How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter

badmingtonAbout the author: Alan Badmington, a retired police officer (from Wales in the UK), commenced stuttering in childhood. During recent years, he has become a highly successful public speaker, winning numerous trophies (in competition with fluent contestants), as well as appearing as a finalist in the Association of Speakers Clubs UK national public speaking championships on two occasions. Alan regularly addresses diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness about stuttering, while his media involvement has further highlighted the subject. He has travelled extensively to fulfil speaking engagements on three different continents, including a keynote speech at the 2004 World Congress for People Who Stutter in Australia, where he also won the Oratory Competition. He has addressed SLP students in the USA, as well as undertaking presentations and workshops at NSA/BSA and ASHA conferences and events.  His papers, articles and poems have been reproduced in numerous publications and on various international websites/forums.

Having commenced stuttering in early childhood, I developed a wide range of strategies to protect myself from shame and embarrassment. I began avoiding words that appeared to cause me difficulty. Almost unconsciously, I substituted them with others that I felt more confident in using.

I developed an incredible expertise and could instantly provide a wide array of synonyms (commencing with different letters) whenever a ‘difficult’ word loomed large on the horizon. I became a ‘walking thesaurus’.  This, generally, allowed me to conceal the true impact of my struggles.

In 2000, I learned about the immense implications of such a practice.  I had previously been unaware of the fact that, whenever I changed a word, I fuelled my fear of saying that word. Each time we avoid something, we strengthen its influence over us. We can evade for so long, but the time will come when the situation demands that we have to say a specific word, or speak in a particular situation. When that happened, I found that my fear level had increased to such an extent that I stuttered more severely.

Although I had been using avoidance strategies for many years, it was only when I closely examined my behaviours that I realised just how widespread they had become. They had infiltrated so many different areas and involved considerable effort and energy. It was enlightening (and in some ways frightening) to discover the extent to which avoidance had crept insidiously into my life – influencing so many of my decisions.

I immediately adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance. I vowed that I would never again substitute a word, nor shirk the challenge of any speaking situation.

In common with many other persons who stutter (PWS), I found my name to be particularly challenging, so I only said it when it was absolutely essential.

I addressed this issue by routinely introducing my name into everyday conversations. I didn’t wait until it was imperative (for me to say it) – I began uttering it at every opportunity, even when it may have appeared inappropriate.  I would simply slip it into exchanges when there was little pressure, particularly in the company of friends and family.

After a while, I found that my name presented fewer problems. Each time I said it, a heartening message was transmitted to my subconscious saying, “Hey, you’ve just said Alan Badmington”.

Throughout my life, the same little voice had constantly reminded me that I could not say it – thus strengthening my self-limiting belief and contributing to future anticipatory fear. By reversing the adverse dialogue that I had been having with my inner critic, I eventually convinced myself that I could say that emotionally charged combination of words.

The thoughts that occupy our minds prior to engaging in a speaking situation are hugely significant. What we believe about ourselves, as well as the manner in which we perceive the environment that we are entering (or the persons with whom we are due to come into contact) will, undoubtedly, influence our approach and expectations. In addition, it will almost certainly have a considerable impact upon the outcome. If we anticipate a negative scenario, we prepare ourselves for that eventuality. But when we believe that things are possible, they are more likely to occur.

I became extremely proactive and began introducing challenges into my conversations throughout the day.  I would deliberately create sentences that incorporated words I perceived to be difficult.

I also commenced utilizing visualization – a tool used by successful athletes.  This involved creating internal movies that depicted me speaking in a positive manner. To a very large extent, our accomplishments (or lack of accomplishments) are as a direct result of the images that we hold in our head. The empowering mindset that I developed (through visualization and real life triumphs) enabled me to reduce (and subsequently eliminate) expectations of anticipatory fear.

I should stress that I did not simply use visualization, in isolation.  I employed that technique together with a myriad of other approaches (including physically expanding my comfort zone by systematically placing myself in a wide array of challenging real-life speaking situations).

The more I challenged myself (and did things that I previously believed I could not do), the more comfortable I became in undertaking those new roles. After a while, I felt comfortable fulfilling them and readily accepted that they fell within my compass. My self-image had extended to accommodate them.

In addition, I began answering the ‘dreaded’ telephone with my name. When it rang, I would pick it up and immediately say “Alan Badmington”. I avoided any preamble or surplus words (such as “Hello, this is Alan Badmington speaking”). That would have been an easier option but I intentionally made the decision to confront my fears head-on.  Even today, I instinctively answer the telephone in the same manner – it has become so automatic. The difference is that it now holds no fear whatsoever.

I also adopted a similarly proactive approach in respect of other letters/sounds that held an emotional charge. Each day, I would call toll free numbers that I had plucked from the Yellow Pages directory, creating fictitious enquiries in which I would intentionally use words commencing with ‘challenging’ letters (and they were plentiful).  The more I said them, the more confident I became.

I rang hotels and restaurants, reserving tables/rooms in the name of “Alan  Badmington”.  I would call back 30 minutes later to cancel the reservation.

I approached total strangers in the street and requested directions to locations that I perceived would be difficult to say.  Sometimes I would ask for such places as `Badmington Road’, ‘Badmington Drive’ or ‘Badmington Gardens’, even though I knew they didn’t exist.  When visiting the USA, I would seek directions to ‘Badmington Boulevard’ (a double dose of the ‘dreaded’ letter ‘B’).

I also created challenges when I attended my first British Stammering Association and National Stuttering Association Annual Conferences in 2001(Liverpool, England) and 2002 (Anaheim, California) respectively. Those who are familiar with such events will know that each delegate is issued with a conspicuous lapel badge that makes their identity readily available to everyone else. I raised a few eyebrows when I removed the official name strip and replaced it with the following handwritten message:

“Please ask me my name, I enjoy a challenge”.

Those ventures were, in effect, extensions of the series of proactive projects that I commenced in 2000 in order to place myself in unfamiliar situations. They afforded wonderful opportunities to further expand my comfort zones, while also starting many interesting discussions.

Today, having consistently demonstrated that I can say my name in any situation, I have no fear whatsoever about introducing myself. Had I continued with avoidance, the same long-established disempowering beliefs and limited self-image would have continued to impose their restrictions.

Not surprisingly, I felt apprehensive when I first embarked upon my more expansive lifestyle. But, as my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different. We don’t change anything by retaining the status quo.

