Some experiences we wish wouldn't have happened to us
One day as I was struggling along the teacher said, "Stand up. Do you mind reading out loud?"
Now, there I was with 35 kids looking at me, and I came out with "No, I don't mind." Of course I wanted to scream, " What do YOU think you stupid B.....?!!!!"
She should have taken me aside privately to talk about it.
It'd be easy to say I was made a stronger person because of it, blah, blah, blah.... But frankly, I wish she would have just skipped over me and spared me the constant humiliation. (Bernadette Repisky, September 2, 1999)
back in india in the eighties where stuttering was pretty much unknown. i used to have a teacher for my native language (tamil). my fluency in tamil was a lot less than in english. this person, knowing that i was a stutterer used to call on me to read aloud in class. i used to virtually struggle with every word in front of a class of 40. he used to condescendingly say "we need a 8 hour class to get this done this way" and would ask me to be seated while asking another person to read. his insensitivity shocks me even now. the embarrasment and humiliation i felt at that juncture should have been felt to be beleived. thank god, my class mates were understanding. its events like this which causes stuttering children to retreat further into themselves. (Balaji Krishnamurthy, September 3, 1999)
After my first severe block early in the year of my first grade, I started into therapy with a public school SLP. After that, I was never called on in class. However, my family moved and I entered 6th grade in another school. My teacher called on me frequently, often visibly showing her frustration with my stuttering. A couple of times at least, as far as I can remember, asking me why I couldn't say such and such a word. As horrendous as that was, my worst experiences in class lay ahead of me in high school. I was a student at Lenox School, a private sectarian secondary school. I started there in 8th grade. Right from the start from upperclass students, I was receiving taunts and other ridicule. There was another person there a grade or two above me who received teasing at a level I've seldom had. To this day I am still somewhat ashamed that I never established contact with him, never told him I understood, never offered my friendship. The next year he didn't come back. The abuse I experienced never let up. But, never from my classmates, only from upperclassmen or the faculty. I guess the last severe abuse occurred in my junior year at a special event celebrating the year's athletic seasons. The lacrosse coach for the varsity team, for which I had served as a kind of all-around lackey, imitated my stuttering before the whole school. I walked out of there that night absolutely devastated and in tears. But I knew then as I know now, I am more than my speech. These teasers are only reflecting on a external behavior. If I had ever believed that my speech is a complete reflection of what I am I would have committed suicide. I hope younger stutterers will take this to heart. Whatever others may say of your speech in a negative way, they don't know you and what they say is no reflection on you. Never let go of that inner sense of your worth. (Jonathan Bashor, September 3, 1999)
My school experiences... I know times have really changed for the better. When I went through school the teacher used to whip the palms of our hands with a ruler because we "wouldn't talk right", in the second grade. It didn't take long to become a mute. All through middle and high school some of the teachers would be sure and bring out the fact that there were people in the class we could make fun of . One gym teacher used to mock us. He would whip us with a paddle and raise us off the floor. He was a really sweet guy. I graduated in 1963. (anonymous, September 3, 1999)
My stuttering increased dramatically in the 5th and 6th grades. That is also the 1st time I "remember" stuttering even though I found out just 3 years ago (from my parents) that I was seeing school SLP's from 1st grade on for stuttering.
I, unfortunately, had many bad experiences with teachers and SLP's alike while in grades 5-12. Grade school teachers actually made me relieved most of the time - even though I now see it as something that made my severity worsen. They would go around the room most of the time for any sort of reading - the phrase "OK, let's go around the room" sent shivers throughout my body. Of course, I would scan ahead and see what paragraph was going to be mine and then scan the paragraph to see what words I would have the most trouble with. When it came to be my turn, I would almost be crying with fear and tension and - what do ya know - I almost always had a big block on the 1st word whether it was a hard one or not. After several seconds of this (an eternity to me back then) the teacher would just call on the next person to "read for me."
I had been a straight A student from 1st through 6th grade. All of a sudden, My sick days skyrocketed = there were oral assignments those days. And, since I never raised my hand again (until the 12th grade) and never did oral assignments or most written ones because we went over them the next day orally - my grades plummeted. I'm convinced I passed a couple subjects just because the teachers felt sorry for me.
Through all of this, stuttering was never talked about. Not one of my teachers or SLP's discussed stuttering. It was literally the forbidden topic of total shame. My parents had been told by the SLP and my pediatrician to never talk about stuttering because it'll go away. By the way, I went to grade school from 1981-1989 - so, this isn't that long ago. So, if I had one thing to tell teachers about students who stutter is to talk about the stuttering with the child. Make it a topic of conversation that is not taboo and does not bring shame. Have meetings with the school SLP (who hopefully is educated about stuttering) and the child to work things out, so the child can participate in class without the fear.
