WRITTEN BY JUSTIN WORSLEY
While most people spend their lives adjusting to the word “no” I must live with and deal with the word “what.”
Since I was a child, I have lived with a rare speech impediment known as “cluttering,” a disorder in which listeners are impaired due to the speaker’s rapid rate of speech, rhythm or poor syntax. In other words, I speak a mile a minute.
My speech impediment stems from having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD.) Basically, my mind functions at such a fast rate that my body is unable to keep up.
Despite the bad hand I have been dealt, I have learned not only to live with my disorder, but also to embrace it.
One of the hardest parts about overcoming my disorder was dealing with it in my childhood. When I was initially diagnosed with ADD, it was still a relatively new in medicine and advanced medicines such as Adderall and Focalin were not created. Instead, I was prescribed Ritalin.
The effect of Ritalin could not have been more negative. In theory, the medicine did work, but it worked too well. I was a flake, a shell of the vibrant six-year-old that I was. On top of this, I also suffered from severe stomach pains. Because of this, my mother decided to stop giving me medication.
My childhood was far from stable. I attended seven elementary schools in three states and my summers were spent wondering whether or not I would see the same people I befriended in the fall again. Though my childhood lacked continuity, I understand that my mother was doing everything in her power to give me the best possible life.
Since I was frequently enrolling in a new school, I was constantly stuck making new friends and meeting new people. The saying “cruel as school children” could not have rung truer to me. I was constantly teased by my peers no matter where I lived. My speech impediment gave me an immediate disadvantage when it came to meeting new friends when I attended a new school.
As a child, I never grasped just how bad my speech impediment was. I knew I spoke at a faster rate than normal, I was reminded practically every day, but all I did was talk, I never sat and actually listened.
My mother attempted to do everything in her power to help me. By the time I entered middle school, my mother and I finally settled at a permanent residence in New Jersey. My middle school offered help from a speech pathologist, who I was supposed to see once a week.
Speech pathology, however, offered little help. One road block was the fact that I only met with the pathologist once a week. Another problem was that I tended to forget that I had a meeting with my pathologist and tended to miss a few meetings.
Despite this, I still learned some techniques that I still use today. Before I speak to someone, I try to map out what I want to say before I speak. While I am speaking, I listen to myself and try to monitor my rate of speech.
In theory, this seems like it would be all I need in order to conquer cluttering, but the execution does not always come down to this. I still tend to speak faster than I intend to (I’ll contribute that to human error, while I may think I am speaking just fine, it may still come out too quickly for the listener.) Also, my planned communication may break down, causing me to fumble over my words.
Though I was picked on when I was young, it never killed my spirit. To this day, I still have a vibrant personality and am very outgoing. I do not fear conversation, but instead embrace it as an old friend.
As I grew up, my battle went from the bullies in school to communicating to an uninformed audience. If I had a nickel for every time a person mentioned that I spoke fast (the common phrase is “You speak really fast,”) I could have probably out-bid Disney for property right to “Star Wars.” It is the follow up conversation, however, that always baffles me.
“Well, I speak fast because I have a speech impediment,” I usually say when someone comments on my rate of speech.
“No you don’t, you just need to slow down,” is almost always the reply, as if the person I have spoken to has suddenly become a speech pathologist.
Today, the hardest part of living with cluttering is the fact that it is so rare that nobody is even aware of it. I have only met one other person who had the disorder, a child of a family I took care of when I was a restaurant server in New Jersey.
Another issue I have had is debating whether or not I need medication. It has been 18 years since I experimented with Ritalin and there have been many advancements in medicine for those who suffer from ADD. I have seen the effects firsthand. My 11-year-old brother, Devon, has also been diagnosed with ADD (though he fortunately has a normal rate of speech), and has been taking Focalin daily before he goes to school.
Un-medicated, Devon is a very hyper individual who has an endless amount of energy (much like myself when I was younger.) When he is using Focalin, however, his attention span is increased and he is calmer.
My mother and I have argued previously over whether or not I should try medication as well. Looking for my best interests, my mother believed that taking medication will help slow down my rate of speech, but I had a different opinion. Having experienced the effect of Ritalin first-hand, I feared that using medication would change my personality, and not necessarily for the better.
In the end, we came to the agreement that it ultimately was my decision as to whether or not I would take medicine. At the time, I was over the age of 18 and the decision ultimately was mine.
Living with ADD has become a double-edged sword. I have not only learned to live with the disorder, but to also use it towards my advantage. Multi-tasking has become easier for me and I am able to quickly handle tasks.
Dealing with the repercussions of a speech impediment as a child also gave me a thick skin, which is necessary in the advertising field that I one day hope to work in.
I am not bitter about the hand I was dealt, but I have instead learned to adapt and move on. Instead, I focus not only on overcoming my disorder, but focusing on my studies as well.