Choosing to say specific words (that I had intentionally neglected for so many years) was bound to be scary. In the initial stages, it is possible that those who were familiar with my usual speaking pattern may have considered that (on occasions) I was speaking less fluently. But that didn’t bother me. You see, I had come to view my word substitutions as “stuttering on the inside” and felt that I needed to bring the matter out into the open in order to resolve the issue.

Within a relatively short period of time, the apprehension receded and was replaced by a feeling of excitement. The external dysfluencies were also short-lived, as I grew in confidence. Today, there are no words, letters or sounds that continue to hold an emotional charge, or generate negative anticipatory thoughts.

I fully appreciate (and respect) that not everyone who stutters would wish to repeat my actions. Some PWS are accepting of their current position and have no desire to change. Each of us is responsible for the paths that we choose to tread. The decisions we make are personal and, invariably, relevant to our own unique circumstances. My stance against avoidance seemed appropriate for me at that particular time in my life.  However, the concept that we may need to experience pain, in order to achieve gain, can be difficult for some people to accept.

It is important that we do not blame ourselves when we resort to avoidance. Avoidance is NOT a crime, so we should not feel guilty about using it. I leaned heavily upon such strategies for more than half a century – it was the only way in which I knew how to cope.  Many people avoid doing things that generate fear or discomfort – such behaviours are NOT exclusive to those who stutter.

I’ve heard it said that “every cloud has a silver lining”.  Well, in my case, that has certainly proved to be true.  A lifetime of word substitution has equipped me with an extensive and varied vocabulary.  Yet, for so many years, I only chose to call upon its services when I had occasion to write.

Transferring my thoughts to paper was, generally, the only effective way in which I could meaningfully express myself.  The written option allowed me to communicate exactly what I wanted to say.  I could select the most suitable words without experiencing the usual emotions associated with stuttering.

Past oral exchanges were frequently littered with words that I considered to be inferior, or in some instances, totally inappropriate. My mind was constantly in turmoil as it frantically searched for synonyms to replace those words that I feared.  I purposely succumbed to mediocrity and accepted second best – simply because of my desire not to be seen or heard stuttering.

Today, having eliminated avoidances, I no longer differentiate between written and spoken occasions. The crippling oral shackles have finally been removed and I can now pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary and say them without anticipatory fear. It is truly exhilarating!

Having discovered (rather late in life) that the human voice is such a wondrous thing, I now look forward to using it at every possible opportunity. After years of frustration and under-achievement, I am finally participating widely on life’s stage.

 

CHANGING THE WORDS AROUND

I couldn’t say muffin. I couldn’t say butter
If I ordered a burger, I’d stumble and stutter
So, instead of me saying the words that I should
I’d swap them for others, I hoped that I could

But you can’t always leave out the words that you dread
There are times when a certain thing has to be said
My sister’s called Sarah, my best friend is Ben
They just wouldn’t answer to Lucy and Len

Whenever I spotted a difficult sound
I’d hastily juggle my sentence around
I spent so much energy word rearranging
Whenever I spoke, I was chopping and changing

My efforts to search for an easier word
Resulted in sentences, sometimes absurd
At times, my selections just didn’t make sense
Which made me more anxious, frustrated and tense

Each time I avoided a troublesome sound
I felt rather guilty, and very soon found
That my fear of speaking increased even more
The number of ‘problem words’ started to soar

In time, I discovered that word substitution
Was simply avoidance, and not a solution
Although I was fluent, or so it appeared
The words I avoided became much more feared

One day, I decided enough was enough
I made myself promise, although it was tough
To say what I wanted, whatever the letter
At times I still struggled, but I felt so much better

Today, I will say any letter or sound
Confronting my fears, is the best way – I’ve found
Should I ever be tempted to waver sometime
I’ll remember the message contained in this rhyme

An illustrated version of my poem is available at:
http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad7/papers/badmington7/badmington17.html

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Comments

How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter — 146 Comments

  1. Hi Alan,

    It was truly empowering to hear you describe your journey. It was inspiring that you had the confidence and motivation to address your speech difficulties independently; however, after reading your paper, I couldn’t help but think, as a future speech-language pathologist, how could I help inspire my clients to subject themselves to a “self-help” program similar to the one you completed? From my understanding, contrary to popular belief, not all people who stutter display insecurities as a result of their speech; however, this trend may be popular with this population, such that, I could image that instructing clients who stutter to intentionally subject themselves to several situations where they should expect to have difficulty may be a bit discouraging. How could I instruct and/or motivate a client with self-image insecurities to use instances of discomfort in the situations you described to improve their overall self-image and increase their fluency? I think it would be a large struggle as a speech-language pathologist, let alone a person, who does not stutter to explain to clients who stutter that they need to subject themselves to high-stress situations and intentionally reduce the avoidance behaviors in order to speak fluently. What do you think is the best way to address this situation from a therapeutic perspective?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best,
    Marissa

    • Hi Marissa,

      Thank you for choosing to read my paper and participate in the discussion. I very much appreciate your generous comments.

      You wrote:

      “How could I instruct and/or motivate a client with self-image insecurities to use instances of discomfort in the situations you described to improve their overall self-image and increase their fluency?”

      The concept of “the need to experience pain in order to achieve gain” is a difficult one to sell/convey, particularly to those of a tender age.

      You might wish to consider sharing my paper with your client in the first instance. If someone understands the purpose of undertaking a certain course of action, then I feel they are more likely to be accepting of the challenge and come on board

      Group therapy might also be advantageous. I derived immense benefit from my involvement with the self-help organization. The group camaraderie (and joint activities) encouraged us to imitate/inspire each other to confront our fears (both individually and collectively). Everyone was so supportive.

      Fear and self-doubt figure prominently in the lives of many people, not just those who stutter. They can sabotage hopes and aspirations. When left to our own devices, it is possible that we may never summon up sufficient courage to face the issues that impede our progress. However, as members of a support group, some people gain confidence and encouragement by leaning upon the knowledge, camaraderie and collective support that are present within that group. I have witnessed this on numerous occasions.

      We can all gain something (however small) from each other’s stories. Learning about the experiences of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. It can alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware — in relation to therapies, techniques and opportunities that allow us to unearth our true potential. It can also open our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined, igniting belief in our own capabilities.

      As a result of these interactions, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives. We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, and have discovered that there are exciting paths available for us to tread. But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of facing those challenges alone.

