I’ve worked in the Mo D for over 30 years and my stammer has mostly gone away now, but at school and the start of my career when my dysfluency was at its zenith, the lack of understanding, impatience and in some cases rudeness and mockery exhibited by some people towards me destroyed what confidence I had.The result was that I clammed up and only spoke when I had to.Did King George VI hate the World War I song ‘K-K-K-Katy, Beautiful Katy’ as much as every other stammerer since? ‘The Sensational Stammering Song Success Sung by Soldiers and Sailors,’ read the cover of the sheet music, having an alliterative laugh at those who couldn’t get out the letter ‘s’ — never an easy one for us stammerers. ‘Of c-c-course the king can curse,’ ran a headline in a Sunday newspaper about the film.To most people it would seem an innocuous headline, as K-K-K-Katy was just a silly song. ’ one teacher called me, later deciding I couldn’t be in the school choir because I was ‘too jerky’. You could say, to use modern parlance, that my stammer defined me.” box on any form, but ticking that box could help level the playing field for you.Stammering is a neurological condition, just like autism, cerebral palsy and motor neuron disease.So what is it like to be someone who can’t get his or her words out; whose explosive consonants repeat themselves unstoppably; whose face goes into rictus contortions at the struggle to speak; whose eyes sometimes close involuntarily; who gulps for air and whose whole body strains?
My advice would be to try to understand that for what it is – usually unease and a lack of familiarity with the condition – and take it with a smile and crack on.In my mind I was quick-witted, even good with words.And perhaps having a stammer inadvertently made my career.I was rarely asked questions in class because I could never speak to answer them. It was a problem, yes, somehow more for them than me.
One French teacher suggested that I should run out to the front of the classroom and write the answer on the board because she didn’t have time to wait while I got the words out. That would have meant making an even bigger exhibition of myself. Because, in my head, like everybody else with an impediment, I didn’t stammer.
No doubt it will continue to be seen like this for some time to come by some people.