On the most part I was a quiet child growing up. Even my mother would often comment that it was hard to know whether I was in the house or out in the yard because I rarely spoke. That’s probably because I stuttered as a child and didn’t like to speak. Also, I’m the youngest of my parents five children so I always had my two older sisters to figure out what I was saying.
Both my parents worked so I was left in the care of my two older sisters during summers and after school. We three did all the housework and laundry. Plus, they took on the task of interpreting for me to our parents or just went ahead and got me whatever I needed. That’s the way it worked for me up until I entered the third grade.
My teacher that year was Mrs. Allison, who had taught well beyond her retirement time. I remember her having a complete head of white hair and my parents wondering how she was going to keep up with us kids on the sprawling playground. I don’t think they figured in her persona in their equation on that though.
Mrs. Allison truly was grandmotherly to us kids, which we seemed to love so we naturally obeyed her. After recess she always read or told us a story while we wound down from play time, resting our heads on our desks.
I started school in 1958, so by this time it was the early sixties. Back then, teachers could give a random hug to a young child if they thought that would cheer the youngster up some. It was a different time back then.
Long story short, it took Mrs. Allison most all that year to get me to stop stuttering. She did this by getting me to slow my speech pattern down during class reading time. Standing beside me, she usually rested one of her large hands across my shoulders, while covering my designated sentence with her other hand until I could only pronounce one word at a time. Which, I guess I hadn’t been doing prior to that year. Still today I’m a scan reader. I just want to know the basic facts of the story, issue or the situation at hand.
I’m certain that I never stuttered after that year. I remembered giving oral book reports and answering questions in class all through the rest of my formal education. That confidence I showed didn’t happen instantaneous, of course. But, over time I overcame my shyness and strengthened my public speaking skills enough to do as well as any other child in school.