Increasing awareness and understanding of stuttering

badmington-224x300About the author: Alan Badmington, a retired police officer (from Wales in the UK), commenced stuttering in childhood.  He is an active and highly successful public speaker, winning numerous awards (in competition with fluent speakers), 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 brought the subject to the fore. 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 Contest. He has addressed SLP students in the USA, as well as undertaking presentations/workshops at NSA/BSA and ASHA conferences/events.  His papers, articles and poems have been reproduced in numerous publications and on various international websites/forums. (alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk)

I have long advocated the need to increase public awareness about stuttering. Can we really expect others to understand what is happening, or know how to react, when we suddenly block, display secondary behaviours or appear hesitant?  In many instances, even members of our own families have little knowledge about the difficulties we encounter.

In 2001, I decided to do something about it. I felt it was time that I accepted greater responsibility for acquainting other people with what it is like to be a person who stutters (PWS).  Who better to explain the implications than those who have experienced such issues?  As someone who had stuttered since early childhood, I reasoned that I was suitably qualified to undertake such a task.

A few months earlier, I had made a conscious decision to follow a more expansive lifestyle. This change of direction was accompanied by a resolve to eliminate all avoidance strategies and actively seek out opportunities to tread less familiar paths.

I simultaneously adopted a policy of greater openness, in an effort to discourage me from future attempts to conceal the fact that I stuttered.  For so many years, I had done everything possible to keep it a secret.  I hoped that such transparency would help me to lead a more authentic existence. I wanted to be honest with myself (and with my listeners).

This lifted a substantial weight off my shoulders.  I discovered that when other people were aware of my situation, the constant fear (that I might stutter) no longer hovered over my head like the “Sword of Damocles”.  Knowing they would not be surprised in the event of this occurring, I ceased avoiding and said whatever I wanted.

Having already sampled the benefits of speaking openly about stuttering (within my own environments), I recognised the potential value of discussing the subject in a much wider public arena.

Programme of talks

I set about devising a plan of action that would enable me to achieve this with maximum effect.  I identified several avenues that I might explore, the principal of which being a proposed series of talks within the local community.

Speaking in front of groups had long figured prominently among my list of fears.  A catalogue of painful experiences, accumulated throughout my life, had fuelled my belief that I could never successfully perform that task.  Before I could consider implementing my plans, I knew that I had to silence the doubting inner voice that had always tried to discourage me from participating in such activities.

I initially prepared for the task by joining the Association of Speakers Clubs, a UK based organisation that has its origins in Toastmasters International.  I became accustomed to public speaking – demonstrating that I could fulfil such a role.  My presentation (and overall communication) skills were considerably enhanced, together with my self-confidence.  My internal critic became less vocal, giving me the green light to continue with the intended community project.

I learned of the existence of numerous organisations that routinely engage speakers.  Once I had plucked up the courage, it was simply a question of letting them know of my availability.

Ironically, my initial booking required very little effort on my part. A former police colleague knew of my desire to spread the word about stuttering and suggested to his local Probus Club (a countrywide network comprising professional/business persons) that they might invite me to speak at a future meeting.

I jumped at the opportunity and spoke for an hour, describing how stuttering had affected my life.  I told the audience about the intricate ploys that I had once used to conceal my oral struggles (and shield me from embarrassment).

I made reference to my life-long aversion of speaking on the telephone, while also revealing that I had habitually resorted to word substitution.

I explained that such a practice came with a cost. My mind was constantly in turmoil, as I searched for synonyms that I perceived were easier to say. For years, I was oblivious to the fact that avoidance had actually increased my fear, while also ensuring that I rarely used the word(s) of my choice. As a result, my oral exchanges became laden with inferior or inappropriate vocabulary.

I demonstrated the small electronic device (Edinburgh Masker) that had been my “mechanical crutch” for more than 20 years – obliterating the sound of my own voice. Another illustration of the drastic steps I took to keep my head above water.

I touched upon the psychological aspects of stuttering, explaining how repeated exposure to negative experiences may deter us from participating in future speaking situations.  This can limit our potential and achievements.

I also shared details of the disappointments, frustration and lost opportunities that blighted my police career.

