The Netherlands has about 170,000 stutterers, about 1 per cent of the population. Many of them think they have to learn to live with their speech problem. So did Stijn Raijmakers (24). After 10 years of speech therapy, he had not made any progress. Now he speaks fluently without effort.

His school days were traumatic, says Stijn. He was bullied daily. “Sometimes they would ask me to say my name again so they could laugh at me. I was also scolded and beaten up.” However, he did not tell his parents the latter. Indeed, Stijn found it difficult to express himself, a problem more stutterers have. “I could not pronounce one word fluently,” he explains. “As a result, I became very quiet. I was stuck in an invisible prison.” His parents tried to find a solution. Stijn stuttered since he could talk.

For ten years, he received weekly speech therapy, to no avail. “In the bridge class, my speech therapist told me to accept that stuttering was part of me”. Tells Stijn. “As a result, my self-confidence dropped to zero.” Soon after, Stijn went to an information day at the Del Ferro Institute. Founder Len Del Ferro discovered in the 1970s that stuttering did not have a psychological cause, as had been assumed until then, but a physical one: the diaphragm muscle would make uncontrolled movements during stuttering. By training this muscle, stuttering can be overcome.


“I was knee-deep scared and insecure,” says Stijn.Then I was also called on stage. I turned bright red and thought: this is going to go wrong. Then Ingrid Del Ferro put her hands on my ribs. I took a deep breath and said a flowing sentence. For the first time in my life! I burst into tears and so did my parents.” Within days, Stijn was rid of the stutter and never relapsed. Although he had every reason to, as his lowest point was yet to come.When I was 18, I left home and lived in 14 places, mostly institutions where care was not properly regulated, Stijn says. “After my grandfather and passed away, I had flashbacks of the time when I was bullied. From the crisis service, I was given medication that only made things worse. I became aggressive and depressed. Under the influence of those medications, I immediately cut knife deep into my wrist.”


Stijn was found just in time. “I didn’t want to die, I wanted help.” At the site of the scar, the text ‘only peace can save you’ is now tattooed. “A quote from my grandmother,” explains Stijn. “She often said it, for example, when I was sad because of bullying.” Rest is also what I learnt from the people at Del Ferro when I am tense or struggling for a while, I focus on that breathing technique and immediately calm down. Stuttering I never do again. People rather think I talk too much. Then I say: yes, I have 13 years to catch up with!

I live in a nice family home and work at a fun daycare with Icelandic horses. I am far from where I want to be, but am grateful that I can be an inspiration to others. That’s why I wrote a book: ‘Only rest can save you’. I am super proud of that! For the first time, I am happy. Without the help of the right people, I wouldn’t have been here.”

This article was published on 30 January 2023 in the Telegraph

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