February 5, 2013

Are You Having A Laugh Mr Speech Therapist?

For any speech and language therapist that reads this post please do not leave with the impression that I think you are all bad! I actually went to see some really nice and helpful speech therapists during the time in my life when I had a stammer. This was also a rather long time ago and I have no doubt that the guidance and advice that is offered today has somewhat improved from when I had the experience that I am about to explain.

To start with I would like to write a few words about my parents and you will probably realise why I am doing this after you read the rest of the blog post. My parents were and still are amazing people. They have supported me throughout my life and were especially supportive when I had this form of speech impediment. I have always felt very comfortable in their presence and even back then I would rarely stammer when speaking to them. It was like I knew I was safe when they were around due to the fact that I knew they would be looking out for me. If anybody laughed at me they would be quick to "sort them out". This gave me a sense of well being which no doubt led to me having an increased level of confidence when in their company. It must have been (and they have admitted this since) very hard for them to comprehend why I had a stammer and the severity of it - due to the fact that I would generally speak fluently when talking to them. They were hearing from me and third parties such as teachers, parents of friends and other relatives about the way in which the stammer was affecting my life.

At the age of about twelve my parents took me to see yet another speech and language therapist. They described what would happen and as an example they explained that I found it difficult to read a paragraph from a book out aloud in front of the class at school. I also explained that I found some words beginning with certain letters harder to say than other words. The speech therapist, who was a middle aged man, listened and seemingly took everything on board. He then proceeded with a number of pieces of advice which were to do with slowing down and prolonging the words if my memory serves me correctly. I had heard all of this before but tried to keep an open mind.

On our third visit the speech therapist asked me to read a section out aloud from a reading book that he passed to me. I read the passage without any problems and he then stated that he thought I had completed the task excellently and that I should now be fine to do the same when at school. He seemed rather pleased with himself, it was like he had performed a minor miracle. I was sat there thinking that this is not like being at school in any way shape or form. To start with my parents were in the room which gave me added confidence. I also felt comfortable in the presence of the speech therapist who I also knew was there to help me and was somebody that would not mock me if I were to stammer. School however is a whole different ball game for obvious reasons. This guy really believed that he had helped me and that he had found the answers to all of my problems - well that was the impression that I went away with. I thought he was rather deluded and that he obviously had no real comprehension of what it was like to have a stammer.

Looking back as I often do, what did I really expect this man to do? I didn't stammer and therefore he was right to praise me. Perhaps he was attempting to build up my confidence and to make me "believe". Did I want him to accompany me to school? Obviously not. I guess I wanted him to offer more of a reality check by saying something along the lines of:

"Steve that was excellent however that does not mean that you will be able to read as well at school as the level of pressure is completely different. I know that and you know that. But the fact is you have proven to me, yourself and your parents that you can do this type of task without stammering. You need to keep up the practice, trying to increase the levels of pressure as you go. Keep working hard and keep believing Steve".

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