I was overwhelmed by the degree of interest generated by my talk.  You could hear a pin drop as I recounted, in graphic detail, the traumatic struggles I experienced when giving evidence in court. A supervisory officer reported that I was “an embarrassment to all”, resulting in me being withdrawn from operational duties and transferred to an administrative role.

Humour

But it was not all doom and gloom. Humour can be a very useful tool with which to convey an important message. My talk was purposely littered with amusing anecdotes. When my listeners laughed, I knew they were more likely to remember the circumstances that created the merriment, thereby strengthening their understanding of the principle(s) I was attempting to explain.

But, I didn’t just tell the audience that I once practised extensive avoidance strategies. I went one step further and shared a few stories, which vividly illustrated that trait.

No-one will ever forget that my fear of saying words (commencing with the letter “S”) heavily influenced my actions when dealing with a drunken individual.  Having first encountered the intoxicated and disorderly man in Somerset Street, I assisted him (a short distance) to an adjoining road which had a less-challenging name.  Had I arrested him at the original location, I would have experienced considerable difficulties (with my speech) at the subsequent court hearing. 🙂

I further illustrated the implications of avoidance by speaking about the time that I invented a false identity (Adrian Adams) when depositing items at the dry-cleaners. I chose this option because I had convinced myself that I could not say my own name. However, the ruse was cruelly exposed when, unbeknown to me, someone else decided to collect the garments on my behalf. When that person requested the clothing for “Alan Badmington”, there was (of course) no record of any such transaction. As you can imagine – I had to do a great deal of explaining. 🙂

There were numerous other examples that reinforced the audience’s understanding of the desperate measures to which I resorted, in order to avoid stuttering.

However, I should stress that the mirth was NOT directed at persons who stutter (in general) – it was confined solely to the unique experiences of Alan Badmington.

Although I no longer have any hang-ups about speaking in such a vein, I readily acknowledge that some PWS might feel uncomfortable about associating humour with their past oral struggles, particularly when in the company of total strangers.

The manner in which I now react to such experiences contrasts starkly with how I would have responded prior to embarking upon a more self-accepting, open and expansive existence.  I recognise that I am, indeed, at a very favourable place in my life.

Since that introductory talk, my speaking engagements have escalated rapidly, as news filtered along the community grapevine. The need for speakers is insatiable. Without virtually any promotion, I have now undertaken several hundred talks.

Upon conclusion of each presentation, I conduct a Question and Answer session. Some enquiries relate to my own story, while others are of a general nature. My listeners also seek guidance as to how they should react in the presence of PWS. Many tell me that they were previously unaware of the extent to which stuttering can impact upon someone’s life. Having acquired a better understanding, they admit that they will now view stuttering in a different light.

Benefits

I truly believe that the lives of many PWS could be significantly enhanced if more of us are prepared to speak publicly about the subject. However, I fully appreciate that the very nature of stuttering is such that some may well feel reluctant, or unable, to discuss it with others.  I sincerely hope that this paper may encourage some to follow my example.

Those who are not yet ready to explore such uncharted waters alone, may gain confidence if accompanied by a relative, friend, member of the speech-language profession – or maybe another PWS?   Is there anyone with whom you might wish to share the adventure?

Greater openness about my life-long communication issues has proved invaluable in helping me to overcome previous embarrassment. Revealing my ‘darkest secret’, to all and sundry, has greatly accelerated the desensitization process.  My beliefs and perceptions (of what others think about me) are now extremely positive.

In the beginning, I spoke exclusively about stuttering but, as time progressed, I have found it necessary to create additional talks to accommodate the numerous follow-up requests that I receive.  Over the years, I have developed an extensive repertoire that embraces subjects unrelated to stuttering.  All have one thing in common – they contain a sizeable ingredient of humour. 🙂 Public speaking is now an enjoyable and integral part of my life.