      Role models can also have a powerful impact. On April, 1, 2000, I witnessed a PWS recounting how he had won several public speaking trophies in formal competition with ‘fluent’ contestants. It was such a defining moment that the date is indelibly imprinted upon my memory. Prior to hearing his story, I was convinced that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. A catalogue of painful experiences fuelled my belief that I could never successfully undertake that task. My whole outlook changed.

      The man that I heard speaking so enthusiastically about how he had successfully embraced public speaking opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something similar. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.

      I genuinely believe that our ability to change our lives lies in our ability to harness the immense power of belief and thought. Either we shape our thoughts – or our thoughts will shape us. I had the desire and motivation to change, together with persistence and a major commitment to personal growth. When our belief in failure is greater than our belief in success, we invariably quit.

      You (and your clients) may also find something of interest in the following papers (that I contributed past ISAD Online Conferences) that also touch upon these issues:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

      Marissa, I wish you every success with your studies.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  2. Hello Alan,

    Your paper sheds great light on the psychology of avoidance anticipating negative scenarios in regards to stuttering. I am currently taking a class on voice and fluency and I also have a background in psychology. If you don’t mind me asking, at what age were you when you decided to adopt “a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance”? In class we have been learning about counseling and understanding the client’s perspective on their stuttering. Would you consider yourself a courageous and proactive person in all aspects of your life, or do you believe that your empowerment is focused around your stuttering?

    Also, I practiced visualization while competing in collegiate track and field, and I can envision how it would help with stuttering. In addition to visualization my coach encouraged us to review film of our races. Would/do you find it helpful to review film of yourself speaking?

    Thank you for sharing your story; it is a true testament to empowerment and confidence despite the difficult challenges.

    • Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for choosing to read my paper and participate in the group discussion.

      You wrote:

      “If you don’t mind me asking, at what age were you when you decided to adopt “a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance”?”

      I struggled to communicate effectively (orally) for more than 50 years. Whilst accepting that maturity can be accompanied by greater self-confidence, I do not think that such a factor played a significant part in causing me to embark upon a more expansive lifestyle. Instead, several things collectively influenced that decision.

      Firstly, I witnessed a PWS who had successfully embraced public speaking. This caused me to question (and challenge) my long-held self-limiting belief that I would never be able to deal with my stuttering issues.

      Secondly, I attended a self-help seminar where I acquired physiological tools that enabled me to overcome blocking, whilst also assisting me to say words/letters/sounds that had previously held an emotional charge.

      Thirdly, for the first time in my life, I gained an understanding of the immense implications of avoidance.

      And fourthly, I was able to lean upon the support network provided by that self-help organization, as I progressively changed my stuttering mindset.

      Although my age didn’t have any direct bearing upon my decision to embark upon a new course of action, I readily accept that (as a result of my maturity) , I was probably better equipped/placed (than someone with lesser life experiences) to deal with the diverse cognitive/emotional issues that I had to face.

      You then wrote:

      “Would you consider yourself a courageous and proactive person in all aspects of your life, or do you believe that your empowerment is focused around your stuttering?”

      I don’t consider myself to be particularly courageous person. I simply arrived at a stage in my life where my mindset and behaviours were not serving me particularly well –so I decided to change them. :-)

      Throughout my life, I guess I’ve always chosen to do things not generally associated with persons who stutter. At the age of 19, I become a police officer and subjected myself to a wide range of challenges. I undertook poetry readings (of my own work), despite fully expecting to stutter. There were so many more examples. Remaining in our safe areas may feel comfortable but it greatly restricts our personal growth.

      During the past 13 years, I have undertaken many hundreds of speaking engagements on three different continents. I simply adore socializing with people and connecting with audiences. Public speaking has become an integral and exciting part of my life.

      When we achieve something that we, hitherto, regarded impossible, it causes us to reconsider our limiting beliefs. If we conquer something that has challenged our advancement, we grow in stature. We are never quite the same again. When we overcome hurdles, it opens our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined. When we are stretched by a new experience, we likewise grow as human beings.

      We need to take risks if we are to advance in any walk of life – not just in relation to our speech. Progress is achieved when we are willing to expose ourselves to uncertainty by treading the paths that generate fear. Unless we place ourselves in more demanding situations, we will remain ignorant of our true capabilities.

      Once I decided to take the initial step (to deal with my avoidance and other stuttering issues), I didn’t really require any motivation. You see, I was fulfilling roles that I had always dreamed of undertaking; I was speaking in situations that I had principally avoided; I was saying the things that I had always wanted to say. It was (and still is) so enjoyable. We only have one life – I truly believe that we should live it to the full. 

      My aim has not simply been to deal with my speech. I wished to become self-actualized – to be doing the things (and fulfilling the roles) that I have always wanted. In recent times, I think I’ve travelled a long way along the road to self-actualization. I’ve encountered (and overcome) many hurdles along the way, as well as passing many significant milestones.

      Although I feel that I’m pretty close to my destination, the real pleasure has been the experience of that eventful journey.

      And, finally, you wrote:

      “In addition to visualization my coach encouraged us to review film of our races. Would/do you find it helpful to review film of yourself speaking?”

      I have watched videos of me speaking on several occasions. One of the early instances occurred when I received my initial invitation to address SLP students at an American University back in 2001. I spent several days sharing my story with a number of different classes and the sessions were filmed for future training purposes. When I returned home, I allowed my children to view the recordings. It was probably their first meaningful insight into how stuttering had impacted upon my life.

      Digressing slightly – if you have a moment, you may wish to view a presentation that I was invited to give at the Annual ASHA Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in November 2012.

      Someone very kindly recorded it on her cell phone and posted it to YouTube. Although the quality is not exceptional, it is possible to view/hear the message that I conveyed. The couple of minor breaks/joins do not create too much distraction.

      During the initial couple of minutes, you may note my apparent preoccupation with the lectern. This was due to the fact that the technical team failed to comply with my request to provide certain equipment. Fortunately (and with the welcome assistance of two exceedingly helpful ASHA members), I was able to construct a make-shift lectern (held together, and supported by, several lengths of adhesive tape) at the eleventh hour.

      However, my concern about its stability caused me to direct a few worried glances in that direction at the commencement of the talk. I’m delighted to report that my fears were quickly allayed, thus allowing me to focus my proper attention on the presentation.

      Here is the YouTube link:
      http://youtu.be/FXxDZPO88IQ

      Jamie, I wish you every success with your studies.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am a speech-language pathology graduate student and am very interested in the emotional aspects of communication difficulties. I think it is so important to address the internal emotional response to stuttering because this is a huge part of it. From your story it sounds like your decision to avoid avoidance has really helped you gain confidence in all situations. I must commend you on your courage to confront those challenging situations and overcome your fear. Do you still experience moments of disfluency and if so, do those old feelings of fear still arise?

