Our story From stutterers to speech therapists

We are Hille (top right, 31) and Sjoerd (top left, 27). Nowadays we coach people out of stuttering, while years ago we were stuck in it ourselves.

For years, stuttering had us in its grasp. Not to mention the underlying fear, shame and insecurity, which only made it worse.

While multiple speech therapies were visited, the desired resulst had yet to come. That’s when we decided to take it upon ourselves, to find an answer to stuttering.

The answers that we found led to the founding of Broca Brothers, and setting up courses and individual coaching to pass on what we learned.

Below you can read more about our story, how we went from stutterers to speech therapists.

The starting point.

Born in Friesland, the Netherlands in a true stutter family. Family of both sides had a history in stuttering, which made it practically inevitable for us to develop stuttering as well.

We both began to stutter around the age of five. Same age, different time. We´re a few years apart, with Hille being the older one.

And so Hille was also first up with regards to stuttering. He climbed a tree, fell out of it, broke his left arm and the first few stutters followed when he called for help.

A couple of years later it was Sjoerd’s turn. But instead of one clear, preliminary event, his stuttering arose during a period of multiple difficulties.

Though our first few years of stuttering went by without much trouble. Reasonably free and spontaneous we still said what we wanted to say and did what we wanted to do.

Beyond innocence.

Spontaneous as Hille was, he once went to the bakery shop to buy a loaf of bread. ´What will it be?´ the baker asked.

Hille knew exactly what it would be: a whole loaf of brown bread. But at the moment of speaking there were no words to be heard.

The baker tried to help, but because whole and half are so similar in Frisian, no one was able to say for sure what Hille actually meant.

The whole shop went silent. Everybody was waiting in anticipation. Then, from the back of the bakery shop, a loud male voice grumbled: ‘Who in their right mind would send their stuttering child to the bakery shop?!’

Hille’s body froze, as if he had committed a horrible sin. ‘H-h-half’ he barely uttered, without thinking about it. At least it’s something, he had to get out of there.

Stories and puzzles.

Experiences like the above led to stuttering becoming a thing, an issue. And not in a positive way.

Our parents noticed that as well, and so they took Hille to speech therapy. Afternoons of telling stories, laying puzzles and belly breathing followed.

After a couple of sessions the moment was there: Hille was told he was almost done. He couldn’t wait to share the good news with his father, who was already waiting outside.

But once Hille got into the car, he felt the tension rising immediately. While stuttering Hille said he was almost done, to which father replied: “Well, you don’t seem to be done at all because you still stutter!’

The tone could have been a little nicer, but dad was right. Inside the walls of speech therapy Hille spoke fluently, but in the outside world he was still stuttering.

Stuck in stuttering.

The sessions at speech therapy were put to a stop and Hille remained stuck with stuttering. Time went on and Sjoerd also began to experience the impact of stuttering.

Making a phonecall was Hille’s biggest nightmare. As a precaution he used to dismantle the phone by pulling the telephone cord out of the wall – still possible back then.

Sjoerd always stayed quiet in class, hoping that the subject he didn’t understand wouldn’t play a big role in the upcoming exam.

The list of examples is long – we could write a book about it – but we’ll spare you that. It probably already sounds familiar.

And so stuttering didn’t only impede our speech. It started to influence our whole way of doing things.

Highs and lows.

After teenage years full of negative stuttering experiences, Hille decided to try his luck once more at speech therapy.

And for good reason. After 10 days of speech therapy including a speech technique, Hille’s fluency simply skyrocketed.

Hille felt liberated, cured even. He began to talk so much that his girlfriend at the time jokingly said that she could do with a little less talking – it wasn’t what she signed up for.

Unfortunately, for Hille anyway, Speech Fest was cancelled shortly after. After a couple of months the first few stutters resurfaced, the speech technique seemed to have lost its magic and Hille was back to square one.

Hille quit his studies, working together with other students simply wasn’t possible because of stuttering, and he decided to fully focus on his music career. That’s where he was able to express himself.