When I first considered the possibility of addressing community groups, I pondered whether a talk about “Stuttering” would be of sufficient interest to hold an audience’s attention for 60 minutes. However, such concerns proved to be completely unfounded.  The responses I receive are always extremely positive. There is a genuine interest in the subject.  14 years “down-the-line”, my diary of engagements is still bursting at the seams. 🙂

Interestingly, after learning about how I have successfully dealt with my personal adversity, many members of the audience confide that they are similarly inspired to confront challenges that exist within their own lives. It has been enlightening to discover that there are many common threads affecting persons who stutter and those who don’t.  It is important for us to realise that fear, self-doubt and avoidance are not the sole prerogative of PWS.

In addition to addressing community groups, I have spoken about stuttering on TV/radio and in everyday life situations. I have also generated articles in newspapers/magazines and delivered presentations at events staged by the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association.  Being invited to address student SLPs (at several US universities) has been particularly heartening. Interaction with the speech-language profession is to our mutual benefit. Our voices need to be heard!

Collective responsibility

I feel it is unreasonable to expect national/international stuttering organisations to assume sole responsibility for making others aware of the issues faced by PWS.  We, too, can play a hugely important part in educating the public.

If we are confronted by articles, opinions or circumstances that we feel are detrimental (or inaccurate), then we need to “speak out” (either orally, or in writing). Whilst accepting that the spoken word may not be an attractive consideration for some, it has been my experience that most of us are more than capable of expressing ourselves, forcibly, via the written word.  🙂

And, finally, if anyone still harbours doubts about our ability to influence the public’s understanding of stuttering, I respectfully invite you to peruse the following feedback that was forthcoming after I addressed a group of serving police officers. The sentiments are representative of many other comments that I regularly receive.

“Alan, having spent one of the most moving afternoons of my life in your company, I would wish to express my gratitude. I have taken time to reflect on your lecture and have found myself pausing and drawing breath on what your daily experiences must have been like. Thank you for the inspiring talk; it has been a privilege to have met you.”

I rest my case.  🙂

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Comments

Increasing awareness and understanding of stuttering — 27 Comments

  1. Welcome to the 2015 ISAD Online Conference. I hope that you found (or will find) my paper of interest. Please feel free to post your comments and/or ask me any questions you wish. If there is something that you don’t understand, I will willingly provide clarification. Having contributed to each of the last thirteen conferences, I always look forward, with eager anticipation, to the meaningful feedback that I receive from all corners of the globe. I thoroughly enjoy the daily interaction and greatly appreciate the fact that so many of you take time out of your busy lives to participate in the threaded discussion. I value each and every response. There may be occasions when (due to personal commitments) I will not readily have online access. Should this occur, please be assured that I will reply at the earliest possible opportunity. Well, what are you waiting for? 🙂 Kindest regards Alan

    • Hi Alan,

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is definitely important to let others know more about stuttering. I am currently studying to be a speech language pathologist, with a specialization in stuttering. I used to be a teacher, and realizing that I wanted to work with PWS and CWS is what made me want to become an SLP. I find that stuttering education is essential to the school system. If there is one (or more) things that you would want everyone to know about stuttering, what is it (are they)?

      • Hi Kriskissy,

        Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. I apologise for taking a few days to respond to the question(s) you posed. For some reason, your comments have appeared out-of-sequence on the ISA conference website. Having already replied to earlier contributors (in strict chronological order), I was totally unaware (until a few moments ago) that you had, in fact, provided feedback. Sorry! 🙁

        You asked:

        “If there is one (or more) things that you would want everyone to know about stuttering, what is it (are they)?”

        As you are currently studying to become a speech-language pathologist, I hope you will forgive me for confining my response to those areas that I feel would be of most interest to you in your professional capacity.

        As I mentioned in my paper, I have had the pleasure of addressing many SLP classes at US universities. To give the students an insight into what it is like to live with stuttering, I recount past experiences, touching upon such things as self-acceptance, expanding comfort zones, approach avoidance, assertiveness, self-esteem, self-image, emotional baggage and the stuttering mindset. I stress the limited value of focusing solely upon the mechanics of speech and commend the merits of dealing holistically with the issues.

        I also draw the students’ attention to the importance of recognising the uniqueness of their future clients. I emphasise the need to make good use of listening skills; earn the respect of each individual, and appreciate the difficulties associated with transferring speech gains and techniques from a safe supportive therapy environment into the outside world.

