What effect stuttering can have on one’s self-confidence and career

Stottertherapie en ademtraining met de Del Ferro methode

Many people who stutter have made a study choice that does not require them to talk much, even though that is not always in line with what they want.

When we think of stuttering, we quickly think of a young child who cannot speak fluently, but faltering speech also occurs among adults. And that can have a huge effect on one’s self-confidence and chosen career path.

Having a voice

Stuttering can cause a huge number of obstacles. Self-confidence can take a huge hit from this, but it can also cause someone to choose a completely different career than they actually envisaged. Stuttering and at the same time aspiring to a career in which speaking plays an important role; this then becomes difficult to achieve, for example. Someone who knows well the effect stuttering can have on you is politician Femke Merel van Kooten. As a young girl, she stuttered badly, but with the Del Ferro Method, she overcame the stutter. Had she not learned to speak fluently? Then, she says, she could have written her career in politics on her belly. “I certainly would not have achieved then what I have achieved now,” Femke tells Merel. “If I had not gotten rid of stuttering, I would never have dared to do this.”

And Femke Merel has certainly managed a few things during her political career. For example, she secured the €1000 net care bonus for 1.4 million people and, together with Renske Leijten, she heard former ministers and top officials under oath about the benefits affair. “I managed all that because I got my voice back,”

Private and work-related obstacles

Not being able to speak fluently is very difficult for children – many experience bullying – but it can also create barriers for adults. “What strikes me is that there is quite a lot of shame around stuttering,” knows Ingrid Del Ferro, who helms the Del Ferro Institute, a centre where people who stutter can go if they want to get rid of it. “Also, the outside world still often jokes about stuttering, which I find very distressing. People won’t always mean any harm, but people don’t realise the impact it has on someone who stutters, and so that person often can’t find the words to defend themselves.”

Someone who stutters may become very suspicious – afraid that the person will be bullied with the stammering speech. It can cause someone to become introverted, even though someone may not be one at all. It can also have a huge impact on the career path someone wants to take. “A lot of studies have been done on the latter,” knows Ingrid. “Many people who stutter have made a study choice that does not require them to speak much, even though that is not always in line with what they want. Someone who would actually like to become a lawyer, but realises that speaking is so important then, ends up choosing a career as, say, a gardener.”

Because people who stutter cannot speak fluently, they also miss many opportunities in the workplace. “Every day I do hear that in my practice,” shares Ingrid. “Certain functions these people cannot perform because they stutter. You can want to chair a meeting, but if someone cannot say the name of the company, they cannot chair a meeting.”

Getting rid of

The crazy – and rather distressing – thing is that many people who stutter are not always aware that they can get rid of stuttering completely. For a time, Femke Merel was one such person. “My stuttering was very bad, so bad that sometimes I had trouble pronouncing my own name. Children laughed at me and a big focus was put on my choppiness, which made the stuttering worse. That did a lot to my self-confidence. I did attend regular speech therapy to get rid of the stuttering, but it didn’t help. By now I thought: it’s part of me, I have to accept it. And that’s also what was said, that maybe I should just learn to live with it. That was very demotivating. It made me a very quiet child, whereas now as an adult I am very extroverted and social.”

Fortunately, Femke Merel joined the Del Ferro Institute when she was 12, where she learned to speak fluently. At the Del Ferro Institute, they do not see stuttering as an ailment you simply have to learn to live with. “Anyone who stutters can completely get rid of it,” shares Ingrid. “Until 1978, people still thought that stuttering was between the ears, but my father Len Del Ferro discovered forty-five years ago that stuttering has a physical cause: the diaphragm muscle, our breathing muscle, makes uncontrolled movements in people who stutter. It also sometimes blocks, which then means there is no pressure on the vocal cords and someone gets stuck in speaking.”

With the Del Ferro Method, it is possible to get rid of stuttering completely. “The basis of this technique is that you start training your diaphragm muscle. Already on the first day of stutter therapy, trainees no longer stutter. In addition, a big piece of mental work takes place; you can get rid of stuttering with a technique, but people also have to work on their self-confidence and get rid of their fear of speaking. We work on that too, together with experts by experience. They know better than anyone else what it is like to also stutter and are a good example; if they got rid of it, so can you.”

A change for everyone

Currently, stutter therapy is not yet covered by the basic health insurance. Femke Merel and Ingrid would like to see this change. “With my party Splinter, we have a huge drive to do get this into basic insurance,” Femke Merel informed. “Speech therapy often does not work for people who stutter. As a result, as Ingrid said, people can become very introverted and choose a job where they have to speak as little as possible. It has a huge impact on one’s life, on one’s personality. Everyone should be able to get stutter therapy. I really want to fight for that. I used to prefer not to talk about my stutter because it was really a dark period of my life, but now I want to offer a voice to those whose voices are not heard.”Both Ingrid and Femke Merel therefore want to urge people who stutter to not just resign themselves to this. “It is often said now that you have to learn to live with it, that you have to accept it. Of course you have to accept yourself, but your identity is not shaped by stuttering. You stutter, but you are not a stutterer, you can get rid of it. Don’t resign yourself to it and look for a method that works for you.”

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

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