    • Hi Janelle,

      Thank you for choosing to read my paper and contribute to the threaded discussion.

      You wrote:

      “Do you still experience moments of disfluency and if so, do those old feelings of fear still arise?”

      Changing my beliefs and self-image was a gradual process. In the early stages, there were times when my inner critic would interrupt (while I was speaking) and say such things as “Why aren’t you stuttering? You should be stuttering. You ALWAYS have problems in these situations.”

      When I initially became aware of this negative internal dialogue, I would momentarily experience the discomfort and insecurity associated with my past difficulties. I was uncertain of my identity. I felt that I should still be stuttering because that is what I had done since childhood. I did not ‘feel’ like Alan Badmington.

      Gradually, the voice became less talkative and, finally, fell silent. I came to accept (and felt comfortable with) the new techniques and different manner of speaking. It no longer felt ‘strange’. I was far more relaxed, more assertive, more confident and more in touch with happenings.

      At first, I found it strange; it was like walking in someone else’s shoes. But the more I exposed myself to those challenging situations, the more comfortable I became in undertaking those new tasks. My self-concept (which had always imposed so many restrictions) expanded to readily accommodate the different roles. I found that I was no longer surprised by the things I was able to achieve – they simply became a natural (and even mundane) part of my everyday life.

      Many of us have difficulty letting go of the past. We cling onto our old self-image because we (and those around us) derive a sense of security from the familiar face that it presents. Self-concept is at the very core of our life experience – it can cause us to resist attempts to embrace change, even though it may be to our advantage to do so. The moment I relinquished my old self-image, I discovered incredible opportunities for growth.

      My life is totally free of thoughts of about stuttering – they are simply non-existent. Neither do I experience any anticipatory fear when faced with any speaking situation. Today, I simply pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary (swollen by years of word substitution) and look forward to every speaking opportunity.

      Since changing my stuttering mindset, and eliminating the components that once contributed to my blocking behaviour, I have discovered that it is no longer necessary to constantly focus upon my speech or any technique. Stuttering is no longer an issue in my life.

      Janelle, I wish you every success with your studies.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  4. Hello Alan!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I was very interested and rather astonished to read how you eventually embraced your fears and faced them head-on after having cultivated those complex avoidance behaviours for so very long.

    I am originally from the UK, ‘sunny’ Suffolk to be exact, and have lived in the USA for the past few years. I’m studying communication disorders at Idaho State University and as such have a keen interest in fluency disorders. Since moving to the US I’ve noticed all sorts of cultural differences which have surprised me greatly. From my own personal experience of living here but also still visiting family in the UK often, and also from media exposure on both sides of the pond, it seems to me that the UK is possibly a little lacking in terms general sensitivity, for example in using ‘person first’ language. I could be wrong of course and I do stress that this just my personal perception, but I feel I hear more ‘person first’ language being used in the US than back home. Which in a roundabout way brings me to my questions: I wonder how far you feel the UK has come in terms of acceptance and improving attitudes towards people who stutter, and what you feel could or should be done to help increase awareness of and improve attitudes towards people who stutter? Are there any countries or regions you feel we could learn from in this regard?

    I do remember that stuttering received some positive press in the mainstream media when Gareth Gates was runner up on Pop Idol back in 2002, which did seem to bring some awareness and raise the public profile of PWS at the time; but then I also remember some pretty cruel and harsh headlines a few years later on, claiming that his ‘treatment’ had failed and he was stuttering severely again. I believe that was the last I can remember hearing about PWS being featured in the media, until of course The Kings Speech came along.

    I’d be very interested to hear your views and perceptions!

    With very best regards,

    Jane Bernert
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hi Jane,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and provide feedback.

      I very much regret that I am unable to respond meaningfully at this time. I have an unexpected (and urgent) commitment that I need to fulfil today.

      However, I will make every effort to answer the questions you posed – later this evening. My only concern is that the ISAD Conference may have closed in advance of my return.

      If that should occur, I invite you to write to me personally via the following email address:

      alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk

      I apologies for the delay and inconvenience.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Jane,

        It’s always heartening to receive feedback from a future SLP (particularly one who originates from this side of ‘The Pond’). 🙂 I believe that such interaction is to our mutual benefit.

        You wrote:

        “I wonder how far you feel the UK has come in terms of acceptance and improving attitudes towards people who stutter, and what you feel could or should be done to help increase awareness of and improve attitudes towards people who stutter?

        To be quite honest, I’ve never really encountered any adverse reactions from the general public as a result of my stutter. Likewise, I was never subjected to bullying at school; probably due to the fact that I was a prominent sportsman at both rugby and cricket. I suspect that some of my contemporaries may have looked up to me because of my prowess on the field of play.

        However, having been an active member of international online discussion groups for the past 13 years, I am well aware of the inconsiderate attitudes/behaviour displayed towards some PWS around the world (including the UK and US). I recognize that I was, indeed, fortunate to have escaped such unwanted attention.

        Those who were present during the ‘open microphone’ session at the annual British Stammering Association conference in London, in 2002, will have heard me speak of the need to create a greater public awareness about stuttering.

        How can we expect others to understand what is happening, or know how to react, when we suddenly block or display secondary behaviours? In many instances, even members of our own families have little knowledge about the difficulties that we experience.

        So, I told them that it was time that we did something about it? Who better to relate our stories than those of us who have encountered the problem for so long, very often since childhood?

        I decided to do just that – I felt it was time that others should become better acquainted with what it is like to be a PWS. I also saw it as a means of expanding my comfort zones, by placing myself in those challenging speaking situations that I had always avoided.

        I initially prepared for the venture by joining the Association of Speakers Clubs (similar to Toastmasters International) to improve my confidence and presentational skills. Having stuttered since childhood, I knew I had to change the belief that I could never successfully perform such a role. I needed to revise my self-image, so that I could fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a public speaker.

        Ironically, one of my earliest external public speaking activities happened quite by chance, when a former police colleague had occasion to hear me being interviewed on a live BBC radio programme. During the exchanges, I spoke about how stuttering had impacted upon my life and career, as well describing some of the steps that I was undertaking to deal with my avoidance and communication issues. I also expressed a desire to further expand my comfort zones.