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

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  2. My goodness, Alan. Little did I realize that night back in 2000 when we first went out to dinner in San Francisco that this was the beginning of an eminent speaking career. But I must admit that there were many clues. You defined for me what “being motivated” really meant. And 500 speeches later I regularly find myself with my jaw hanging open. As street people say of someone who routinely does the extraordinary — “you da man!” All I can say is “keep on keeping on.”

    • Hi John,

      Thank you for your generous comments.

      How can I ever forget the incredibly enlightening exchanges in which we engaged in San Francisco – very often into the very early hours? It was probably the first time I had spoken openly about my stuttering. I learned so much about the associated factors and (perhaps more importantly) about myself.

      Acquiring an understanding of your stuttering hexagon concept (and the influence that our beliefs, perceptions, emotions, intentions etc can have upon our ability communicate) contributed immensely to my appreciation of why I had struggled for more than half a century.

      In previous ISAD Conferences, I have shared details of how I came to terms with my communication issues. However, this year, I thought it might be useful to write about (what I consider to be) the benefits of increasing public awareness.

      You kindly suggested that I am now undertaking “extraordinary” things. To be honest, I don’t view it in that light. When I commenced public speaking 14-15 years ago, I initially felt surprised at what I was achieving. However, by regularly placing myself in such situations, my self-image has widened to readily accommodate such a role. Public speaking is now an integral and exciting part of my life.

      John, I am most grateful to you for your encouragement and friendship for the past 15 years.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  3. Alan, all I know is that anyone who hears you speak (and didn’t know you when you stuttered) are absolutely blown away by your oratory. In FACT, there is a story going around that your middle name is actually Churchill. Whether that is true or not, the fact remains that I am one of your fans that can’t imagine the big gap that would have been left in the stuttering world if you weren’t there spreading the word. I am one of John’s “street people” who agrees with John that “you da man”. Loved your article.

    • Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for taking the time to read (and comment upon) my paper. I very much appreciate your generous remarks.

      You kindly refer to the fact that I “spread the word” about stuttering. Yes, I willingly plead guilty to that charge.:-) However, my biggest regret is that (despite addressing many hundreds of audiences comprising persons who do NOT stutter) I have had limited opportunities to share my story with other PWS.

      I think it is important they are aware that we really can live more expansive lifestyles. Hearing a PWS relate how he had successfully embraced public speaking effectively changed the course of my life. I had always believed that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. He provided evidence that it was possible – so I followed his example. 🙂

      Ruth, I would like to conclude by congratulating you on assembling such a wide array of material (without charge) on the following website:

      Free Books about Stuttering
      http://www.neurosemanticsofstutteringpublishers.com/

      It is such a wonderful resource for those who have an interest in stuttering.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  4. Alan
    Thank you for writing this paper, and thank you for continually inspiring me and for being my role-model when it comes to public speaking. With your encouragement, I have moved out of my comfort zone this past year and have thoroughly enjoyed giving talks to various community groups about stuttering. Like your experiences, every one has been extremely positive and as you have found, adding humour when relating personal stories, really does help to drive a point home in a way which will be remembered. As you have indicated, the general public are genuinely interested in learning more about stuttering and there really is nothing to be ashamed of, when openly talking about this subject with other people. So like you, I encourage others to do the same.

    • Hi Hazel,

      Thank you for your generous feedback. I’m flattered to learn that you feel I have had a positive influence upon your entry into the world of public speaking.

      It has been heartening (and exciting) to follow your activities during the past 12 months. Not only have you confronted your fears – but the course of action upon which you have embarked has the potential to improve the lives of others within the stuttering community. By sharing our experiences, we can increase public awareness about what it is like to be a person who stutters. It is my earnest wish that those who read this paper (and the resultant comments) will be encouraged to follow our examples.

