Navigating through life, language, dance & yoga whilst stammering

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Nicole Olivia Scott explains how dance and yoga help with her stammer, as well as the challenges of learning a new language. 

I have always known I was different. Different from my friends, family, everyone. I've always felt as if I'm on the outside looking in, and felt individuality through that. However, there have been many times I have doubted myself and asked my inner-self the questions: who am I?, why was I saved to live?, would the world be better without me? 

I started stammering when I was 5. I had always been a shy, quiet though introverted child and was bullied during school. I have friends who know me and when my stammer is bad they are there, and patient, which is reassuring. However, as I grew up it got worse, with what I would call 'good spells' and 'bad spells' that would last months, so I would go six months of speaking semi-fluently then something would happen where a word or letter or experience would trigger it. It made me wonder why it wouldn’t go away, and why won’t my family understand or have the patience to let me speak, etc. 

Dance & yoga

I used the art of dance as a tool to experience myself. I was able to say what I wanted through my body; they say dance doesn't let you hide. When I got older I got into yoga as another form of movement and a way to listen to my inner voice (light). When I say 'light' I mean voice or energy — inside each of us we have energy which we can shift to various parts of the body, and which can help us heal or listen and find truth within ourselves. Our energy can take various forms; mine’s a ball of light, so I call it light. Maybe try it yourself through meditation and see and accept what comes up, if anything. If nothing comes up, then just enjoy the silence and taking time for yourself — find what feels good!

Doing yoga is a way for me to listen and calm down.

For the best part of 10 years I had speech therapy across London. Also, having a dyslexia diagnosis later on, I noticed as I got older the mental and physical strain that the stammer was having on my body was getting worse. I can only describe it as two opposing forces: my head wanting to explode and my chest and neck being crushed beyond repair unless I take that breath that my body is craving. It feels like my inner voice is screaming the words that I know how to say but can't, even if I go back to the connecting word before and try to bounce it, it doesn't work. 

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If I have a 'bad spell' I give my neck and chest a few days to rest, speaking as little as possible. I mentioned before that I do yoga. During the resting period I focus on the various chakras, or energy areas within the body, to try to balance out the energy and heal myself from within. Doing yoga is a way for me to listen and calm down. 

Learning a new language

Another aspect that is affected is my speaking skills when speaking Italian. I have been learning it for three years and have lived in Italy for a period of time. One of the first things I learnt was 'io balbetto' (which translates as 'I stammer'), from the verb 'balbettare', to stammer. If I was going to learn this language, I knew that I would need that verb. I use words to bounce onto other words and it's the same in Italian. I use the subject pronoun (io) to bounce onto the first person singular of the verb (balbetto).

I have a three-word rule: Passion. Patience. Persistence.

In Italian I can write pretty well, I listen to a lot of podcasts and music, and I read intermediate level Italian material well, though speaking is always hard. Most people are understanding, kind patient and helpful. I always carry a small notebook and pen around with me and it helps a lot, both for English and Italian. My passion for the language is tested at times but I know I can find my way with it. To stammer in your mother language is hard enough but trying to navigate through another language with a stammer is beyond difficult, but what is life without a few challenges?

I have a three-word rule: Passion. Patience. Persistence. Everyone has something, it's just whether you let your light shine regardless. The question of why am I here never goes away but I know that my stammer won't either, so I will continue to be me and share my light with people who accept all of me. I would rather be imperfect and real than perfect and unreal. Be your own imperfectly real self no matter what!

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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