My Label and Me: Having a stutter has kept me grounded

From the moment I introduce myself my label becomes apparent. My name is Sascha. But it will come out sounding more like S-s-s-Sascha or Ssssssascha. I am a stutterer.

It began when I was four. No one knows why, as physically there is nothing wrong with me. Speech therapists say it could have to do with emotional trauma I experienced at a young age.

My mum’s mum was convinced it was because of a scare I once got from falling on the stairs. She’d hide behind doors and leap out at me in the hopes of reversing the damage by scaring me anew.

Although she’d startle me every time, it did nothing to rid me of my speech impediment.

For a little over a year, I attended a special school for children with speech difficulties and during one exercise I remember being asked to repeat my name over and over.

I think the therapist thought I’d get fed up and eventually pronounce it correctly. But I never did. Still, I remained calm. I didn’t let it affect me.

At mainstream school, I was never ridiculed. Or if I was it was done so behind my back.

Perhaps because I was respected by my classmates, was funny and good at sports I avoided hurtful comments. I remember being popular and not letting my stutter get in the way of making friends.

However, a school report from when I was seven said that my communication skills were lacking – so in retrospect, I think I must have felt some shame around my stuttering.

Although I found friends more forgiving, women were a different matter. When I was 16, a girl at school sat down next to me and when she heard me stutter got up and left.

Then when I was 19, a girl at a party simply walked away once I opened my mouth, despite the two of us have spent the night eyeing each other from across the room.

It was harsh, yet fortunately, I had enough self-esteem to shrug it off.

I’ve definitely faced challenges and there were times when I thought I was at a disadvantage because I’d leave restaurants having ordered something I didn’t want for the sole reason of wanting to avoid items on the menu that began with a vowel.

Or thinking I’d have to choose a profession based on how much speaking would be involved. Teaching, for example, was never going to be an option.

But I learnt to tell people up front that I stuttered. It took the pressure off. As a result I’d sometimes not stutter at all.

At university, I remember introducing myself to a professor and he responded by cracking a stutterer joke. I thought it was fantastic.

Or once I told a woman I fancied my name was S-s-s-Sascha with three s’s. It helped to break the ice.

But there are people who think I’m faking it. They mock or straight up laugh in my face. They’re mortified when I tell them I actually have a stutter.

One woman at the deli counter of a supermarket couldn’t look me in the eye afterwards. Another gave me a free drink at the pub.

I never thought my stuttering would influence how I was going to live my life. I have always been self-confident, thanks in part to my handsome looks, as well as being an open, charming and friendly person.

Although I do sometimes wonder what life would have been like for me had I not stuttered. I probably would have been extremely arrogant. Being a stutterer, I think, has kept me grounded.

My label may be stutterer but I am so much more than that. I’m also a son, a brother, a friend, a boyfriend, an athlete, as well as a successful architect running my own company.

Someday I hope to write a self-help book for family members of children who stutter. It would be filled with humorous anecdotes.

It’s important to let people know that just because someone has a speech impediment it is still possible for them to lead a normal life.


Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity  positively or negatively  and what the label means to them.

If you would like to get involved please email [email protected]

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