      Hazel, I sincerely hope that you are afforded many more such speaking opportunities in the future. Who knows – it may be possible for us to share a platform sometime? However, if we do arrange a joint presentation, we would need to allocate several hours because we both have so much to say. 🙂

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Alan – sharing a speaking platform with you would be so much fun! I do hope we get an opportunity to do that one day 🙂
        Hazel

  5. Alan,
    Thank you for sharing your story, and for being an individual who brings awareness to stuttering. It sounds like your experiences have helped you as a PWS overcome some fears and anxiety that have been associated with your stuttering in the past. I also enjoyed how you discussed humor and how it is a useful tool for conveying messages, because it truly is! I thought that your paper over all made a really good point in that the lives of PWS could be significantly enhanced by speaking publically about stuttering. I would also like to note that I think that the lives of people who do not stutter could also be greatly impacted.

    Thank you again for sharing!

    Natalie Schulz

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you, so much, for taking the time to read my paper (and provide feedback). Your interest is very much appreciated.

      You wrote:

      “It sounds like your experiences have helped you as a PWS overcome some fears and anxiety that have been associated with your stuttering in the past.”

      I have no hesitation in opining that I would not be in the favourable position I find myself today without my involvement in public speaking. Such activities have allowed me to acquire considerable levels of confidence and expertise, which I have subsequently been able to transfer into my everyday life.

      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 a public speaker. (I recall one radio presenter commenting (during a live interview) that my change of direction resembled a non-swimmer suddenly deciding to dive in at the deep end of the pool.) 🙂

      An added bonus was that I felt sure that creating greater public awareness and understanding would also have a beneficial effect upon the lives of other PWS.

      Some people tend to measure life by the number of breaths that they take. Conversely, I gauge the quality of my existence by the diverse array of fulfilling events that take my breath away. Public speaking is, undoubtedly, the most fulfilling of them all.

      There really are so many exciting paths that we can tread if only we are prepared (and have the desire) to look. Actively seeking, creating and accepting life’s challenges can be immensely rewarding. The only limitations are those that we impose upon ourselves.

      I have (inter alia) also addressed persons affected by cancer, strokes, brain damage, Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss. I find such interaction both humbling and rewarding – I never fail to be moved by the courage that they display. Meeting such people has also helped me to view stuttering in an entirely different perspective.

      Thank you, once again.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  6. Hi Alan – thank you for your inspiring words. I still smile when I think of that lovely phone call when I had the honor of being your practice audience. You are doing amazing work and I thank you for that!

    • Hi Dori,

      Thank you, so much, for your kind words.

      My decision to embark upon a programme of talks was motivated by several factors. Firstly, I wished to increase public awareness about stuttering – in the hope that a greater understanding of the issues (that we face) would help to improve the lot of everyone who stutters.

      I also viewed it as a means of facing my fears; eliminating avoidance; expanding my comfort zones; and challenging the long-held limiting beliefs that had restricted my life for so many years. I’m delighted to report that I have encountered positive responses/experiences on all counts. 🙂

      I still have fond memories of our telephone conversation a few years ago. As you know, deliberately calling total strangers (in many parts of the world) was one of the proactive strategies that I adopted to overcome my fear of using the telephone.

      One final point – a problem with my computer has (so far) seriously restricted my opportunities to participate in this year’s ISAD Online Conference. However, having finally rectified the technical issues, I will shortly begin perusing (and commenting upon) the contributions of others (including your paper). 🙂

      Thank you, once again, for your feedback.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  7. Hi Alan,

    Thank you for your inspiring, entertaining and hugely informative story! I am studying to be a Speech and Language Therapist and I have a particular interest in stammering so I found your story fascinating. I agree that it is so crucial that we raise awareness of the implications and successes of living with a stammer. I am going to attempt to get involved with some of the organisations and movements that help to raise awareness, given that third year will allow me some time besides my dissertation and placement!

    Thanks again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entry, and I learnt a lot!

    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah,

      I am most grateful to you for taking the time to read my paper and provide feedback. I was heartened to note that you found my article of interest/value.

      If you would care to identify your country of residence, I will willingly furnish details of support organisations with which you might wish to become involved.

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

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  8. Hi Alan,

    I too am training to be a Speech and Language Therapist and have just started my first year in Birmingham. So far my education and experience has not stretched as far as stammering, and so this area is very new to me, but I found your paper incredibly informative and really enjoyable.