During some very good therapy in college, I decided to become a member of a very select group - a speech-language pathologist who also stutters. I just graduated with my master's degree in SLP this summer. (Andy Floyd - Wid4@AOL.COM - September 3, 1999)
In the ninth grade (which was still considered junior high back then), I was fortunate enough to have an English teacher who was very compassionate and caring towards my stuttering. She did everything in her power to make me feel comfortable when I had to recite in front of the class. I can remember giving an oral presentation and she told me that when I got stuck on a word, I could write it on the blackboard. The first few times that I did this, it was kind of funny, I joked about it. The further into my presentation I got, the more the blackboard filled up with words which I was unable to say. The more I wrote, the more embarassed I became and the worse my stuttering became. What had become an attempt by this caring teacher to help me in the best way she knew how, had become a complete disaster. Actually, I think that the teacher felt as bad as I did. After class, we had a little talk about what had happened and what she and I could do next time I had to speak in the class. By the way, this occurred at a time when I had not had any speech therapy for about five years, and I was ill equipped to really handle the situation at this time. (Bernie Weiner - Berniewin@aol.com - September 3, 1999)
The first week of school, it is the same each year. New people, new classes, new teachers, and the same fears. The fear of not being able to speak fluently in front of the class, and of how my fellow classmates will react to my stuttering. Some people think that because stuttering is strange, because the PWS (person who stutters) is strange. Last spring, I remember the first day of English 207. I registered for the smaller, writing intensive lecture. We had the usual get in a circle 'introduce yourselves and your hobbies' to the class. Speaking in front of a group of people is scary for people who stutter. Our pulse increases, our knees may shake, our body sweats,and our minds race with thoughts of fluency (ie., 'Damn it, I know I'm going to stutter and make a fool of myself in front of the whole *^&&%%6! class.). We think to ourselves, 'I'd rather be skipping class than embarrassing myself with my stuttering on this first day of class because I have to speak to a bunch of peers who don't know how to listen to a stutterer. 'M-m-m-my name is P-P-Paul.' And I continued to stutter through the remainder of my as brief as possible introduction. I hear laughter from several classmates. I dare not look up and see their faces. That would be too painful. Awareness is painful. I sit in embarrassment. I am thankful that the first day of class with 'speaking circles' is finished. (Paul Engleman, September 3, 1999)
I've had some bad experiences with my teachers, telling me what jobs and other things in life I COULDN'T do, but the worst was my geography teacher. I wasn't good in geography and because of the way she always treated me, my enthusiasm was not much. She mocked me, laughed at my work in front of the others and when I really did a good job she said aloud "I didn't expect that from you". She loved to check my homework by making me come forward, asking me questions, knowing I had two choices: saying I didn't know or stuttering. Even my father talked to her, but the situation really went bad after that. Why? When I met her at a high school reunion 10 years later I asked her why. Once again she gave me that condescending smile and told me she was a left-winged politician and my father a right-winged.....
