Wendy Ronaldson is doing a Fine Art Degree, and took the opportunity to be open about her stammer. She created an installation called 'Silence Speaks Volumes', a short video on thoughts and the effects stammering has had on her life. There are also images of her artwork below.
Silence speaks volumes
This project is about my dysfluency and the effect that not being open about it has had on my life. My stammer was a “covert” stammer, but now I want to express the effect that stammering has had on my life through my art.
Hiding my dysfluency affects me emotionally, expressing myself and just being myself is difficult. Everything seems okay visually but emotions run high. There are social expectations of fluent speech and I fear slipping up and not been able to get words out. I do not know what is going to happen next when I’m talking. I feel different from everyone else; I think I shouldn’t be talking if I cannot talk fluently. Blocking creates silence and people talk over me thinking I have finished whatever I’m trying to say, but I am actually still trying to get words out so I use infills to get going on the next word. I feel embarrassed and ashamed when stammering, I think it’s because of past experiences, feeling I’m not in control and the people I am talking to are watching me and waiting for the words to come out. I feel inferior. I then decide to force the words out to save embarrassment and it then feels like I am distorting my face, so I then decide to cheat (that’s my definition of avoidance). I swap the words for “easy” words, therefore not saying what I wanted to say. I ended up talking rubbish some of the time. This caused frustration because the person you’re talking to must think I was talking about something else and I couldn’t get my point across. The emotions and feelings through stammering held me back from moving on and exploring life to the full.
In my project I wanted to be virtually fluent so people could see and hear that although I may be fluent there is loads going on underneath, “behind the door,” in my thoughts, feelings and behavior which cannot be seen or heard; the anxiety, rehearsing, planning, tension, memories, sensing other’s reactions, etc.
I became frustrated with not doing what I wanted in life. Speech therapy was extremely useful: a long journey which made me look at myself and discover what was going on in my daily life. I was so sensitive to stammering I totally hid it. Discussing dysfluency brought it out into the open, which in turn gave me confidence to talk about it. Meeting other people who stammer within group sessions was also useful. I could relate to what they were discussing and I now don’t feel isolated. Getting out and doing things, asking, talking to people really helped and built up my confidence. It seemed daunting at first thoughts but is not as bad as it sounds. I am more open with my stammer and find it less stressful to be overt than covert. I am still progressing to be totally open about my dysfluency whatever the circumstances.
Now I am following my passion: to communicate through art. I am gradually learning to be able to communicate passionately about my art.