Turn-Around Thinking

guptaAbout the author: My name is Dhruv Gupta. By the age of 8, I had already lived in 5 countries. Also at the age of 8, I began stuttering. This experience has changed the way I live my life. I stopped participating in class, had difficulty making conversation with friends and significantly decreased the quality of my personal and professional life. About 8 months ago, I went through a 3-week intensive therapy program in NYC that changed my life. I learned a tool called Turn-Around Thinking, that I share here in a Toastmasters speech shown below. I believe stuttering is sexy, and stutterers are resilient.

This was during the Toastmasters Area Competition in Guangzhou. It is a speech on my story as a stutterer, and how I learned a new way of thinking about it – which changed the way I think in general everyday.

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Turn-Around Thinking — 35 Comments

  1. Hi Dhruv – thank you so much for this. I smiled all the way through, especially towards the end. I am a parent of a 17-year who stutters and the author of “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help, and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.” I am also the author of “The Right Time to Break Out the Stickers,” included in this conference. I love turn-around thinking…and I will make sure my son listens to your talk. I have a question… do you think anything could have been done with you as a child to encourage/support this sort of thinking? Do you remember what might have contributed to your negative thoughts? Thank you —
    Dori Lenz Holte

    • HI Dori,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I will surely check out the books you mentioned.

      Growing up I didn’t know of/meet anyone else who stuttered till I was in University. Nor did I make a strong attempt to understand and manage my stuttering. I sort of accepted it as something that came when it wanted too, and fought my way through each block – this fighting led to many downs and resulted in me not speaking for a good part of educational and social life. I believe having someone who could have educated me on stuttering – how many people stutter, learning that people who stutter can be successful, seeing role models who stutter and accomplished great things, learning tools to manage my stuttering, and most of all realizing that it’s okay to stutter, what’s important is communicating your message and not letting any thoughts get in the way of doing so.

      Hence, I guess meeting PWS who were my age, and sharing feelings with them. Meeting adult PWS who can tell/show me that they have stuttered their whole lives, gotten thru and are okay. And learning the underlying message that stuttering is okay – what’s important is communicating my message.

      My negative thoughts were entirely self-driven, from not understanding what was happening, and fighting it each time it came. Hence, trying my best to avoid it from coming again. I just didn’t know the right way to think about stuttering.

      Hope this helps.

      Turtle power,


      PS: Turtle is a metaphor I learned from Dr. Heather Grossman, symbolizing how a stutterer must keep moving, however slow or difficult the path, to get where he wants to go.

  2. Dhruv,

    I am a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology and I really enjoyed watching the video and learning about Turn-Around thinking. In my fluency class we were just talking about how important it is to tell your client to first look at all the positive things they do during an interaction and not the negatives. Your story of perseverance and picking out the successful things you do rather than focusing on the negative is truly inspirational. You mentioned when you were eight, you’re stuttering greatly interfered with your personal and professional life. Do you think that if you would have known turn-around thinking when you were nine or ten that it could have helped you or do you believe that in order to think this way, you needed to be older and have a number of experiences to lead you to this positive way of thinking? I ask this question because I’m thinking of myself at age nine or ten and feeling as though I would not have this kind of positive thinking, especially because it is that age where you are struggling to fit in and ‘belong.’

    • Hi Elars088,

      Thanks for your comment. I really commend you for pursuing Speech-Language Pathology, and focusing on people who stutter. Also, I don’t like it when they call it a ‘fluency class’ as I don’t believe in the word fluency. I don’t think anyone in the world is ‘fluent’, and that word creates a barrier in itself for stutterers who may see it as a goal – when really it’s an illusion. I believe the key is comfort. I’d call it a ‘Speaking with comfort class’. 🙂

      I think it would be difficult to apply turn-around thinking at a young age, simply because we naturally lean towards negative self-judging behavior – I did this wrong, he thought this of me, etc. I mean even today, it’s definitely an act of will power and active mindfulness to use turn-around thinking. I think that as a child what’s important is support – making the child believe, and I mean really believe, that stuttering will not stop him/her from doing anything in life. First and foremost, this is a belief that parents must have. Only after the parents have this belief, can they impart it to their child. Furthermore, parents must speak with their teachers and ensure they believe the same. The child must not receive sympathetic special treatment, but encouraging treatment, just like everyone else in the class. And of course, teacher’s must ensure that all classmates are aware of stuttering and note famous stutterers, so they also realize that it’s just a difference someone has, but in no way means their classmate is lower or slower than them.

      Hope the above helps. Feel free to ask me any follow ups.



