Donald: 'my stammer returned at 60'
Donald Todd, 69, had a successful career in the City of London. His stammer came back when he emigrated in retirement.
I think I started stammering around 4 or 5. I can’t remember not doing it. By the age of 25, it had more or less gone but it came back once I’d retired.
The village primary school I went to was not sympathetic at all. I think that made it worse. Then I went to a direct grant school. I had speech therapy there and at university but frankly lying on a couch and relaxing were no more attractive to me than they would be to any young boy. I found that relaxing the jaw helped up to a point but frankly I don’t think any of the treatment I had made that much difference.
The real progress came when I left home. I went to university in Edinburgh and at 22, I went to London to work. I was more relaxed once I left home. I had a difficult relationship with my father. He had very strong opinions. He was particularly anti-Catholic whereas I was becoming more and more interested in Catholicism. I had initially been attracted to it through singing in an Anglican choir. Like most stammerers, I have no trouble when singing.
I qualified as an actuary and worked in the City of London. My stammer was barely present but it came back when I retired and moved to France. I had studied French and I read it as easily as I can read English but I wasn’t in the habit of speaking it. I had all the old problems. I struggle with P and S like George VI. My knowledge of the language has improved enormously but the stammer remains.
'More psychological than mechanical'
It’s a curious, puzzling disability – impossible to explain. In my case, it’s clearly more psychological than mechanical so in theory a psychoanalytical approach ought to be helpful for me but I tried psychotherapy and that wasn’t for me.
As a child I had some problems with asthma. They developed about the same time as the stammer. Now, a bad asthma attack can be very frightening, especially for a child, and I wonder if I perhaps had one which was very traumatic. I don’t remember it but it’s possible.
My asthma is under control now and I haven’t had an attack for years. There is a correlation between tiredness and stammering but apart from avoiding getting too tired I don’t have a lot of good advice to give.
I do think it’s important to get treatment as early as possible. I didn’t have any speech therapy until I was ten. Yet, having said that, at the time in my life when the stammer cleared up I wasn’t having any treatment at all.
Confidence is clearly a factor. I was confident at work and in talking about work in a way I’m not when speaking French. The other day I was talking a fellow in French, hoping to join his association. It was a nervy experience and I got a bit tied up. Then suddenly he started talking about a topic in which I’m particularly interested and particularly knowledgeable and I became fluent.
To me, stammering is a bit like learning the piano. You’re scared of missing the note so you’re reluctant to play the note. In new, unpredictable situations, you’re even more worried. It’s frustrating because I want to stay here in France and intend to do so.
Page created on March 14th, 2011
Page updated on March 16th, 2011