    Thank you.

    Warm Regards

    Emma

    • Hi Emma,

      Thank you for taking the time to peruse my paper. I’m heartened that you found it of value.

      I have contributed to each ISAD Online Conference since 2002. You may be interested to note that someone has very kindly assembled those papers (together with several of my other articles) into an online book, which is available (without charge) at:

      “No Longer Lost for Words: From stuttering to public speaking and beyond…”

      http://www.freestutteringbooks.com/uploads/3/2/1/1/32111425/microsoft_word_-_no_longer_lost_for_words_for_file-6.docx.pdf

      Tomorrow, I have been invited to address a sizeable audience at the Irish Stammering Association Annual Stuttering Awareness Day event to be held in Dublin. On this occasion, my presentation will be transmitted via Skype.

      In view of the fact that you use the terms “stammering” and “speech and language therapist”, can I assume that you are studying in Birmingham (England) and not Birmingham (Alabama)? 🙂 If that is the case, I would willingly share my experiences with your university class/group should an opportunity arise. Travelling is not an issue.

      Thank you, once again.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  9. Hi Alan,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences not only in this post but to many other people! I am studying to be a speech language therapist and am currently learning a lot about stuttering, my professor stutters and he is the only person that I have actually come in contact with that has a stutter before this year. If I was not studying the field that I am in now, I would not know much about stuttering at all and I believe raising awareness is very important. I do not have a stutter, so I cannot say that I will ever know how it feels to stutter; because of this sometimes I wonder if I had a client who came in with a stutter and they spoke to me about their stutter and I replied by giving them tips and trying to “accept” or be “more confident” with their stutter how they may take this information. I was wondering if you had any advice or good/bad experiences with speech therapists that you could share with me?
    Thank you
    Molly

    • Hi Molly,

      I am most grateful to you for taking the time to read (and comment upon) my paper.

      I spent most of my life isolated from other persons who stutter (PWS). Consequently, I knew very little about stuttering, apart (of course) from my own experiences. Everything changed in 2000 when I joined a self-help organisation, while also simultaneously ‘discovering’ the Internet.

      The Internet has revolutionised the lives of many PWS by facilitating the dissemination of a wide array of information about stuttering, as well as affording opportunities to communicate with other PWS around the world.

      Reading about the lives 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 also 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 when we are prepared to expose ourselves to uncertainty and change. In effect, it can open our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined.

      As a result, 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 and fulfilling paths available for us to tread (should we so wish). But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of walking those paths alone.

      You may wish to check out the following paper that I contributed to the ISAD Conference in 2011:

      “The value of Internet discussion groups”

      http://www.masteringstuttering.com/articles/the-value-of-internet-discussion-groups/

      You wrote:

      “I was wondering if you had any advice or good/bad experiences with speech therapists that you could share with me?”

      My experience with formal speech therapy has been extremely limited. I can’t really comment upon the value of such therapy because it occurred many, many, many years ago when I was MUCH younger. 🙂 As a result, my recollections are extremely distant. However, the hazy memories that I still retain suggest that the therapy did NOT have any significant effect upon my speech.

      In response to your request for advice – I hope you will forgive me for reiterating part of my earlier reply to Kriskissy (who is also studying to become a speech-language pathologist).

      As I mentioned in my paper, I have had the pleasure of addressing many SLP classes at US universities. To give the students an insight into what it is like to live with stuttering, I recount past experiences, touching upon such things as self-acceptance, expanding comfort zones, approach avoidance, assertiveness, self-esteem, self-image, emotional baggage and the stuttering mindset. I stress the limited value of focusing solely upon the mechanics of speech and commend the merits of dealing holistically with the issues.

      I also draw the students’ attention to the importance of recognising the uniqueness of their future clients. I emphasise the need to make good use of listening skills; earn the respect of each individual, and appreciate the difficulties associated with transferring speech gains and techniques from a safe supportive therapy environment into the outside world.

      Returning to another area of your feedback – acceptance means different things to different people. Some PWS accept the fact that they stutter and simply get on with their lives. I hastened my passage to acceptance by adopting a policy of greater openness (to which I referred in my paper).