  3. Dhruv, I found your post to be inspirational. It is unbelievable how much of a difference your positive attitude has had on your entire life. However I did have a question regarding your stuttering technique. As a graduate student studying communicative disorders, I was wondering if by changing your words to avoid a stutter, you ever find yourself not able to express what you were intending? It seems to me that sometimes my messages require specific words and if I had to change these words I’m not sure if my message would be accurate.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your message. By no means do I recommend changing/avoiding words. Stutterers must strive to use the words they want to use to communicate their particular message. You are absolutely right that by changing words the communication may lose its intended meaning. I am a strong believer in the power of language and diction. We choose words carefully in our mind to convey our thoughts and changing them can be detrimental to the message we are trying to convey, thereby leading in a different response/answer from the recipient of the communication. What’s more frustrating for the stutterer who changes/avoids words would then be the wrong response/answer – and the guilt/shame/fear of telling the recipient ‘Look, I changed my words there, I meant to say this…’. Of course many stutterers would never say the aforementioned statement and thus have to accept whatever response/answer they received – which to put it simply, is a punch in the face.

      Another reason for not changing/avoiding a word is that in the future, when a stutterer needs to use that word, that fear would come back, and then he may choose to avoid it again – to prevent him/herself from stuttering – and thus create a perpetual cycle of ‘word-fear’.

      Hence, encourage all your stuttering friends to go through the word and say it. Use tools if they must. They can do it!



  4. Dhruv thanks for sharing this. Very inspiring and motivating. I am going to be giving speech number 9 at my next toastmasters meeting and am thinking about doing something on my experience with stuttering. I like the idea of turn around thinking. Thanks again. Steve

    • Hi Steve,

      Good luck for your CC9! Doing a speech on stuttering is liberating, but was definitely one of the hardest speeches I wrote – as it was a very sensitive/emotional topic. However, the bigger the hill the more satisfaction you will gain from climbing to the top. Good luck again 🙂



  5. Dhruv – great speech. Thanks for sharing it. I have been in Toastmasters myself now for 7+ years and it has really helped me become a more confident communicator. How did you do in this contest?
    And also, I noticed during your speech some laughter from the audience during stuttering moments, in particular one time when you blocked.
    How did that make you feel?

  6. Hi Pam,

    Thanks for your message. I was actually overtime by 3 seconds in this contest – 7:33 – hence was disqualified. It’s a great learning to watch the Timer and be aware of the cards.

    I definitely noticed the laughter when I was up there, but I believe that it’s better to receive good natured laughter than pity – if you yourself can laugh it off. That is the key to reaching the ideal mindset for a stutterer – being comfortable with your stuttering and even enjoying when it comes, like ‘oh man, that one just crept up on me’. And most people usually laugh when they don’t know how else to respond.

    However, I’m not taking here about the laughter of bullies and people intending to seriously make fun of a PWS. Although, that type of laughter is usually best remedied with laughter as well, and proving to them that look it didn’t bother me either – which usually makes them back-off as it’s no longer a big deal to you – the PWS.

    Turtle power,


  7. Hello,
    I really enjoyed watching your video and seeing how positive you were about people who stutter! I wonder, as a graduate student studying to be an SLP, do you think that you have a responsibility to help others, specifically children who stutter? I feel that anyone who heard your story could come away with some type of inspiration or new found idea that they could implement into their own life. I imagine that it is extremely important to have someone to go to for support. I know that is what I would be looking for. I thought your video was very inspirational and I hope that you find yourself helping others! You had such a wonderful message to share.

    • Hi Kortney,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I have thought about helping others, primarily in my home-country India. There is a lack of SLP’s who particularly focus on Stuttering. I am evaluating the direction I want to take my life in right now, and I am strongly considering putting full focus on creating a stuttering therapy center in India.

      You comments have encouraged my thought-process on this. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! I am sure you’ll become a wonderful SLP : )

  8. Hi Dhruv,

    Thank you for sharing this approach, that is probably considered by many experts in the field to be non-traditional, yet is rooted in so much common sense! I believe the power of a positive attitude is too often overlooked, but so very important. Many years ago, I read the book “The Secret,” which has had such a significant impact on my way of thinking and approaching the challenges in life. It is too easy to get hung up on the many “can’ts” and “don’ts” infiltrating daily life. We are often busy looking for solutions to problems rather than appreciating the things right in front of us. “The Secret” explains the power of positive thought and how we have so much control over what happens to us and around us, just by channeling our thoughts in a negative or a positive way. It was uplifting to hear how much changing your thought patterns helped you, and I appreciate you spreading this simple, yet too often overlooked message, to others confronting communication challenges.