Even as an adult I worked hard for my presentation in Swedish class. I asked her if I could do my presentation only in front of her, which she accepted. I did my very best, presenting not only written material with history and backgrounds, but pictures, overhead, tapes and a lot more, but was I nervous and I stuttered like crazy! When I was ready I was relieved and proud of myself, knowing I would surely get an A. Then she told me I went overtime and I got a C! I explained to her that half of my time was repeating words and that I even clocked my presentation at home, but no mercy. I had to think of that before........ (Anita Blom, Sweden, September 9, 1999)
I remember experiences in grade school where stuttering was simply something I did not talk about with my teachers. They never brought it up to me either. It would have been helpful if they had. I was in the third grade when I finally accepted that I had a speech problem. My teacher wanted to put me in the middle reading group, while I thought that my abilities indicated that I should be in the top reading group. I asked my mom what the word was that I did (stutter), and I talked to my teacher. I don't remember what her response was, but I think I stayed in the middle reading class. When I was in the seventh grade, we were required to give speeches in class. I had to give speeches even though I stuttered. At that time I did not know that I could talk to the teacher about getting out of it. So I did it anyway. My stuttering at that point was more repeating sounds. Throughout that year and the next, I was mimicked by some boys who lived in the same housing complex as I did. I quickly learned to try to avoid talking around them. That year my speech started changing to more blocking than repeating sounds. (update - Recently I got an e-mail from one of the guys from junior high who had teased me. He apologized for teasing me, and said that he admired me so much for giving speeches even though I had a stuttering problem. He told me that he had been petrified to give speeches and continues to be afraid to give speeches in public.) (Sarah Henderson, September 20, 1999)
Okay, picture this. My entire sixth grade class sitting in the cafeteria split into reading groups. Anyone else remember when reading groups were named after "birds?" This would have been in 1971-72. I loved my 6th grade teacher, she was old, strict but had a heart of gold. My group was at one of the tables reading silently, the group up front with the teacher was discussing the book that they were reading, a book about someone with a handicap. All the sudden I heard the teacher start to explain the word handicap to the group. Yep, you guessed it, she used me as an example. I remember feeling crushed and so hurt. I never thought of myself as having a handicap. I knew I stuttered, so did the rest of the school but a HANDICAP? I never quite thought of my teacher in the same way after that day. (posted to Stutt-l, July 22, 1999 by Sally Butcher)
I went to at least five different speech therapists in different public schools (my Dad was in the military so we moved around a lot) and I truly liked all but one. When I was in either 5th or 6th grade, my speech therapist told me that I stuttered because I wanted to, and that the reason I couldn't stop myself from stuttering was because I really didn't want to. And even though I initially thought she was crazy for suggesting something like this, I actually began to believe what she told me, and so did my parents. Thus, when I stuttered at home, it wasn't uncommon for my parents to criticize my stuttering and remind me that I could stop if I wanted to.
This woman did cure me of a problem I had with making eye contact with people when I stuttered, but that later resurfaced. When I sat in her speech room, I remember thinking, "I guess I'll do what she wants and think like she wants if it means I can get rid of my stuttering," but outside her room I really didn't believe or practice the skills she taught me in therapy. For example, she wanted me to ask my English teacher to tally the amount of dysfluencies I made on a daily basis and then bring that record to speech. She wrote a nice letter and designed a tally sheet, both of whhich she put in an envelope and gave me to deliver to my teacher. I ended up hiding it in my English folder and lying to my speech teacher that I had indeed delivered it, but that I just forgot to bring it with me to speech every week so we could review my daily dysfluencies.
Eventually, everyone found out about my deceptions--my speech therapist, my English teacher and my parents. My parents had a conference with my therapist--which I got to sit in on, too. While they were arguing--and I mean ARGUING--about what was best for me, I somehow told them all that 1) I no longer believed that I caused myself to stutter and that 2) I no longer would be needing any more speech therapy, ever again. The three of them asked me, "Then how will you learn to stop stuttering?" and I think I told them, "I'll do it myself," but I don't think I really believed that. And I did not return the next year to speech therapy even though two women doing screenings came calling. I didn't return to speech therapy until I was a junior in high school--which, thank God, was a very positive experience. (originally posted to Stutt-L on 31 Mar 1999 by Will McGee)
First embarrassing moment: In my elementary school, we often have to yell our grades on homework and quizzes outloud for the teacher to record in her book. I had trouble, especially with the numbers in the 90's. I was a smart student and hated getting A's and B's because I stuttered on those scores. One day, my teacher got tired of my quiet voice, not knowing that I was trying to hide my stuttering. She told her T.A. to go outside and listen for a number that I would yell! Yes, the entire class was watching. The teacher told me a number and I said it as loud as I could. The teacher orders the T.A. to come in. "What did you hear?" "23?" says the T.A. "Go back outside." The T.A. goes outside and the teacher turns to me and says, "She probably heard me say that one." Oh! The hurt! Oh the pain! Yes, this goes on with the teacher whispering numbers to me for me to yell out! For once I was smarter than the teacher knowing it was all futile and just a time of humility in front of the class! She was trying to break me out of my shell but really she can't accept the fact that not all people can be loud-talkers.
Second embarrassing moment: This was in the fifth grade. Actually this is a common experience always coming back to me. It is reading time and we're taking turns reading. I remember it came to my turn. The first word was "would." Would?!?! I can't say that! It got embarrassingly quiet when it came to my turn. I was busy whispering, "W-w-w-w-w-w-" I got angry with myself because it just wouldn't come out. The teacher finally yelled at me to start reading. Augh! The blind world we live in....
by Jenny Woo, age 17
Posted to Stutt-L on February 1, 2004: "A teacher was reprimanded today for yelling at a CWS for wasting the class�s time when she struggled on a word. Ironically, the word that she was stuttering on was Moses. The school responded by switching the student to another classroom. Unfortunately, she will still have that teacher for 2 subjects."
section added September 3, 1999
last modified February 3, 2004
Many of us struggle in high school trying to figure out who we are, building relationships, coming into adulthood. It isn't easy. It's hectic. It's messy. It's draining and exhausting in every sense of the word.
