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Getting to grips with my stammer

John Nottingham | 13.09.2016

John Nottingham worked as an accountant for many years before seeing a Speech and Language Therapist, and wishes he had done so sooner.

John NottinhgamI finally got to grips with my stammer when I enlisted the services of a Speech and Language Therapist.

My father’s brother, Harry had a stammer, and used to click his fingers to help to get the words out. About age 10 I too started stammering. I did not know what to do about it. It was frightening and embarrassing. I would go silent and then test if it was still there. Scarily it was! It affected my personality, making me shy to talk and so the real me was being suppressed. Whatever the situation I would consider beforehand what I might have to say and if I could say it.

The stammer affected me in many ways. I had difficulty asking for train tickets, cinema tickets and on the telephone. I became introverted. I did not want to show myself too much in case I stammered in public.

Career

I chose accountancy as a career because it was a job which demanded hours of working on clients’ books and records. Talking was cut to a minimum. The only verbal contact with the client was consulting them with the final accounts.

The salary was minimal and the boss got pleasure from taking the Mickey out of my speech, and after five years I moved to another local accountancy firm. During my short stay there I studied very hard and passed my Final Accountancy Examination.

I moved from a professional accountancy office to a local canning factory, where the wages were much improved. I was the Costing Clerk for the local factory. I did costings daily of the previous day’s production and these had to be completed daily. The work was intense and at busy times of the year the factory personnel were working extremely long days, sometimes sixteen hours each day.

I learned a lot about human nature there. Most of the men were ex-paratroopers, who had seen action at Arnhem. One had to be manly to deal with the situation. Only one had a “chip on his shoulder” and he was difficult until I pointed out to him that this was not Arnhem, but Spalding. I needed his co-operation daily for the stock records. After our little disagreement he was no trouble again.

Bets had been placed, so I was told, as to how long I would hold the position. The previous Costing Clerk had left due to the work pressure. I stayed for five years. The job made me grow up, because to get through each day it was a survival game and my speech impediment was not a factor because I had to get my daily costings done.

The previous Costing Clerk had left due to the work pressure. I stayed for five years. The job made me grow up.

After jobs with two other companies I was unhappy in my work situation, and the accountancy firm I had started with at the age of seventeen heard about me and offered me a job back. I was thirty six by then and the work was similar to when I worked there at seventeen! However, I was now more responsible for my work. Importantly, I had to see clients and so this urged me into action to seek the services of a Speech Therapist.

Seeing a speech therapist

The Speech and Language Therapist called on me at home and she quickly ascertained what I needed to help my speech impediment. She explained that she had seen ship’s captains to coach them to make their speeches on “Captain’s Night”. My problems were mainly breathing, impetuosity, low esteem and the mechanics of speech. She pointed out one could not speak without breath! This seems obvious but when one is nervous about speaking one does get short of breath. She gave me a written passage to read and when I got stuck on a word she explained how to “bounce the word” and so be able to say it. Therefore, the word “many” could be said “me-me-me-many”. This worked with all words I had trouble with. The result was that with this safety mechanism I could tackle any word. My confidence grew each day and now I have no trouble with my speech.

In a sense stammering is character building – one becomes very aware of the fraility in others. This leads you to learn that everybody has a weakness and even the most forthright person is probably only covering up their weakness.

I should have seen a Speech Therapist many years before.  It would have saved me many years of worry, low esteem and trepidation.

In a sense stammering is character building – one becomes very aware of the fraility in others.