The 31-year old says that over the years he battled with public speaking as he was always shy and afraid to embarrass himself. He explains stuttering as a “disorder that causes the flow of speech to be broken via repetition of sounds of a word, silent blocks or long prolonged sounds along with facial contortions and uncontrollable body movements.”
Wolfaardt says although the physical and visible aspects fo stuttering are obvious, the most damaging aspect of stuttering is the psychological part, which most people do not see. He says he started stuttering at the age of six and was unable to find help until recently. He does not know what triggered his stuttering, but it negatively affected his life and he always wanted to find a cure.
“Most career choices were ruled out because of fear that I may need to speak in front of people or explain an idea. On bad speaking days my name became such an issue that I would have to change my name, my own identity. It was the complete opposite of my personality and ultimately moulded me into a false person who I was not.”
He says with little help available, he decided to help others. “I would like to raise awareness to help others understand what stutterers go through and that there is help out there. I felt angry, shameful, frustrated, isolated and depressed. These are typical emotions that many stutterers go through, leaving you feeling desperate to try anything. I tried the typical speech therapy, hypnosis and even online “miracle cures” – all unsuccessful, I had given up.”
Wolfaardt’s breakthrough came when he found a programme online, called the McGuire Programme. Once he attended a four-day course, he became a member of a local support group that meets once a week in the Cape Town CBD to help one another. He says they do courses and empower one another according to their needs to conquer their individual challenges. They have an average of 100 members from across Cape Town, ranging in age from teenagers to their oldest member who is 57 years old.
Wolfaardt says while some stutterers recover, about 1% will be left with long-term stuttering through adulthood and the rest of their lives. “While not listed as a cure at all, these tools and techniques, along with a lot of hard work and dedication, help one in gaining control over one’s speech.”