Written By Jeremiah Kitchen
I didn’t speak much at all from ages 18-30. It was very difficult for me to communicate due to the severity of my stuttering. I avoided speaking as much as I could, and spoke only when necessary and with as few words as possible. I had developed a lifestyle of silence, of solitude, of fear, and of repressing my true personality. All of my speech-therapy in the past had “failed,” even to the point of making my speech worse, not better.
Then I discovered AIS through their website and learned about their more holistic approach to treatment. I thought this might be something that could help me, being very different from my past speech-therapy, so I reached out for more information. A few months later I attended a three-week intensive program at AIS (in January 2012), made possible by the financial assistance they offered me. I was 30. This marked the start of a long process of healing. Over the next three years I continued therapy with AIS through Skype (my home is in Denver, Colorado), starting with sessions every-other-week, later reducing to once a month.
What made my therapy from AIS different from all my previous therapy was that it addressed more than just the surface behaviors of stuttering. This more holistic approach is what truly helped me, what got to the source of the real “problem”: that being (mostly) my over-reactive and maladaptive reactions to stuttering. The clinicians and I worked together to examine and modify: 1) WHAT I BELIEVED about stuttering, 2) HOW I FELT about stuttering, and 3) WHAT I DID (or didn’t do) in response to stuttering (or to the fear of stuttering). The process was a slow and difficult one, requiring much time, analysis, confrontation, and courage.
As a result, things are much different for me now, at age 33. My stuttering hasn’t disappeared, but it has (in general) become less abnormal, less tense, and shorter in duration. I stutter still, but in a different way, to where the interruptions in my speech don’t interfere much with my communication. In addition, (and this is the most important part), my overall well-being has increased and I do not avoid speaking or speaking situations because of stuttering. In short: I no longer let stuttering restrict my participation in life. This, I believe, is the criteria by which “successful” treatment for stuttering should be judged.
For example, there are many things I do now that I used to avoid doing, such as: inserting my point of view in conversations, taking the initiative in meeting new people, and talking on the telephone. Another big step was in taking a new job. Six months ago I started a job (at a public library) that requires me to spend most of my day talking to people.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable with my voice, to not hate it and not fear it, but to use it freely and fully. And I could not have achieved all of this without the help of AIS.
I am very grateful to the staff at AIS – especially Heather, Amy, and Sara – and to the many donors to the scholarship fund who made my participation at AIS possible. Thanks for helping to free my voice and change my life.