    • Hi Foodieslp,

      Love your nickaname btw 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts. I will check out “The Secret”, seems like a book with a powerful, positive message.



  9. Dhruv,
    Thank you for your amazing story. It was very interesting to see how beneficial this program was for you. I can’t help but wonder if most people who stutter would benefit from a program such as this one. You really expressed how important self acceptance is. I am a graduate student pursing speech and language therapy as a degree and you have really drawn me to this aspect of our field. I think that your therapist truly did an amazing job. Turning the negative positive is very important because you are an individual with a lot to offer and should be proud of the person you are. Do you ever have moments where you still feel as though you choose not to speak so other people don’t know you stutter?

    Thank you,

    • Dear Vanessa,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I surely do have moments where I am worried that I will stutter and consider choosing not to speak or avoid/change a word. This is part of the my conditioned emotional habit towards stuttering. It is something I work on everyday, some days more/less than others, but I do work on it. The key, I feel, is adjusting our emotional habits so that first we recognize our negative emotions towards stuttering, and through mindful voluntary stuttering, talking about stuttering, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, we move our emotions to become more positive. After you can gain positive emotions towards speaking/stuttering this is the key to control/good management of your speech – and ultimately not caring if you stutter or not, just focusing on your message.

      I wish you all the best in your pursuit of Speech & Language therapy. Win hearts!



  10. Hi Dhruv,
    As a future SLP, I found your video to be inspiring and I think it not only inspires people who stutter but everyone in general. Taking something that is negative and putting a positive spin on it seems to be such an important life skill. I think that turn-around thinking could be very beneficial for people who stutter. I think it would help them to realize that stuttering doesn’t need to stop them from doing what they want to do in life and it could encourage them to take the next step and get out there and “try”. Do you think that people who stutter need some emotional counseling before they can get to the point of employing turn around thinking? You mentioned talking to your 8-year-old self and wanting to say, “in life there are no full stops and that you will be a life long stutter and that is okay.” How did you get to the point where you accepted your stuttering? Did you ever receive therapy for stuttering besides going to this three-week intensive therapy program?
    Thank you for sharing your story,
    Amanda Weber

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for your comments. I agree with your thoughts that Turn-Around thinking can help anyone. It is a very powerful tool – to mindfully stop yourself when you begin to criticize yourself, and focus on the positive things about that situation – for anyone to use, PWS or not.

      I don’t necessarily think a PWS or anyone else would need emotional counseling to employ Turn-Around Thinking. Unless, however, that person is continuously self-deprecating to the point of depression, in which case again, PWS or not, they would need emotional counseling.

      To be honest, there is still a small part of me that has not accepted my stutter – that is trying to fight the stutter. And if I stutter at all today, it is because of that part. In those situations I use physical tools like bouncing, pull-outs. However, Turn-around thinking has been a great tool to bring me closer to acceptance. To consciously feel good about myself and my actions, with the end goal of gaining symmetry between thoughts and feelings about my actions. These positive feelings then act as spring-board when I’m in a similar situation in the future. I say “Hey, I was in this situation before, and I left with positive feelings, I should try again now.”



  11. Dhruv,
    Your speech was brief but powerful. I am a grad student (in New York) studying to be an SLP. I found your speech to be both inspirational as well as offering a concrete way to change how one views challenges. I do not stutter but I find I can take this information and apply it to challenging and overwhelming situations in my life. Thank you for taking this brave step and I wish you success in all that you want to do.
    Ilene Kupferman

    • Hi IIene,

      Thanks for your comment. I wish you all the best in your pursuit of becoming a SLP. Keep inspiring people in your circle!

  12. Hi Dhruv,
    I am, too, a graduate student studying to become a SLP. I really enjoyed hearing your story and the progression in which your feelings about stuttering transitioned from the negative to the positive. Thank you for sharing your story so that others may benefit from your experience. In my graduate studies we have discussed “person-first language” to a great extent; we are taught to put the person first, before the “disorder”. I noticed you used the word “stutterer” to describe yourself and others who stutter. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on individuals being called a person who stutters versus a stutterer. By turning around our thinking about stuttering,it seems that being called a “stutterer” shouldn’t have a negative connotation and is really only embracing the uniqueness of your stutter, rather than putting a focus on the “disorder”.

