Stijn never wants to stutter again

Stijn overwin stotteren met de Del Ferro methode

From his very first words, Stijn Raijmakers (23) was an extreme stutterer. At school, he was hugely bullied because of this. Against all odds, Stijn later got rid of the stutter anyway.

“I clearly remember sitting in the circle as a kid for class discussion, something I thoroughly hated anyway. All the children told about what they had done over the weekend. My turn was getting closer and closer, the idea was already making me hot.

When I was given the floor, all eyes were on me. My face turned fire-red. I tried to say something, but I completely blocked. I just couldn’t manage to form words in my mouth. Still, I tried. But I started pushing so hard that the muscles in my face cramped. I suffered grimaces as a result. Even more reason for my classmates to laugh at me.”

“The stuttering started from the moment I could talk, As a small child, I was very quiet. I said little to nothing, and when I said something, it came out faltering. I also drew grimaces while talking. From the age of three, I started seeing a speech therapist weekly where I did exercises, later I was also given homework. Stuttering can be hereditary: my mother suffered from it a bit as a child, as did my little brother. But with me it was extreme, stuttering made me unintelligible. Letters and sounds were already difficult for me, let alone whole sentences or stories.

If I was tense, the stuttering got worse. I also had trouble saying my name and hometown. Incidentally, this is not unique, almost every stutterer finds it difficult to pronounce their own name. Faithfully, I did the speech therapy exercises, but none of it helped. I have been to tig hospitals for tests with various experts who thought they could help me. But none of it mattered, I kept stuttering violently.”

Immediately the peeve

“When I was 10, I moved to another hometown with my parents and little brother, When I introduced myself to my new class, things were already going wrong. Of course, I started stuttering again, and as a result, I was immediately chosen as a piss-pot. I was different, also because I have a disorder on the autistic spectrum. Kids can be so mean. It supposedly started as teasing, but it was outright bullying.

Every day I was bullied, laughed at, waited on and beaten up. There were bullying protocols at school, but nothing was done with them. The teachers had absolutely no grip on it. No matter how many times my parents raised the alarm, the bullying continued. I did have a few boyfriends, until they started running with the rest. In class, I sat all alone at the front because no one wanted to sit next to me. And during breaks, I made myself as small as possible and sat alone in a corner.”

“Usually I started crying when I was bullied, out of helplessness because I couldn’t say anything back. But at home, all the sadness and frustrations came out like a bomb. Then I would cry, shout and swear. Funnily enough, cursing was fluent, as were singing and rapping. In grade eight, at the final performance, I rapped a whole section without any problem, even though I couldn’t think of saying a single word ‘just’.”

Years of fruitless speech therapy

“The bullying made me insecure, my self-confidence was zero. And that was further dented when at 13 – after 10 years of speech therapy – I was told by my speech therapist that there was nothing more she could do for me. According to her, I just had to accept the stuttering. Those words knocked the ground out from under my feet. All this time I had hoped for a solution, and now I heard there was none. I was really devastated by that.

A few months later, I was googling for information to give a talk on stuttering. I couldn’t just resign myself to it; there had to be something that could be done against it, For example, I stumbled across a clip from the Youth News featuring a boy who also had a severe stutter and had tried a method called Del Ferro for that. You saw him talking on day one, stuttering heavily. Then on day five – already much better. And by day 10, he was talking fluently. And that while I had been going through fruitless speech therapy for years. I decided to try it too.”

“With my parents, I went to an open afternoon of the institute. There I saw other young people, just as insecure as me. And in that packed room, of all people, I had to come to the front. Shit, now I look like a fool again, I thought. The trainer put her hands on my ribs and asked me to take a deep breath and say my name. As I did so, she gently pushed my ribs inwards so that my diaphragm could not falter – as that is what causes stuttering. ‘I am Stijn Raijmakers,’ I said fluently. My parents got tears in their eyes.”

Learning to talk again

“Then I started attending the 10-day group programme, We started the morning including breathing exercises to help the diaphragm move fluidly. The fact that stuttering is not between the ears but something physical gave me confidence, because you can train your body.We started the morning including breathing exercises to help the diaphragm move fluidly. In the afternoon, we were sent out. Then we would go to a cafe or the station to practice ordering a drink or asking the conductor for information. These exercises helped to build my self-confidence, also because I noticed that talking got better and better and I received more and more compliments.

When I got home after the course, I continued to challenge myself. Every weekend I went to the bakery to get bread. It felt like I had had surgery and had to rehab. I learned to talk again, and it worked. Finally. For the first time, I could say I was Stijn, and not afraid of anyone. That feeling was indescribable, almost like a primal force.”

“Although I got rid of stuttering and then had a great time in high school, my bullying history had become a major trauma. The bullying still haunted me, I got frequent flashbacks of it. Slowly I fell into depression and last year I was admitted to a closed ward. There I was stuffed with drugs. At that time, my grandfather died, and because I was in a closed ward, I could not even attend his funeral.

Seeing no way out, I attempted suicide early this year by slitting my wrists. Fortunately, I was found in time. I tapered off the drugs and slowly crawled out of it. Now I live on my own with guidance and it’s going really well. On the scars on my wrist, I had the saying ‘Only peace can save you’ tattooed. This was a constant saying of my late grandmother, and at difficult times it actually brings me peace.”

“About all my experiences, I have written the book ‘Only rest can save you’ which will be released in June 2022. With this, I want to help and inspire people. Several things were said to me along the lines that I would never achieve anything, like I would never live on my own and never get rid of stuttering, but look how far I have come.

Eleven months ago I was balancing on the brink of death, now I am full of plans and ambitions for the future. I would like to speak as an expert by experience at universities and colleges about my autism and stuttering. And in schools about the impact of bullying.”

Feast of every day

“I am not quite there yet, but I am well on my way. I have become a much stronger person and very proud of myself. Never again will I stutter, and never again will I be so deep that I want to end my life. I am incredibly grateful. I try to make every day a celebration, because I am still here.”

This article was published on the RTL News website on 10 December 2021

The book ‘Only rest can save you’ by Stijn Raijmakers is on sale here

A great experience for our students. You never get used to it. Do you also want to live stutter-free?

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