        Unknown to me, the ex police officer suggested to the secretary of his local Probus Club (a country-wide network comprising retired professional and business persons) that they might invite me to speak at one of their meetings.

        The rest is history, as they say. 🙂 I spoke for one hour about my lifetime of stuttering (entitling my talk `LOST FOR WORDS’) and was overwhelmed by the degree of interest that it generated. That speech had a huge impact upon my life.

        My speaking engagements escalated dramatically as news filtered along the extremely active community grapevine. The need for speakers is insatiable – those who join the ‘circuit’ become very much in demand. I have undertaken a full programme of speaking engagements in each of the past 13 years. Virtually all the recommendations have been via word of mouth. In that time, I have addressed hundreds of organizations, while also hosting a charity concert, and undertaking after-dinner speeches. I sometimes have to pinch myself to check if I’m dreaming. 🙂

        Since 2000, I have talked openly about my stutter in newspaper articles; on television/radio and the Internet; and to a wide variety of audiences on three different continents. As a result of this exposure, I have become totally desensitized. My beliefs and perceptions of what others think about my speech are now extremely positive. Such involvement has greatly assisted my passage to self-acceptance.

        Approaching the media (or addressing groups of total strangers) can present a sizeable challenge for someone who stutters (and even those who do not stutter). But the rewards are immense. It involves moving out of your comfort zone, widening your self-image and placing yourself in new situations. If a person is not ready to explore those uncharted waters alone, he/she might feel more confident if accompanied by someone else. I’m sure that there others who might wish to share the adventure.

        Living a safe and predictable life denies us opportunities to discover just how courageous and extraordinary we are. We gain strength and confidence each time we look fear in the face. Facing up to one’s fears requires courage but the rewards are immense. I have gained immense personal satisfaction through my speaking engagements within the community and extensive media involvement.

        I earnestly believe that the lives of many people who stutter can be significantly improved by creating a greater public understanding of our difficulties. I feel that we all have our part to play in increasing awareness – it is to our mutual benefit. I hope that anyone who happens to read this post may be encouraged to take up the challenge? Hopefully, others will then be inspired to follow suit.

        We cannot expect national/international stuttering organisations to bear this substantial load alone – it is proper that others should consider shouldering some of the responsibility.

        I never cease to be amazed at the hugely positive responses that I receive from my audiences.

        Sharing my experiences with total strangers has had a two-fold effect. Firstly, it has provided members of the public with a better understanding of what stuttering involves. It has also helped to desensitize my own feelings towards the many difficulties that I have encountered throughout my life as a consequence of my speech.

        However, I appreciate that the very nature of stuttering is such that some PWS may well feel reluctant, or unable, to discuss it with others. That, of course, is their prerogative; their decision should be respected.

        Jane, you may wish to check out the following article that I contributed to the British Stammering Association quarterly magazine ‘Speaking Out’ in 2002. Although the nature, and extent, of my speaking activities have expanded/varied considerably during the subsequent 11 years, the principles (and guidelines) that I outlined in that earlier piece are still relevant today.

        ‘Increasing Public Awareness’

        http://www.stammering.org/increasingawareness.html

        This article may also be of interest:

        ‘My commitment to speaking about stuttering is opening so many new doors’
        http://www.stammering.org/newdoors.html

        Whenever I fulfil a speaking engagement, I am invariably invited to return on a future occasion. As a result, it has been necessary for me to increase my repertoire to incorporate a variety of different subjects (totally unrelated to stuttering).

        The fact I have demonstrated to myself that I am able to speak (at length) about a wide array of topics has given me an immense amount of confidence and self-belief. My diary already has entries as far ahead as December 2015. It keeps me out of mischief.:-)

        In addition to my talks, I have also undertaken many radio interviews on the BBC. I am aware that one interview, in particular, attracted a sizeable audience response. Excerpts (including me reading my poem “Changing the words around”) were later included in a separate weekend programme that featured highlights from the preceding 7 days. Yes, the subject of stuttering was selected as a “Pick of the week”.:-) 

        Whilst welcoming the fact that ‘The King’s Speech’ has brought stuttering very much to the fore during recent years, it has been my experience that there have always been opportunities to create greater awareness about the subject. Please don’t misunderstand me – it’s wonderful that the film got everyone talking about stuttering but (from a personal point of view) I never experienced any difficulty whatsoever in generating interest (in the years prior to the current publicity surrounding the film’s release).

        We must not allow our voices to be silenced now that the euphoria has receded. But, sadly, life is such that the media’s interest inevitably wanes once other happenings appear on the horizon. That’s the way of the world – today’s events will soon be despatched into history. And, unless history repeats itself, it is most unlikely that we will ever again encounter such an accommodating climate in which to discuss stuttering. 🙂

        Colin Firth’s portrayal of the British monarch granted the stuttering community its 15 minutes of fame and, judging from what I observed, it grasped the opportunity with both hands. Many people stepped out of the shadow into the public gaze and allowed the spotlight to illuminate their ‘darkest secrets’. This required immense courage and determination.

        You also asked:

        “Are there any countries or regions you feel we could learn from in this regard?”

        You may find the following article of interest. It was written by a PWS who left the US to settle in Norway with the ‘woman of his dreams’:

        ‘A Contrast in People’s Response’
        http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/PWSspeak/paul.html

        Jane, I wish you every success with your studies and future career.

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  5. Dear Alan,
    You wrote something quite profound. “Each time we avoid something, we strengthen its influence over us.” For me, this sentence helped me truly understand what PWS are going through because I can relate it to a personal struggle in this analogous manner. Your decision to increase your practice of using your most challenging words certainly was a success for you. We all face our own challenges and giving the power and control back to ourselves to make changes in empowering. I found your paper to be so wonderfully inspiring.
    Thank you,
    Serafina Palazzolo

    • Dear Mr. Badmington,

      As SerafinaM1 mentioned, I too was drawn by this statement. “Each time we avoid something, we strengthen its influence over us.” What a profound message, not only to PWS, but to all who psychologically place obstacles in their own path.

      I’m curious as to what triggered your need to reflect on your practice of avoiding words, and how hard it was for you to break this “habit”?

      Thank you for sharing your story! I truly did find it inspiring!

      Premila
      Idaho State University Graduate Student

      • Hi Premila,

        Welcome to the discussion. I’m always heartened to receive feedback from future SLPs. I believe that such exchanges are to our mutual advantage.

        You wrote:

        I’m curious as to what triggered your need to reflect on your practice of avoiding words, and how hard it was for you to break this “habit”?

