did, the shame and embarrassment overpowered us. We were too young to handle these emotions. You might ask, what happened? We crashed and our stuttering came back with a vengeance. We lost control and both felt like failures. Our confidence started nose dying and for years after we couldn't seem to get it back. Lisa had to take public speaking to graduate and failed it several times. It was heartbreaking to watch but yet I have never admired someone so much for sticking to it. She was going to be a speech pathologist no matter what. A few years later, after working in accounting, I decided it was time to stop hiding. I went back for my masters in speech pathology as well. I was told by the first grad school by a speech pathologist who is a board recognized fluency specialist I would never be able to communicate to talk to a parent. If it wasn't for Lisa and my family's support, I might have given up. We stuck together like glue. Lisa is like a sister I never had. She supported me and I her. We eventually decided that we stuttered severely and needed an intensive program. Our stuttering was giving us headaches, causing us to hide and physically and mentally exhausting us. I have to admit by this time our parents and families had spent countless thousands on speech therapy by this time but we were not giving up. Insurance usually didn't pay but we had to do it to survive. Looking back even though money was tight, it was the best money spent. After all, we wanted fluency but most of all self esteem and to lead our lives freely. We took a three week intensive fluency shaping course which helped our speech tremendously. We still had some difficulty when we came home, but always had each other to practice with. We went back for refreshers and it was a long journey. Lisa was more open about her speech than me. She brought it up on interviews and with friends and family. I was still living the lie. I was going to act fluent no matter what. It was killing me inside and I would cringe if the word stuttering was mentioned. So was there any hope? Did these two aspiring speech pathologists make it? Yes, and we soared!!!
I will skip to almost thirty years later. We are now two successful speech pathologists both specializing in fluency disorders. We have walked the walked and talked the talk. We both have wonderful husbands, two beautiful children and two cute dogs, Parker Fudge and Buddie Wallace. We are both fairly fluent but accept that we will probably always stutter. We have talked about it with our children and their friends. We have only heard positive feedback and support. We still use our easy onsets, continuous phonation, pullouts and correct breathing to communicate. We always thought stuttering was the worst thing in our lives when we were younger until we both went through some hard times. Lisa lost her mother and most recently her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I went through the loss of my husband's job and suffered great stress. It is interesting to note that stuttering no longer is the most important concern in our lives. We both call doctors for our kids when we have to, speak to teachers, speak to parents daily and no longer let stuttering rule our lives. I give presentations and workshops to spread the word about stuttering therapy. I provide individual and group therapy as well. We are stronger for what we have been through and still the best of friends. This blog is dedicated to my dear friend Lisa and her sister, Helene, who is battling ovarian cancer with courage and grace.
Remember, Stuttering does NOT have to rule you. Do not give up. Keep seeking speech therapy. You can accept the fact that you stutter and still be more fluent!! Always reach for the stars and no less. Please contact me if you want to talk more. Have a great night and if you are on the east coast, be careful driving in the snow. Thank you Pam for encouraging me to write this post.