Which leads to stuttering later in life

Living with a Speech Disorder: Hello, I'm stuttering

content

Read on one side

The world becomes quieter on the way to Bad Emstal. From Kassel the bus climbs south through the Hessian countryside, past the suburban low-rise building that crouches at the feet of the hills. The Habichtshof can only be found there if you are really looking. A narrow street leads up the slope, soon you can see the exposed aggregate concrete huts, a plot of 40,000 square meters, once a holiday village, today the seat of the Kassel stuttering therapy. It's quiet up there, so you can better listen to yourself.

I stutter. Words have been breaking into pieces, consonants and vowels since I was three. D, G, H, V, F, A. Look at the author's line above and guess: My name was my greatest enemy. The letters came and went over the years, seasonally, as if by themselves. "Sorry, I've got the K this month" is an old stuttering joke with a lot of truth in it. In the meantime, the entire Latin alphabet has already built up in front of me and said: You can't get past us.

There are numbers too. Around 800,000 people in Germany stutter, every hundredth, and there is one woman for every five men. Several tens of millions of neural connections control speech in the brain. More than 70 muscles work so that a word emerges from the play of breath, vocal cords, tongue and lips. If you shorten this process, it fits into one sentence: Asking the time is tailor-made.

Newsletter

SIGN UP HERE FOR FREE

Be there live online when our podcasts are created and meet your favorite hosts at the first ZEIT ONLINE podcast festival on Sunday, June 20, 2021.

With your registration you take note of the data protection regulations.

Many Thanks! We have sent you an email.

Check your mailbox and confirm the newsletter subscription.

I used to often apologize when sentences jammed in my head and anti-tank barriers rose between my throat and mouth - it is difficult to explain exactly where. But now I know what it looks like: the face flushes, the eyes roll, the lips flutter, the neck cramped, the gestures become erratic. At the bakery, at the ticket office, at school. Then I said, very fluently, by the way: "Hello, I'm stuttering."

Anxiety. Shame. Feeling of inferiority. Stuttering is uncomfortable. A fight against myself that I lost many times. Singing worked, whispering too, that's how most of them feel. Meanwhile, chat casually: no. Listening to myself on tape: really bad. Telephoning: almost impossible. Instead, I ran two kilometers to the record store to ask if the "new Iron Maiden" was already there. If the N grad was stuck, I avoided the words that begin with it. For example, instead of the "new" one, I asked for the "just out now". What was language nonsense, but at least liquid nonsense. Later I read dictionary of synonyms and put together an emergency package. If all the tricks did not work, there remained the silent hope that people would be patient with them.

Avoidance is a strategy. Therapy is a different one. As a child I met helpless psychologists who asked what bad had happened to me. A homeopath prescribed four dull white globules, at least with opiates, for 400 marks. A history teacher ordered me to speak very slowly or he would never take my turn again. A speech therapist told me to relax and imagine I was on the beach. Acquaintances offered me an armchair and a glass of water and said "take it easy," with eyes wide with ostentatious understanding. Therapies are often a matter of luck.

The guests who start the ascent to the Habichtshof bring up similar memories and usually stay for two weeks. Most of them stutter from childhood, the time after which there is no cure. The therapy promotes "permanent fluency". And if you believe the studies and articles, it is the best scientifically tested stuttering therapy in Germany. Developed by Alexander Wolff zu Gudenberg, doctor, himself once a strong stutterer. His farm is open twelve times a year.