        On May 6, 1954, British medical student Roger Bannister became the first person to run the mile in less than four minutes. For so many years, it had been considered impossible – many had tried and failed. Yet, the moment he overcame that mystical barrier, the mindset of athletes worldwide changed overnight. They now had evidence that it could be achieved. Before long, others were regularly fulfilling the same feat. Such is the power of belief.

        Fast forward 45 years to April 1, 2000 when I witnessed a PWS recounting how he had successfully embraced public speaking. This had a profound effect upon me. It was such a defining moment that the date is indelibly imprinted upon my memory.

        Prior to hearing his story, I was convinced that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. A catalogue of painful experiences fuelled my belief that I could never successfully undertake that task. Up until that point, I was resigned to the fact that my stuttering would remain an issue for the rest of my days. Everything changed when I heard him speaking – my whole outlook changed.

        He opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something meaningful about my speech. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.

        Shortly afterwards, I also learned about the implications of avoidance, as well as gaining an understanding of the advantages of expanding our comfort zones. The rest is history, as they say. The past 13 years have been so exciting and fulfilling.

        Avoidance was my constant companion for so many years – it accompanied me wherever I went. Each time I substituted a word, or created some other innovative ruse in an attempt to avoid/reduce my oral struggles, I was blissfully unaware that such strategies were fuelling my stuttering behaviour. At that time in my life, I would go to enormous lengths to conceal my communication difficulties. My principal concern was to lessen/eliminate the possibility of “external” reaction/embarrassment.

        Having successfully adhered to a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance for more than 13 years, I am free from their harmful influences and gravitational pull. When I initially decided to abandon my lifelong practice it was necessary for me to utilize my conscious brain to combat any tendency to fall back on avoidance strategies. After all, that had been my automatic default program since childhood.

        As time progressed, the urge to avoid grew less and less before finally disappearing. Today, NON-AVOIDANCE has become my unconscious behaviour. I simply select whatever word(s) I wish without any thoughts (or desire) of resorting to my former practice.

        Premila, I wish you every success with your studies.

        Kindest regards

        Alan

    • Hi Serafina,

      I’m grateful to you for choosing to read my paper and contribute to the threaded discussion. I also greatly appreciate your generous comments.

      Living a safe and predictable life denies us opportunities to discover just how courageous and extraordinary we are. We gain strength and confidence each time we look fear in the face.

      Thomas Edison wrote: “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

      You may also be interested in reading the following papers that I contributed to past ISAD Online Conferences:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

      Kindest regards

      Alan

    • Hi Serafina,

      I’m grateful to you for choosing to read my paper and contribute to the threaded discussion. I also greatly appreciate your generous comments.

      Living a safe and predictable life denies us opportunities to discover just how courageous and extraordinary we are. We gain strength and confidence each time we look fear in the face.

      Thomas Edison wrote: “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

      You may also be interested in reading the following papers that I contributed to past ISAD Online Conferences:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

      Kindest regards

      Alan

    • Hi Serafina,

      Please see my reply below – immediately following my response to Premila David. For some reason, it has appeared out-of-sequence. Sorry!

      Kindest regards

      Alan

    • Hi Serafina,

      I have responded to your post but (for some reason) my comments have appeared out-of-sequence. Please scroll down below my interaction with Premila David to read what I have written.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  6. Hi Mr. Badmington,

    As a graduate student, I am just learning about stuttering. I was impressed with your description of the discipline and confidence it must have taken to approach your dysfluency in such a systematic way. I imagine many PWS don’t feel as if they have the confidence to to what you’ve done. What might you say to a PWS in that position?

    Thanks for your article, I loved reading it!

    -Daniel K.
    Kean University

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for choosing to read my paper and participate in the threaded discussion. I’m delighted that you found it of interest.

      You wrote:

      “I imagine many PWS don’t feel as if they have the confidence to do what you’ve done. What might you say to a PWS in that position?

      I feel that I benefited immensely from the fact that I possessed useful interpersonal skills, as a consequence of wearing a prosthetic Masked Auditory Feedback (MAF) device known as the Edinburgh Masker (now obsolete) for more than 20 years. Although the apparatus never eliminated my stutter, it gave me the confidence to venture into situations that I might, otherwise, have avoided.

      When I refer to interpersonal skills, I’m not talking about fluency – I’m referring to the ‘art of conversation’. Quite understandably, some PWS are deficient in this area because they tend to remain on the fringes of conversation, whereas fluent” people generally acquire communication skills (progressively) from an early age. (My comments are not meant to be disparaging – I’m simply making an observation based upon my personal experiences.)

      The point I’m attempting to make is that some PWS may not be in a position to follow the exceedingly proactive approach that I adopted. It is unlikely to be suitable for everyone. We are all different. I was at a place in my life where I wanted to explore uncharted waters and experience new challenges.

      I was a relatively outgoing individual with a wide experience of life. I considered myself to be a reasonably good communicator when I didn’t stutter.

      I’ve chosen to mention the above factors because I think it is important for a clinician to be aware that clients may need to address a wide range of issues that appear unrelated to the mechanics of their speech (for example social anxiety, self-esteem, assertiveness etc).

      The concept of “the need to experience pain in order to achieve gain” is a difficult one to sell/convey, particularly to those of a tender age.

      You might wish to consider sharing my paper with your client(s) in the first instance. If someone understands the purpose of undertaking a certain course of action, then I feel they are more likely to be accepting of the challenge and come on board

      Group therapy might also be advantageous. I derived immense benefit from my involvement with the self-help organization. The group camaraderie (and joint activities) encouraged us to imitate/inspire each other to confront our fears (both individually and collectively). Everyone was so supportive.

      Fear and self-doubt figure prominently in the lives of many people, not just those who stutter. They can sabotage hopes and aspirations. When left to our own devices, it is possible that we may never summon up sufficient courage to face the issues that impede our progress. However, as members of a support group, some people gain confidence and encouragement by leaning upon the knowledge, camaraderie and collective support that are present within that group. I have witnessed this on numerous occasions.

      We can all gain something (however small) from each other’s stories. Learning about the experiences of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. It can alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware — in relation to therapies, techniques and opportunities that allow us to unearth our true potential. It can also open our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined, igniting belief in our own capabilities.

      As a result of these interactions, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives. We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, and have discovered that there are exciting paths available for us to tread. But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of facing those challenges alone.

