My first attempt toward a relief from my spasms took place when I was barely three years old. As soon as conceptual or connected speech had come I had suffered severe spasms and in the effort to understand my gasping syllables my mother suggested that I sing everything I wished to say. I recall very clearly singing questions to my mother and being teased by my playmates when I attempted to use the same techniques with them. This method promptly fell by the board when I went to school since it was a crutch the other children would not tolerate. My next attempt toward mitigation of my stammering I evolved myself at the age of five. I reasoned that if I could learn a new language I would no longer need fear these mysterious blocks. And so very seriously did I apply myself to the learning of the Finnish alphabet and the few ordinary household words my playmates would teach me. To my great joy the method worked and bringing pressure upon my nursemaid to teach me whole sentences I endeavored to make myself a fluent Finn. However as soon as I began to use connected words and sentences my stammering reappeared and I gave up that avenue of escape.
As I look back I see that all of my energy has been spent not in seeking an adjustment to the fact of my defective speech but in rebellion against it. Perhaps I should have been happier had I accepted myself as I was but then perhaps I should never have been cured. Always I have felt that there was some way out, some gate in the hedge of briars if I could but find it.
In the meantime I kept trying to force my way through, a process more prickly than pleasurable. My manner of adjustment was to resent bitterly any teasing about my thwarted speech, and to whip all the tormentors I could and to run away from all those I couldn$t. There were two consequences of this attitude; I became very proud and very shy. My childhood was not a happy one. I know that I shall never look back upon any golden gladsome childhood days despite the sympathy and kindness of my parents and the beauty of my wilderness environment.
As I entered adolescence I began to realize more and more how valuable and vitally necessary normal speech was to be. Heretofore the evils of the day were sufficient unto themselves; I now began to project them into the future. What, I wondered, could a fellow do for a living if his speech issued forth like air in a jug held under water. Besides new interests and activities were requiring fluent speech. My proud sensitiveness ostracized me from the social group. Where was the way out? I recalled that Demosthenes reputed to have been a stammerer had cured himself by speaking through a mouthful of pebbles. Often of late I have walked along the shore of Lake Michigamme wondering how many of those pebbles had rattled against my teeth. A friend told me that in order to use this method in social situations he had consumed large quantities of that round hard candy known as jawbreakers. Although I employed this method very strenuously for some months it got me nothing but a loose bicuspid. I had failed again.
About this time I was told that the only reason I stammered was because I did not know what I wanted to say. I knew very well, oh exceedingly well, what I wanted to say but hoping there might be something in I disciplined myself to stop whenever I felt a spasm approaching, count to five, visualize exactly what I wanted to say and then proceed to utter it. This system did serve me very well for a time and I felt that I was about to find fluency. However I noticed that my auditors grew restless during my mathematical moments and gazed at me askance when I finally did find tongue. Then too in the manner of most distractions it furnished only temporary relief. Soon I was counting to fifteen and twenty and visualizing the words in green letters on a pink field and stammering plentiously .
Somewhat dampened but not daunted by this new failure, I tried several other ways during the next few years. The pitch of my voice fluctuated alarmingly during this period for some months it would take sudden drops to a low baritone; for some others it would make haphazard variations in altitude and intensity. Of course what I was attempting was to break blocks by altering the tone or quality of my voice. Alas, the transitoriness of these reliefs soon palled upon me and I began to despair.