    Jennie Mahaffey
    Western Carolina University

  13. Hi Dhruv,

    Thank you for the wonderful speech. I am not a stutterer, but I know there’s been quite a few times where I needed this kind of advice. Not only will I implement these practices in my future career as a speech-language pathologist, but your voice will echo in my head every time I think to myself that I can’t do something.

    Idaho State University

    • Hi Rachel,

      Your words are inspiration to me. I am glad that I have been able to offer you something of value. Use it proudly and boldly – you can do anything!



  14. Hi Jennie,

    Thanks for your comment. I strongly agree that the person as whole should be put first before the ‘disorder’. I think on wording, it doesn’t really matter if one uses PWS or stutterer. Although, if a PWS is speaking I think it sounds better to say “I stutter” or “I have a stutter”, then “I am a person who stutters” – of course you’re a person!

    In technical speak, it may seem more politically correct to say Person who stutters rather than just stutterer. At the end of the day, even if we say Person who stutters, we’re still labeling that person as someone who stutters. We’re not saying he is a ‘Person who Stutters, Sings, Dances, Laughs, Enjoy’s life, etc.’ My point is, it doesn’t really matter.

    The key is that the PWS must recognize/internalize that he/she comes before his/her stutter. One analogy I heard before, is you should treat your stutter like your tame dog. It should be on leash where it is under your control – where the person is control of the dog, not the dog in control of the person. Of course there are many analogies that can be used. Key being that a persons thoughts matter more than his/her stutter.

    I think a word that does have negative connotations is disorder. I appreciate you putting the word disorder in quotes. I feel like it’s the same as calling Emerging Markets/Developing Countries – Third World Countries.

    When we give a label like Fluency Disorder to Stuttering, it makes a stutterer intitally feel like everyone else is fluent and they have problem where they cannot be fluent. I believe in reality, no one is really ‘fluent’. Each person has their own manner of speaking, just like everyone has their own manner of walking. Of course, people who are unable to walk may be called disabled, as they are always not able to walk. However, a stutterer is often very able to speak – only at times a ‘disfluency’ arrises. Maybe we could change this black and white term, Fluency Disorder, to a more grey term that reflects what stuttering really is, Occasional disfluency.

    Then a stutterer can say “I am occasionally disfluent, and I’m okay with it”. Rather than, “I have a fluency disorder, and I’m okay with it”. It seems easier to accept the occasional disfluency rather than a fluency disorder – as the word disorder implies permanency, it is out of working order.

    Thanks for your comments here. It has allowed me to think more on this subject. Hope you continue the conversation in your circle of influence!



  15. Hi Dhruv,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and the positive influence of Turn-Around Thinking in your life! I enjoyed watching your video and seeing how your experiences with stuttering changed over time as your perspective changed; what an inspiring message! I am currently a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, and one of the main topics we talk about is the “iceberg effect” of some observable effects of stuttering on the surface, but a majority hidden below. I think it’s great that you focused on what’s “below the surface” by addressing the attitude and perspective behind stuttering.
    I was wondering a few things about your intervention program, such as how many sessions per week there were, and what other kinds of things you worked on besides Turn-Around Thinking (if any). Also, did you continue with any other intervention program after that 3-week program? Again, thank you for sharing. You are an excellent story-teller with an inspiring message.

    Bethany Bauer
    SLP Graduate Student
    University of Wisconsin

  16. Hi Dhruv,
    I am also a graduate student studying to be a speech-language pathologist. I found your speech to be motivational and inspiring so thank you so much for sharing. SInce reading some of the papers on the ISAD conference I have been introduced to the Toastmasters Club. I was wondering how long you have been going to meetings and if you find them beneficial in terms of your stuttering? Thank you for reminding me what a powerful tool Turn-Around Thinking is!
    Kirstie P.

  17. Hello Dhruv,

    I am excited to officially join your admirers! Like many of the others who have left comments and questions, I am a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student. This semester, I am working with adults who have suffered illness or trauma and are trying to regain function. Many of them focus on the can’t. I truly appreciate your description and demonstration of Turn-Around Thinking. It seems to be a technique that supports growth and development regardless of the difficulty a person is experiencing if they can free themselves to create a positive perspective of themselves.

    I do have a couple of questions for you. In your speech you mentioned how anxiety provoking the idea of speaking was for you. How did you come to join a Toastmasters Club? Additionally, you mentioned in a response that you are from India where few SLP’s treat individuals who stutter. How has your family responded to your stuttering?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Castleton
    Graduate Student
    Idaho State University

  18. Hi Dhruv,

    Your lecture is very useful to everyone who watches. Applying this turn-around thinking is a great technique everyone should use in his or her daily lives. As humans, I feel like we all look at the glass half empty. We all need to stop and start looking on the brighter side of different situations. I will certainly take this technique in with me in my future practices as an SLP. Thanks for being brave and sharing your story!