      Role models can also have a powerful impact. On April, 1, 2000, I witnessed a PWS recounting how he had won several public speaking trophies in formal competition with ‘fluent’ contestants. It was such a defining moment that the date is indelibly imprinted upon my memory. Prior to hearing his story, I was convinced that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. A catalogue of painful experiences fuelled my belief that I could never successfully undertake that task. My whole outlook changed.

      The man that I heard speaking so enthusiastically about how he had successfully embraced public speaking opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something similar. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.

      I genuinely believe that our ability to change our lives lies in our ability to harness the immense power of belief and thought. Either we shape our thoughts – or our thoughts will shape us. I had the desire and motivation to change, together with persistence and a major commitment to personal growth. When our belief in failure is greater than our belief in success, we invariably quit.

      You (and your clients) may also find something of interest in the following papers (that I contributed past ISAD Online Conferences) that also touch upon these issues:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.

      Daniel, I wish you every success with your studies.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  7. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for sharing your empowering story! Although I do not stutter, I am faced with some of the daily challenged you spoke about such as anxiety with public speaking. I often utilize any type of avoidance I can to get out of public speaking, such as making me presentations “short & sweet” as one of my undergraduate professors described. Now being in graduate school and having to do presentations and inservices just about every other week I need to overcome this fear. When I came across your paper I was really inspired by your “zero tolerance policy” of avoidance behaviors. What helped you face your challenges? How did you become so comfortable saying you name? How did you not get discouraged when the first few attempts were very disfluent? I would also like to mention that I really admired when you spoke in the paper how you wanted people to ask you your name because you liked the challenge. I hope I feel that way about public speaking some day!

    Thank you again,

    Kim

    • Hi Kim,

      I am most grateful to you for providing feedback. Thank you for your generous comments.

      You wrote:

      “When I came across your paper I was really inspired by your “zero tolerance policy” of avoidance behaviors. What helped you face your challenges? How did you become so comfortable saying you name? How did you not get discouraged when the first few attempts were very disfluent?”

      There were many different factors that helped me to face my challenges. In April 2000, I witnessed a PWS who had successfully embraced public speaking. For more than half a century, I had been restricted by the self-limiting belief that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. I now had evidence that it could be achieved. This encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that would subsequently change the course of my life.

      A few weeks later, I acquired (courtesy of a self-help organization) a breathing technique that enabled me to successfully overcome my blocking behaviours. With the aid of other physiological tools (that made it easier for me to pronounce certain letters/sounds), I was able to challenge (and overcome) my fears of saying specific words that held an emotional charge. Everyone was so supportive – I had never previously experienced such camaraderie.

      During that same self-help seminar, I learned about the implications of avoidance, while also sampling the benefits of expanding my comfort zones.

      I had so many positive experiences that I gained immensely in confidence. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed talking. It was so liberating.

      In order to widen my circles of speaking, I devised an extensive plan of action that caused me to routinely expand my comfort zones in a wide range of different areas. This allowed me to challenge (and reverse) the self-limiting beliefs that had impeded my life for so many years. The resultant empowering beliefs generated correspondingly empowering thoughts and behaviours.

      When I initially embarked upon the above venture, I felt secure in the knowledge that the breathing (and other tools) were at my disposal. (I suppose you could equate it to attaching stabilisers to a bicycle when we first learn to ride. They provide both practical and psychological assistance.)

      Within a relatively short period of time, I discarded all techniques and chose to continue my journey unaided. I found that I didn’t need their support. Abandoning the temporary controls (which had effectively served as a springboard as well as a safety net), made it possible for me to let go and experiment further with my speech. I was able to gauge exactly how far I had progressed. Unless we expose ourselves to risks, we remain ignorant of our true capabilities.

      My approach to oral communication is now so different. Throughout my life, it was simply a question of survival. Speaking was once a chore but now it is a delight. Speaking was always so tiring – now it is effortless. Whereas speaking invariably generated fearful anticipatory thoughts – I now enter every speaking situation without any expectation of difficulties.

      For so many years, I relied heavily upon extensive avoidance. I accepted second best and frequently used words that were inappropriate or inferior. Today I pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary and use them without fear. When I speak, it occurs naturally. I don’t consciously use (or focus upon) any assistive techniques or tools.

      Call me selfish if you like, but I didn’t just want to rid myself of my stuttering/blocking/holding back behaviours. I recognised that there were opportunities to achieve so much more. I yearned to live a more expansive and fulfilling life; I longed to perform widely on life’s stage; and I, certainly, had a burning desire to become an eloquent speaker. (I recall one radio presenter commenting (during a live interview) that it was like a non-swimmer suddenly deciding to dive in at the deep end of the pool) 🙂

      You then wrote:

      “I hope I feel that way about public speaking some day!”

      Kim, may I respectfully suggest that you join Toastmasters International (or something similar). That’s exactly what I did. Public speaking was once my greatest fear – today it is an exciting and integral part of my life.

      You may find it helpful to peruse the following papers that I have contributed to past ISAD Online Conferences:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

      I wish you every success with your studies.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  8. Hi Alan,

    Your experience is inspiring and not just for PWS, it goes to show that if you truly want something badly enough and work hard enough at it, you will see success. I am currently in graduate school at Idaho State University, studying to be an SLP and my eyes have really been opened in my fluency disorders class.

    Do you feel that your strategy of facing your demons head-on is one that could work for the greater population of PWS or does it take a special sort of drive and personality?

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Regards,
    Lindsey Coburn

    • Hi Lindsay,

      I’m delighted to receive yet another enquiry from Idaho State University. I feel that such interaction with future SLPs is mutually beneficial.

      You wrote:

      “Do you feel that your strategy of facing your demons head-on is one that could work for the greater population of PWS or does it take a special sort of drive and personality? “

      Fear and self-doubt are NOT exclusive to persons who stutter. Likewise, avoidance is also practised by so many other people – it is not solely the prerogative of PWS.

      But as long as we continue to avoid something that we fear (or which feels uncomfortable), it will continue to restrict our lives. The more we fuel that fear, the greater its influence will become.

      I feel that many people (in all walks of life) would benefit by following the advice offered by Eleanor Roosevelt (American First Lady 1933-1945):

      “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

      I wrote about the advantages of moving out of our safe areas in the following paper that I contributed to the ISAD Online Conference in 2003:

      STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      I fully accept that some PWS may not be in a position to follow the exceedingly proactive approach that I adopted. It is unlikely to be suitable for everyone. We are all different. I was at a place in my life where I wanted to explore uncharted waters and experience new challenges.