High school was one of the worst experiences of my life.
First, the struggle was that I wasn't feeling challenged in my classes (aside from math, but that is an entirely different story). I felt that the teachers on campus were only there so that they could get a decent paycheck. I had friends (and some amazing ones), but I was never in the popular crowd -- I was stuck.
I wasn't happy.
A friendship-turned-relationship had fallen apart. It was my first taste of pure heartbreak. I was sinking into the first major depression of my life. I felt alone, unwanted and lost.
Teachers didn't seem to care at all -- few people reached out to me to see if I was okay. And on the rare occasion that I did open up and tell someone what I was struggling with, I got the classic "Things aren't that bad" or "You're fine."
That didn't help. In fact, a lot of times it made things even worse.
I don't remember a lot of my high school experience because I blocked most of it out. To this day, there are still memories that I don't even know if they are real or if they are just some pieced-together dream. Later on, I learned that blocking things out was my way of coping.
On top of not feeling like the teachers and staff cared about their students, not being challenged in my classes (or really learning in some of them), I was dealing with a few health issues of my own. I knew that there were some things that were not right. I knew that my eating habits were not right. I struggled (and I still do today) -- and then I finally mustered up what little courage I had to get help...
Only to be told that there wasn't a thing wrong with me and that my eating habits were that of a "normal teenage girl." That was something that I hope no one ever has to deal with. It was obvious that she felt there wasn't anything "wrong" with me -- but many people in my day-to-day life were starting to notice the behaviors and the weight loss.
I never went back to get help for that. That experience scarred me for life.
I went to the doctor for help because I knew I needed it -- only to be torn down and feel like no one believed me. I was in and out of therapy/counseling but I hated it -- I had a hard enough time opening up to my few close friends, so how was I supposed to open up to a complete stranger? Even these memories are fuzzy and most of them blocked out only to resurface years down the road and send me into a spiral of confusion.
Around that time, my mother began to have some of her own health issues. I didn't understand at that point in time what panic attacks were or how they happened but all I knew was that my mother was in and out of a local hospital to get help.
I missed a lot of school.
I sank back into a depression and began to struggle with my own anxiety. We moved a few times and my grades dropped lower and lower, but I didn't care at that point. I hated high school. I hated life and what it had turned into. I had no motivation.
In many ways, I felt like a failure -- but how was I supposed to feel encouraged and like I could get through this in a school where so few cared? How was I supposed to figure out what I wanted out of life or to build relationships when everything around me had begun to fall apart?
I couldn't. So I stopped trying.
I was transferred to a new school the summer of what would have been my junior year of high school. The first day of school was September 11. As if starting at a new school wasn't hard enough, now I was sitting in my grandmother's living room watching everything play out.
The new school wasn't much better -- again, I struggled to fit in, and the classes didn't challenge me. Teachers didn't care and I struggled to get through, but somehow I made it. I made it until I realized that something had to change.
That change was leaving high school altogether and working on my GED. I started off at a local adult education center, but the structure of the class didn't work well with me so I moved around a bit more before I realized I could study and learn the material on my own at home.
I enrolled in my local community college and the changes were amazing.
Yes, I still struggled with my depression, anxiety and eating disorder. I still struggled, but I began to flourish. I began to see that no matter what life threw at me, I could get by. I was strong. I was a survivor. I had been through hell and back and I was coming back stronger than ever.
Looking back on it, I wish I knew that high school wasn't for me. I felt trapped, lost and alone. I didn't have that experience you hear so many people talk about where they made the best memories of their lives in high school. My experience was the exact opposite.
Looking back on those years and comparing them to where I am now is shocking because I am two different people. Now, I am doing well, feeling challenged in my classes and have a lot of teachers who truly do care about their students. I am at a school that I love and I am on a campus that offers the help I need when things get rough.
It took a lot of time and years of struggling, but I made it through. Even though I hated high school and all the hell I experienced in those years, I'm thankful that I had those experiences to help me get to where I am now.
A lesson to my teenage self: You'll find yourself looking back on experiences when things didn't work out and saying, "That is who I was, and this is who I am now." High school isn't for everyone, and it certainly wasn't for me -- but without the experience, I wouldn't be where I am today.