Different city, same Sjoerd.

Sjoerd was also getting ready to go to university, but not before he received an encouraging summary of his high school times during the graduation ceremony:

‘He mostly did his own thing, but rightly so. Passed the exams in one go.’ Well, what else are you going to say about someone who’s trying to make it through class as quiet and unseen as possible?

Anyway, those comments may have added to the fact that Sjoerd was planning to change course and turn his life around. He didn’t want stuttering to hold him back any longer.

A fresh start, or so he thought. Not long into the first year of university it became clear to him that talking and reaching out to people had to come from within – and that he wasn’t able to do so.

The circumstances around him changed, but the situation inside of him didn’t. He was still the old Sjoerd, quiet and reserved.

The status quo.

A couple of years later. Hille was able to leave the family home with a bit of financial support from mom, while Sjoerd was collecting some study credits.

In that regard our lives seemed to work out fine. Hille’s music career was moving forward and studying was never really a problem for Sjoerd. We had friends, played sports and went out regularly.

But on the inside things were looking a little different. We may have told the people around us that we were doing ‘fine’, but we knew better.

Never did we really feel confident and free. Because even though we spoke fluently from time to time, stuttering was always lurking around the corner.

And so we were always on our guard. On alert. And that’s – to put it mildly – not a great way to live.

The waking up.

It was Friday morning, April 12, 2013. Hille woke up when the early spring sun, through the black window curtains, was gently shining in his eyes.

For a moment it seemed like time was standing still. Hille was lying in bed motionless, in a serene moment of silence.

Shortly after, a deep longing for change and the realisation that something had to be done, arose inside of him. It was time to wake up – also literally.

But it wasn’t only Hille. We both felt a great sense of dissatisfaction. We ‘existed’, but it didn’t feel like we were truly alive.

Stuttering seemed to be in the way of who we truly were, of who we truly could be. And on that day it was clear: we couldn’t go on like that any longer.

The search.

Because earlier attempts at speech therapy didn’t deliver the desired results, we decided to figure out the answer to stuttering ourselves.

But we didn’t have clue where to start, and so the first few tries were not necessarily something to write home about.

At one point we went out on the streets and talked to strangers to look into what actually happens during moments of stuttering.

While everyone was enjoying said spring sun, Hille once walked into a shoe store to ask the store clerk a random question.

A few moments later he exited the store – with a face turned red, without having asked the question. He stuttered so hard back there that it made snot fly out of his nose – and it didn’t go unnoticed.

The finding.

After years of ‘roaming around’ and running in the wrong direction, we finally found the right books and teachers that could show us the way.

Meanwhile Sjoerd was graduating in psychology through which we also possessed the necessary scientific background to separate the wheat from the chaff.

We found out what stuttering actually is, what can be done about it, what works and also all the things that do not work.

And so our search resulted in the ‘letting go of stuttering’, a way out of stuttering different than the regular methods and approaches.

A path that leads to spontaneous, effortless, fluent speech. Without the use of speech techniques and tricks, which simply aren’t needed.

The passing on.

But once we found what we were looking for, we realised that there surely are more people in the same boat as we once were.

It was only natural to start passing on the learned lessons, to show that there’s another way.

That it’s not needed to struggle with stuttering for a lifetime, but that it’s very possible to do something about it.

That it’s possible to do so without having to use speech techniques or tricks, but instead speaking fluently in a spontaneous, effortless manner.

And that’s how Broca Brothers came to be, where we guide people towards fluency both in the Netherlands and abroad.

The guidance.

More about the letting go of stuttering can be found here, watching a video or reading a blog usually helps as well.

If you’d like to start with letting go of stuttering, check out our group course and the individual coaching.

You can also just contact us here, questions and comments are always welcome.

What we offer

The Group Course

In this carefully composed course, we take you through the first important subjects and exercises to start letting go of stuttering.

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Individual Coaching

During individual coaching sessions we simply look at what problems you currently face regarding stuttering and help you to deal with them.

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