    Barbara I.

  19. Hello Dhruv!

    Thanks for sharing your video, thoughts and lecture during the ISAD.

    I am a person who stutters… Have been for 56 years! When I was about 12, I recognized that when I was alone by myself, I didn’t stutter, but when people where present, I did stutter; quite severely! I could not understand this at all!

    I had all kinds of speech therapy between the ages of 4 – 17: Doman Delacato, Fluency training, Fluency shaping, Stuttering Modification, Hybrid of Fluency Training/Stuttering Modification, DAF, Drug Therapy. None of these therapies were effective. They were all BS. On a “This Therapy Sucks” scale from 1 – 10, each and every one scored about 100! None of these types of therapy lead to natural speech ever. All of them led me to the ultimate stuttering behavior of CHOSEN SILENCE by the time I was 17 years old.

    My speech – and thought process about myself – all began to change when I was involved in a therapy that demanded I end the use of any techniques for stopping/modifying my stuttering. Instead, it specifically targeted addressing the fear of stuttering, the fear of talking & the fear of interacting with others. As these fears were addressed over a time period of about 7 years, vast quantities of my natural speech – which I always knew I posessed – began to emerge and replace my stuttered speech to a point where people have a difficult time believing I was/am a person who stutters.

    The single most important therapy goal in the successful resurfacing of my natural speech was the development of an overwhelming amount of IDGAS when it came to the fear of stuttering, the fear of talking & the fear of interacting.

    That being said – IDGAS was also one of the most difficult things to attain in therapy. Yet, I did…and I know others who stutter that have as well.
    I am forever grateful to the professional SLP that helped me in my quest to not be afraid to stutter, to talk or to interact with others.

    These three things I know are true-
    The goals of traditional speech therapy – Fluency training and Stuttering
    Modification – are not the release of Natural Speech by the person who stutters.
    It is easy to stop suttering…Just don’t talk.
    It is difficult to face and conquer fear…A plan featuring relentless bravery to overcome fear is required.

    Be Brave, My Friend!


  20. Hi Dhruv,
    I couldn’t help but think that the stress of moving to many countries at a young age could have triggered the onset of stuttering. Then, I thought about how fortunate you were to have had the rich experience of being enlightened by so many cultures. This in turn, made me wonder if being exposed to the differences of people helped you take on such a positive perspective. You seem to have a solid understanding that our experiences, combined with our individual traits, work in harmony to create the qualities that attract us to one another. So, I must agree that stuttering is sexy. Do you feel the diversity in your background and knowing that we are all wonderfully different, helped you be more open to combating your fears of what others think while in therapy?
    All the best to you,

  21. Mr. Gupta,

    I am a graduate student studying to become a speech language pathologist. I really enjoyed your presentation. Your enthusiasm for turn-around thinking makes me happy! Your presentation has helped me as a future clinician. I can see how this form of thinking could be beneficial in the therapy room. I would love to assist my future client’s who are affected by stuttering by turning their negative beliefs of their stutter into positive thoughts. I want to assist these children acknowledge that they can and will find their voice and that they are worthy enough to live successful and happy lives.

    Thank you,

    Anna S.
    University of Wisconsin Stevens Point

  22. Hi Dhruv,

    What an awesome, positive message you’re communicating here! Your story is one that should be shared with the world. It applies not only to PWS, but to humanity as a life lesson. I am in graduate school at Idaho State University studying to become an SLP and stories like yours are what excite me about working in this field. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Lindsey Coburn

  23. Hi Dhruv,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your speech! I am not a person who stutters, but I found your words regarding turn-around thinking to be truly inspirational! What an awesome message to take with you through life – “I can … I will.. I am!”

    I will definitely employ the turn-round thinking in my life!

    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    p.s. – I loved your comment about renaming the “Fluency” courses in the SLP program to “Speaking with comfort” courses. That is the bottom line, I guess! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your story!

  24. I hope this isn’t too much of a repetition of other comments, I just want to tell you that your video is very much appreciated. It’s impressive how well you took that one concept from the intensive that you attended and have been able to apply it AND share it. I also want to thank you for one of the comments you made earlier on this forum about not being upset at some laughter but also separating it from bullying behavior. This could be a really difficult aspect of stuttering to live with but your take on it is so positive and healthy. Thank you for sharing your experiences.