It takes Brian Taylor twice as long as most to make a simple request such as ordering a pizza, for instance.
“I do that if I have to,” he said. “I just wouldn’t want a job where I’d have to talk to people all the time.”
The 36-year-old has stuttered all of his life, and the speech disability has worsened as he has aged. He was away from speech therapy for 12 years, but he recently returned while trying to regain control of his ability to communicate.
“Some days are better than others,” he said.
Taylor takes weekly lessons at the St. Ambrose University Rite Care Clinic in Davenport. He knows he won’t “cure” the stuttering, but hopes to make it less obvious during conversation.
Major motion picture
Taylor’s difficulty and that of others who stutter will be reflected in a major Hollywood motion picture being released in some theaters Nov. 26 — and at a later date in the Quad-Cities. “The King’s Speech” stars Colin Firth and is already getting Oscar buzz, well before the Academy Award nominations come out.
Firth plays King George VI, the 20th-century British monarch — and father of Queen Elizabeth — who was plagued with a crippling stutter until he was helped by an eccentric Australian speech therapist, according to Entertainment Weekly’s 2010 holiday movie preview.
The king and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were two world leaders who stuttered, yet were able to lead public lives.
The speech community is keeping an eye on the movie in hopes it helps dispel some stereotypes that plague those who stutter, according to Elisa Huff, the director and associate professor of the St. Ambrose master’s degree program in speech-language pathology.
“I just really like the idea of a movie on how stuttering actually is reflected in a person’s life and quality of life,” she said.
No psychological cause
Stuttering is not typically psychological in nature, and people who stutter do not have a personality disorder, Huff said. It is a communication disorder involving disruptions in a person’s speech.
Taylor is a graduate of Augustana College in Rock Island and the father of five children between himself and his partner, Nichole VanDeSampel. Both are natives of Kewanee, Ill., who take college classes in the Quad-Cities.
Taylor was laid-off 18 months ago from a Kewanee-area manufacturing plant and now takes electronics classes at Hamilton Technical College in Davenport. VanDeSampel is in the master’s program for speech pathology at St. Ambrose.
More common in kids
About 3 percent of children stutter, as do 1 percent of adolescents and adults. The challenge to therapists who deal with children is deciding whether it is part of natural speech development or the beginning of a chronic pattern, Huff said.
Early intervention is most effective with children, she said, suggesting that parents or pediatricians seek evaluation by a qualified speech-language pathologist if they become concerned about a child.
Huff works mainly with adults such as Taylor. The biggest challenge for older individuals is to decide what controls their lives. Is it them? Is it the stutter?
“I try to help them get the control back,” she said.
Therapy aims to reduce the amount of stuttering through a variety of treatment techniques. Huff tries for what she calls “communication effectiveness” to teach the adult to stutter less often, and to stutter less severely.
The state of the economy adds to what Huff calls “disfluency” in the general population. Stress causes normal talkers to stutter and stammer, not allowing words to flow smoothly.
“We don’t monitor what we say very well,” she said.
Taylor uses verbal pauses and takes several short breaths when he speaks a sentence. In therapy, he works on basic speech patterns to improve his breathing and on related areas such as maintaining good posture.
It hurts physically to stutter. “There are lots of times where I feel I’m almost out of breath,” he said.
“It wears you out sometimes,” VanDeSampel agreed.
“There have been days where I wish I didn’t need to open my mouth,” Taylor said. “I wish I could just write everything out, I just don’t want to talk.”
But he is a determined man who vows not to let the stuttering affect his life too much.
“Usually, if I have to do something, I know it may be hard, but I’ll go and get it done,” he said. He hates, for example, to give speeches, but he’s done them several times.
His children, ages 2-12 years, all are able to understand their father when he speaks.
“They have learned tolerance and patience with this,” VanDeSampel said, adding that the children presently have no stuttering issues themselves.