|About the presenter: Russ Hicks has stuttered significantly all his life. He lives in Dallas, Texas, and joined the National Stuttering Association in 1985 and Toastmasters in 1988. He has had great success in Toastmasters, winning the Southwestern United States Regional Humorous Speech Contest in 1996, and is currently a DTM, a Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest rank in Toastmasters International. He founded the Callier Communicators Toastmasters Club in Dallas, the first Toastmasters club in the world devoted exclusively to people who stutter. He is a past president of the Dallas Chapter of the NSA. Russ was the NSA national Member of the Year in 2000 and serves as a webmaster for the national NSA website. He has a personal home page at www.russhicks.com|
Not too long ago I was asked, "How bad do you stutter?" I wish we had a 1-100 scale to measure "how bad we stutter." So something like a 2 would hardly be any stuttering at all and a 99 would be unbelievably horrible. Then I could say I stutter a 68 and you could say that you stutter a 52 so we could agree that I stutter worse than you. You have no idea how many times I've wanted a simple scale like that!
Unfortunately there just isn't a simple scale - and I doubt there ever will be. The reason is that stuttering is a VERY complicated disorder and we all stutter sooooo differently. However let me propose a slightly different scale that is a little more measurable. It's called the "Struggling" scale.
When I was was a teen, I thought I couldn't do ANYTHING until I cured my stuttering. That was the sole purpose in my life - to be fluent. I thought that if I could be fluent, I could conquer the world. So I worked with every bone in my body to STOP STUTTERING! I hated it soooo much that I would do anything to get rid of it! And sure enough I did find some techniques that helped out - but only for a short time. And when those techniques began to wear off, and my stuttering came back, I fought like ten tigers to CONTROL my speech and FORCE myself to be fluent. And guess what? I couldn't do it! No way could I FORCE myself to be fluent. The more I struggled, the worse it got. My jaw dropped down and my mouth became wide open. I jumped up and down on one foot, I hit myself with my hands, I threw my head back and blinked my eyes, I turned red in the face. I was a sight to behold. On that "struggling" scale I would have pegged the meter at a flat 100. People could hardly hear me stutter because they we so distracted by my struggling secondaries! Imagine how you would feel as a listener, trying to make out what I was saying while I was jumping up and down on one foot, whistling to break blocks, turning red in the face, and sweating profusely.
Let me tell you that was no fun for either of us, myself or my listeners! But if you really look at my situation, all those things I was doing wasn't really "stuttering" - it was the STRUGGLE TO KEEP FROM STUTTERING! It's been said that we stutter when we try not to stutter. That was certainly me! And the really bad part of this whole situation was that no matter how hard I struggled, I absolutely could NOT keep from stuttering!
But over the course of many years, I learned that the more I struggled, the more I stuttered - or at least the more I APPEARED to stutter. People couldn't understand me because of my terrible struggles - jaw dropping, head jerking, foot stomping, etc.
Then I slowly learned that even though I couldn't control my stuttering, I COULD begin to control my STRUGGLING. I won't tell you there's a trick to that or that's its a quick process, but I eventually did learn how to significantly reduce my struggling - and sure enough my stuttering began to become easier to handle.
I still stutter, make no mistake about it. When I used to be at 100 on the struggling scale, today I'm probably a 2. I hardly struggle at all any more. My stuttering is very easy and open and almost totally struggle free. I can COMMUNICATE a LOT better than I used to, and I can go into ANY situation and communicate with relative ease. I order the food I want, I order from the Jack in the Box squawk boxes, I ask for directions, I talk on the phone, I give speeches in Toastmasters, I can do ANYTHING that fluent speakers can do. But you listen to me for less than a minute (like maybe ten seconds), and you'll definitely hear me stutter quite a bit. The difference is that it is struggle free stuttering, not filled with lots of secondaries or anxieties. If I stutter, it just comes out easily and openly. And believe it or not, other people don't really care. I know that may be hard to believe but it's true. If YOU struggle with your speech, other people pick up on your struggles a million times more than they do on your actual stuttering. People tend to "mirror" your own feeling towards your speech. If YOU are uncomfortable, then THEY are going to be uncomfortable. If you're at ease, they feel at ease. That's just the way it is.
So to get back to your original question (at last), how bad do I stutter? My answer is that I don't stutter very BAD at all - I stutter pretty GOOD! I certainly do stutter - but very openly and easily. And yes, I certainly DO stutter all the time. And I'll bet anyone will tell you I stutter pretty GOOD!
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