Thank you for sharing your story Angelique! You told us that you used to stutter an awful lot. When did that start, and how are things now?
‘As far as I can remember, I started stuttering when I was at primary school. I used to be a very shy, uncertain and also quite sensitive girl. I also had a lazy eye, as a result of which I had to wear glasses, including a plaster on my right eye. That meant I was teased a lot, even at nursery school. When I went to primary school, I developed an anxiety to talk and I started to stutter, which only made the teasing worse. Now I scarcely stutter at all. Occasionally, my speech still gets disrupted, but that does not need a label.’
What impact did stuttering have on you, during your work or in your home environment?
‘Stuttering used to have a considerable impact on my life. I still have several old diaries in which I can read how lonely I felt, and I really longed for a life without stuttering. The idea that you could always say what you wanted was like a dream to me. And what is so great about dreams is that they can come true. I can still vividly remember those sweaty hands I used to suffer from the whole day in class because I was scared the teacher might pick me to answer a question. Reading aloud and giving presentations were major stress factors for me.
Interestingly, at the end of my primary school period, I discovered that I did not stutter on stage. That led to me taking up acting, and as soon I was on the stage, my inhibitions evaporated and I could play somebody else. I was also told that I definitely had a talent for acting but after high school, I didn’t have the courage to register at drama school. Back then, the step was too big for me. However, the fact that I did not stutter on stage immediately showed me that stuttering is mainly something of a mental and emotional problem. It is the thoughts and emotions that cause you to stutter.’
What did you do to overcome your stuttering, and did you receive help for this?
‘I still remember quite clearly that, when I studied at Radboud University in Nijmegen, I could earn some academic credits by giving a course to first-year students. And the first idea that came into my head then was: ‘Oh no, I’m not going to do that because I stutter.’ And then something happened inside of me that caused me to change this conviction. I decided that I would NEVER again not do something because I stutter. And I went and gave the course, which was quite confronting, but I was proud of myself because I nevertheless persisted. The participants provided very good feedback and from that I learned that precisely because of my stuttering, I was able to reveal some of my own vulnerability. I had never seen it in that way before.
Meanwhile, I had registered with the Stuttering Team at Radboud University. They did a range of tests on me and advised me to follow a certain type of therapy. I went and did that and then I learned to talk in a controlled manner. However, in one way or another, I did not really feel comfortable with that way of talking. It did not allow me to properly express my enthusiasm. As my stuttering therapist often said: “Angelique, you sometimes think that you have the engine of a Porsche but you actually have the engine of a Lada.” So, actually, through a process of self-examination and personal development, I started to talk more fluently. As far as I’m concerned, stuttering is not a speech impediment, but it is about anxiety, the anxiety to speak. And behind that anxiety to speak lies a whole world that should be discovered in order to overcome stuttering. Through self-insight and learning how I could break out of certain patterns, I have achieved a lot more balance. I now feel more self-aware.’
Do you do anything special on International Stuttering Awareness Day?
‘Partly as a result of this interview, I will write a blog and share it on social media. I hope it will be a source of inspiration for others.’
What would you like to share with others so that they can relate to people who stutter in a more inclusive manner?
‘I can only speak for myself, but what I can advise everybody is: do not fill in the words for somebody who stutters. That gave me an even worse feeling. Yet that might be different for each person, and so perhaps it would be even better if you just ask the person who stutters what would help them the most. And never imitate stutterers, also not in the company of other people when the person who stutters is not present.’
Text: Seray Ünsal
Diversity and inclusion at NWO and NWO-I
This new section will be published on both the NWO intranet Joost and the newsletter Inside NWO-I. This is an initiative from the NWO-D and NWO-I wide Diversity team. We aim to realise working in an inclusive organisation with inclusive procedures. We believe that we can achieve our strategic ambitions as NWO if we also seek to be a diverse organisation with an inclusive culture. Diversity brings us creativity, innovation, and renewal. In addition to this, we are convinced that we will have more societal impact as NWO if our organisation reflects the society we are part of. This means that as an employer, NWO needs to ensure that everybody is welcome, can be themselves and can perform at their best. This Diversity and Inclusion calendar contributes to that. You can read more about diversity and inclusion on the NWO website. And in the January edition of Inside NWO-I, we published the article “Striving for an organisation where everybody can be themselves” about diversity within NWO and NWO-I.
Section NWO celebrates … based on an annual calendar
We base the section “NWO celebrates…” on an annual calendar that we have produced ourselves. You can find our calendar here. An annual calendar does not necessarily have to start on 1 January. Various Roman emperors and several popes changed the dates making a year start on 1 March, or 25 March or perhaps 1 January? That set us thinking: which dates do we still take for granted, and how do others view that? Time for a calendar that includes all special days: days that we as NWO employees can celebrate together. We hope this calendar will help us to get to know each other better, increase our knowledge about other festive days, and give us opportunities to open up the conversation and discover which (festive) days are special for us and why.
See the calendar 'NWO celebrates' and read the other articles from the section 'NWO celebrates...'
Would you like to participate in this section?
Is your (festive) day missing from the calendar? Or would you like to say something in the section “NWO celebrates…” about one of the special days on this calendar? If that is the case, then please send an email to Nicole Verhoeven (email@example.com). Then we will add your date to the calendar and contact you for a possible interview for this section.