      You may wish to check out my earlier response to Daniel who posed a similar question.

      I wish you every success with your studies and career.

      Thank you for your interest.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  9. “I immediately adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance” – I love this! It can be applied to so many other areas of life, as well. It reminds me of something a counselor once told me concerning anxiety. He said “Take your anxiety with you.” I have tried to do this in my life and I have felt my anxiety in different settings decrease. Anxiety is fed by avoidance. Sounds like stuttering does the same! I also really love your poem. Very great insight! Thank you!

    • Hi missyhelene,

      I apologize for addressing you in such an informal manner but I do not know your name. 

      It is my understanding that many persons who stutter experience some form of social anxiety disorder. I recognize that I was, indeed, fortunate that I did not fall within that category.

      I feel that I benefited immensely from the fact that I possessed useful interpersonal skills, as a consequence of wearing a prosthetic Masked Auditory Feedback (MAF) device known as the Edinburgh Masker (now obsolete) for more than 20 years. Although the apparatus never eliminated my stutter, it gave me the confidence to venture into situations that I might, otherwise, have avoided.

      When I refer to interpersonal skills, I’m not talking about fluency – I’m referring to the ‘art of conversation’. Quite understandably, some PWS are deficient in this area because they tend to remain on the fringes of conversation, whereas fluent” people generally acquire communication skills (progressively) from an early age. (My comments are not meant to be disparaging – I’m simply making an observation based upon my personal experiences.)

      When I began my transformational journey in 2000, I actively made a point of seeking out persons with whom to converse. Today, I don’t have to make any effort – it happens automatically. I habitually speak to anyone I happen to encounter (in the street, in the coffee shop; at the supermarket; on the train; at the dentists’/doctors’/opticians’; in fact anywhere). 🙂

      Dr Mark Irwin (past Board Chair of the ISA) writes about social anxiety disorder on his website:

      http://stutteredspeechsyndrome.com/

      You also wrote:

      “I also really love your poem.”

      Thank you. Many PWS tell me that they can identify with the message it contains. Incidentally, it is listed as an official ASHA resource and used by therapists in many parts of the world.

      Thank you, so much, for your interest.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  10. Mr. Badmington,
    Your dedication to avoiding avoidance behaviors is truly inspiring. I was so impressed by the zero tolerance policy that you adopted and I think your words can be an encouragement to others who stutter. I am a graduate student taking a class on fluency and I know your words will be a point of reference for me in the future as I encounter clients who stutter. Your poem was especially touching and I found it to be an anthem of sorts for a PWS. In a previous comment, you mentioned how you attended some support groups over the years. My question to you is: who do you believe should lead support groups for people who stutter? Should it be led by a person who stutters or by a professional (such as a speech pathologist or a psychologist)?
    Thank you again for the great read!

    Jillian U.
    Kean University

    • Hi Jillian,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and provide feedback.

      I very much regret that I am unable to respond meaningfully at this time. I have an unexpected (and urgent) commitment that I need to fulfil today.

      However, I will make every effort to answer the questions you posed – later this evening. My only concern is that the ISAD Conference may have closed in advance of my return.

      If that should occur, I invite you to write to me personally via the following email address:

      alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk

      I apologies for the delay and inconvenience.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  11. Hi Chris,

    I am most grateful to you for taking the time to read my paper and provide feedback.

    You wrote:

    “You described how you viewed your avoidance behaviors as “stuttering on the inside”, and that it needed to come out to be resolved. Does that mean you would describe stuttering more in terms of the emotional/behavioral impact on an individual rather than describing how fluent someones language is?”

    For the majority of my life, I held the self-limiting belief that I would experience difficulty when saying words commencing with 13 specific letters. In order to avoid the possibility of stuttering/embarrassment, I would avoid using them at all costs. Effectively, half of the alphabet lay outside my scope. When one of the words that held an emotional charge loomed large on the horizon, I developed the expertise to be able to provide instant synonyms commencing with letters that I perceived to be easier to say. I became a “walking thesaurus”. 

    As the result of my constant word substitution, I was (in many instances) able to conceal the true extent of my problem. However, I very rarely said the words of my choice – I succumbed to using words that I considered to be inferior. I accepted second best.

    Whilst it was a relief not to reveal my stutter, I inevitably felt frustrated because I knew that I possessed the intellect to use more appropriate (and/or superior) vocabulary. Although there may not have been any visible signs of dysfluency, I felt that the accompanying inner turmoil (of constantly searching for “easier” words) equated to “stuttering on the inside”.

    I feel it is important to appreciate that stuttering is not just about the mechanics of speech. It involves so much more than struggling to force the words out of our mouths. The way in which we speak is influenced by so many different factors. It’s about the beliefs that we have developed over the years; our self-image; the way in which we react with people; the emotional baggage that we have accumulated; and our reluctance to place ourselves in challenging situations because we cannot be certain of the outcome. In my view, it is holistic in nature.

    You may wish to check out the following papers that I have written about the subject:

    “Stuttering is not just a speech problem” (2001)

    http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/Infostuttering/badmington.pdf

    STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives (2003)

    http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

    How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering (2009)

    http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

    How I Changed My Stuttering Mindset (2005)

    http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad8/papers/badmington8.html

    Chris, I wish you every success with your studies.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  12. Hi Alan,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a graduate student and I worked with a young woman who was in medical school and she was able to avoid words she knew would make her stutter. She became so good at avoiding that it appeared natural. However, it took over a month in therapy for her to become comfortable with me and the clinic setting to allow herself to stutter. As someone who has never stuttered I think it’s hard to put ourselves in that deep emotional and painful position. She was a beautiful girl who was 24 years old but had been able to manage her stuttering by avoiding words and situations (i.e. public speaking) for nearly 12 years. It was so hard for her to let her guard down and also such a big step to seek speech services as an adult. With the right tools, counseling, and internal motivation to break the cycle of avoiding words and to say what she truly wished to say she became a highly fluent speaker. Are their support groups for young professionals/graduate students who stutter? She was always apprehensive to attend support groups because the population was either older or more severe. Also, because of the emotional ties and negativity she had towards stuttering, many of our sessions involved counseling. Would you recommend a psychologist referral before beginning speech therapy? Thank you!

    • Hi bdoctor,

      In the event of the conference closing before I have an opportunity to response meaningfully to your enquiry, please feel free to continue the correspondence via my private email address:

      alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk

      Kindest regards

      Alan

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