About the presenter: Bobby Childers is a "Person Who Stutters" for 47 years now (I'm 52) and have become a professional at it due to lots and lots of practice. I was born and raised in southeastern New Mexico and now reside in southern New Mexico. I graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor's degree in Business Computer Systems. I've worked as a computer database / network / system administrator, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Fighter, Search and Rescue (team leader, high angle technical rescue, cave rescue) with the last 3 being volunteer positions. I'm currently medically retired due to a acute/chronic heart condition.
I have 2 children (girl-32/boy-29) 3 granddaughters (4, 11, 14) and live with my wife of 23 years, 2 cats and a "mutant-mouse" dog (all females). I can not win in my house due to being surrounded by girls.
I would like to impart some advice to the students and new SLP's; you can take it or leave it, your choice.
Many, many, many years ago while I was in the 3rd grade (1966), my teacher got me into "speech therapy" where I stayed until 6th grade when my dad pulled me out. The "speech therapist" spent most of my time with her having me sound out words with "flash cards" and telling me that I was embarrassing my parents and brand-new baby sister.
I didn't go back to "speech therapy" until 1972 when I was 16 (I've been stuttering for a very long time). I found a whole new item of interest (girls) and wanted to be able to talk to them without stuttering, so my family doctor sent me to a "speech therapy" clinic outside of Denver where I spent about 8 weeks that summer. When my parents came to get me, the doctors told them that I was a "lost cause" and would probably end up in jail (little did they know that many years later, I would end up in the County Jail as a computer network administrator), partly because one of the therapies I had to do was stuff my mouth with marbles and then read a passage from a book. Being the typical teenage boy, I learned rather quickly that I could spit the marbles out and hit the various doctors/therapists between the eyes 9 times out of 10 up to about 15 feet. To say the least, my speech therapy stopped there for several years.
My hometown was rather small during the 1960's and early 1970's, I was the only "PWS" in the entire school system which made things rather difficult. Usually on my first day of class everyone had to give their name in front of the class. It usually took me so long to say my name that the teachers just told me to sit down and I very seldom got called on after that. If I had questions, I would ask the teacher before or after class because it was easier to talk "one-on-one" than in a group setting.
My mother used to tell me that once I began walking, that I would leave the room as I preferred to be alone. In school being a "loner" was great asset to me because I had a extremely difficult time meeting people and making friends. My parents used to ask me why I didn't have any friends, and I would shrug and say I didn't want friends, because being around people meant being teased about my "lack of speech" as I started calling my stuttering in about the 3rd grade. I wasn't big physically (I was tall but very "lightweight") so getting into fights over my "lack of speech" was out of the question with a few exceptions. It was just easier to not talk to anyone.
I didn't even attempt to get into school sponsored sports because that meant I had to talk to people, so I took up Moto-X (dirt motorcycle) racing instead at the tender age of 8. When I turned 16 I turned professional with a sponsorship and everything. When I was on my motorcycle, I could talk to anyone, including my parents without stuttering at all. But once I got off the bike, I would start stuttering immediately and never figured out why.
When I was around 14-15, my grandmothers and to a lesser extent my mother, all began telling me that I would make a "lousy parent" because I had an extreme lack of patience. This went on consistently through my teenage years and beyond. When I finally got married at the age of 29, all where very surprised, but grateful that I married a woman with two young (5 and 8) children and had no plans for any more. Now that I think about it, I think my grandmothers and mother (all long gone now) were afraid that I would "pass on" my stuttering to any offspring since no one else in the family lines ever stuttered before me.
Both of my children were rather young, girl was 8 and boy was 5 when they came into my life and they had never heard anyone stutter before. They asked me about it and I told them that was how I talked, I couldn't control it (my wife didn't care about my speech at all as we had been friends since 1971 - 9th grade). To my grandmothers' surprise, neither of them ever started stuttering, but they were glad that I didn't "reproduce".
My sister's first child was born when I was about 25 (she was 19), and once my nephew began talking, I wasn't allowed (by her) to talk to him at all. A few years later when she had my niece, she relented somewhat and allowed me to talk to her up to the point where she began stuttering slightly (about age 4, it only lasted a few months and she stopped) and my interaction with my nephew and niece was totally cut off until they became teenagers.
After high school I went to New Mexico State University for a couple of years but couldn't handle having to talk to people so I quit and went looking for a job. I had jobs during high school, but they were always jobs that didn't involve talking to people much, especially "outside" people. I had been taking computer science classes in college because it meant I wouldn't have to talk to people much, as computers didn't really care how you talked since back in the middle 1970's you typed everything into them.
