CHAPTER 20

THE RETIRED MECHANICAL ENGINEER

My case as a stutterer is unique in that I did nothing to correct it until I was seventy-four years of age. I stuttered mildly as a boy, but managed to get by without too much trouble. But after college, when I entered the business world, the situation worsened and I had my troubles. I attempted to speak freely using human willpower, but the results were disastrous. I developed ways of getting by. I often coughed to get started; I avoided certain words, especially those starting with the letter s, and this resulted in very odd sentence structure. Sometimes my telephone conversations were most embarrassing. I did a very bad job of introducing others, asking for directions, and ordering in restaurants. At times I wanted to run and hide.

But I didn't. I struggled on, learning to live with a condition which was so abnormal. I often thought of seeking some sort of therapy but never did. Now I am just satisfied that I didn't, because, having talked recently with other stutterers who tried various curative systems, I found that none of them were helpful.

I had a fairly successful business career in spite of my handicap, although I surely could have done better had my speech been normal.

Then, about twelve months ago I read an article on stuttering, which described briefly the Air Flow Technique. This intrigued me, and I arranged to join an NCS workshop in Los Angeles.

After a revealing two days at the workshop, there began the (sometimes arduous) work of mastering the technique under any circumstance that can befall a speaker. Frankly, I had no idea a wrong habit of speaking could be so stubborn. It seems so easy to master the technique under controlled conditions, but oh how easy it is to forget and return to the old habit. With the help of the weekly tapes reviewed by the National Center for Stuttering staff worker (bless her!), I am making slow but steady progress, and daily getting closer to the goal of complete correction of the old difficulty.

Proofs of progress are many. The automatic use of the technique is becoming stronger and stronger. Words starting with s give me practically no trouble. I use the telephone freely. I make introductions with ease. I order in restaurants for myself and others. I ask directions without difficulty. Speaking in public is becoming easier. I have given talks before more than a hundred people, and while not yet perfect, I have exhibited a freedom I never had before. I have not the slightest doubt my continued practice will bring about the elimination of the problem that plagued me so long.

To say that I am grateful is a complete understatement. When I recall the handicap I once had and note the freedom I now have, it seems like a miracle. And it is all so simple. It promises a wonderful boon to countless individuals who are now in bondage to this awful affliction.

Finally I want to express my deep appreciation for the dedication of the National Center for Stuttering staff in their wonderful work of helping stutterers. One feels the sincerity of their work and is aware of their strong desire to help through patience, encouragement, and scolding when necessary. They deserve strong praise. 


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