When I went looking for a job, I told the prospective employers that I wanted a job where interaction with "outside" people was limited. Once I got used to the people working with me, my stuttering would ease up somewhat, but it was always there. So I got a job where I worked on a mainframe computer and did drafting for Pennzoil. I could go days without saying a word to anyone at all. Once I was sent to Battle Mountain, Nevada, by Pennzoil to work on the mainframe, and went for 12 weeks without talking to anyone once I got started. My mother wasn't too happy because I didn't call her the entire time either.
In 1979 I took the first Emergency Medical Technician-Basic course offered in New Mexico. My instructors were very leery about my ability to interact with patients who were sick, injured, scared, etc., but I passed the class anyway (I later went on to become an EMT-Intermediate for 20 years). I soon discovered that I could talk to any patient about their problems without stuttering, but as soon as I turned to my partners or the police, etc, I would start stuttering all over again.
In 1994 Pennzoil laid me off along with about 700 other people, and I went back to school at local branch college of NMSU where I got my Associates degree in Computer Technology. The college hired me as a computer technician in 1996 after I graduated. It was a small school, and most of the faculty/staff knew me fairly well and my "lack of speech" wasn't an issue for them. After a few months I was promoted to Sr. Technician and put in charge of the Information Technology department for the college, which meant I had employees under me, both full-time and student workers.
In the fall of 1999, after my son graduated from high school, we all moved to Las Cruces so we could attend the main branch of NMSU and finish our degrees (wife, daughter, son and myself). The son is the only one that didn't finish his degree, so I guess 3 out of 4 ain't too bad, huh?
In the spring semester of 2000 while I was a junior at New Mexico State University, one of my professors suggested that I talk with the Speech and Hearing Center on campus. The director there hooked me up with a student SLP (I was her first client) and I discovered that speech therapy had gone to the moon, so to speak. She was a little older than my daughter, but she changed my whole perspective on my "lack of speech". She treated me like a real person, not just a client or as someone to scorn. While I can't remember all of the various techniques she taught me back then, she did teach me that my stuttering didn't define me as a person; it was just a part of me. I learned how to control my stuttering so it was easier and less noticeable.
I had to give a speech in one of my senior level classes as part of my senior thesis, and my professor told me that I could just write it out as I had tried to ask questions in class with minimal success previously. My student SLP talked with my professor and he agreed to allow her to be in the class when I gave my speech. She sat in the front row directly in front of me so I could focus on her instead of a classroom full of people (I'd been in therapy about 8 weeks). I actually managed to give my first "public speech" since grade school (many years previously).
She graduated a few weeks later and moved out of state. The Speech Center director then assigned me two student SLP's (who were also close in age to my daughter) for the summer session of school. The two girls took me to the student center and had me order food for all three of us (I would normally have my wife or daughter order for me) and various other locations around campus and talk to people I normally tried to avoid at all costs. Come fall semester I got a 4th student SLP (also female) and she kept up the "real world" speech therapy that the previous student SLP's had done along with intensive one-on-one therapy with her and occasionally the Speech Center director (who was a Ph.D. and a whole bunch of other letters behind her name).
When I graduated in May 2001 with my bachelor's degree, I was more fluent than I had ever been in my entire life, and all of it was due to the student SLP's and the Speech Center director. They made me feel like they were friends (much younger ones) and not just a patient that they had to deal with to complete their Master's degrees. I never felt like I was a number to them, all of them used to tell me that I reminded them of their fathers because I had the same dry, warped sense of humor they had (such as I would tell them right off the bat, that I didn't like wives, kids, cats and dogs...of course I had a wife, daughter, son, female cat and female dog). Now I have three granddaughters (3, 10 and 13 along with 2 cats and a Mutant-Mouse dog - all females. I'm doomed).
Speaking as an "old hand" at stuttering and stuttering therapy, student and new SLP's, treat your "clients" as friends while they are in "session" with you. Take them out on "real world" experiences if possible, make them order food at your university student center for both of you, have them order food through a "talking box"; while you don't have to really become friends with your "clients", treating them as such will ease their tension while in a therapy session and make it easier on both of you.
My first student SLP got me to join STUTT-L, an internet mailing list about stuttering in spring of 2000 and having that along with my student SLP's really helped me and my perceptions of my "lack of speech". By the time I graduated, I had quit referring to my stuttering as "lack of speech". Having the student SLP's and STUTT-L basically changed my life, at least towards my stuttering was concerned.
You can make a HUGE difference in someone's life, so even though your studies and clinicals are difficult, remember that you are acquiring skills that will change people's lives for the better that will last them a lifetime. May whatever Gods you subscribe too will look down on you with much favor because you are helping people feel better about themselves.
Thank you for helping me years ago and for all the people you will help during your careers.
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