      However, although I no longer concealed the fact that I stuttered, I did NOT accept that I needed to retain the status quo. I had a burning desire to live a more expansive and fulfilling life and designed an extremely proactive plan of action that routinely involved stepping outside my safe areas. I challenged the limiting beliefs and self-image that were imposing restrictions upon my life and replaced them with a more empowering mindset.

      In your post, you enquire about how you could equip your future clients with greater confidence. I have written at length about this (and other relevant matters) in several of my past ISAD Conference papers. Quite frankly, it would take me too long to explain the various strategies that I have adopted while dealing with my communication issues. 🙂

      Instead, may I respectfully suggest that you peruse the following online book that contains details of the various and exciting paths that I have trodden. It is available, without charge at:

      “No Longer Lost for Words: From stuttering to public speaking and beyond…”

      http://www.freestutteringbooks.com/uploads/3/2/1/1/32111425/microsoft_word_-_no_longer_lost_for_words_for_file-6.docx.pdf

      Molly, I wish you every success in your current studies and in your future career.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  10. Hi Alan,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Education and awareness are so important in this field because many people are just unaware of what stuttering actually is. I am training to become an SLP and I did not have any experience or knowledge about stuttering prior to my formal education. Do you have any advice that has stuck with you the most throughout the years? What is the most important advice that you use to educate others? Thanks again for sharing your story!!!

    Giuliana

    • Hi Giuliana,

      Thank you for reading my paper – I greatly appreciate your feedback.

      You enquired:

      “Do you have any advice that has stuck with you the most throughout the years? What is the most important advice that you use to educate others?”

      I hope you won’t be offended if I refer to you my earlier (and very lengthy) response to Molly (who is also studying to become an SLP).

      I would like to add a few additional comments about the need to recognise the uniqueness of your clients. We come from different backgrounds/cultures; have encountered different life experiences; are affected by different doubts and fears; and possess different expectations/aspirations.

      We also commence from different starting lines and operate in accordance with different values and belief systems. That is why it is unwise for us to attempt to compare our progress with others. Neither should we be surprised when someone else decides to tread a contrasting or less conventional paths.

      We must respect the fact that each of us is responsible for the path(s) that we choose to tread in life. The decisions we make are personal and, invariably, relevant to our own unique circumstances.

      And, one final point – you may wish to read the following paper that I contributed to the 2013 ISAD Conference about (what I consider to be) the immense implications of avoidance. Eliminating avoidance has contributed immensely to the success that I have experienced.

      “How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter”

      http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2013/papers-presented-by-2013/how-avoiding-avoidance-transformed-my-stutter/

      Giuliana, I wish you every success with your current studies and in your professional career. (I must close at this point because I need to put the finishing touches to yet another presentation that I am giving tomorrow). 🙂

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  11. Alan,

    It’s great to see that you were able to overcome your own personal adversity. I was what made you decide that it was time to speak up about your stutter and to stop using avoidance strategies?

    • Hi Vicki,

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

      You wrote:

      “…what made you decide that it was time to speak up about your stutter and to stop using avoidance strategies?”

      There were many reasons why I chose to lead a more expansive lifestyle.
      Firstly, I witnessed a PWS who had successfully embraced public speaking. This caused me to question my long-held self-limiting belief that I would never be able to undertake such a role (nor deal with my stuttering issues).

      Shortly afterwards, I attended a self-help seminar where (for the first time in my life) I gained an understanding of the immense implications of avoidance.

      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.

      At the above seminar, 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.

      In addition, I learned about the advantages of expanding our comfort zones. 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.

      Personal development occurs when we venture beyond our comfort zones. It requires re-drawing our mental maps so that we increase the size of our familiar areas. I truly believe that the only limitations are those that we impose upon ourselves.

      When we achieve something 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. 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.

      My restrictive thoughts and behaviours were not serving me particularly well – so I decided to change them. 🙂 I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to lean upon the support network provided by the self-help organization, as I routinely placed myself in challenging situations and progressively changed my stuttering mindset.

      I wrote, at length, about this subject in one of my previous ISAD Conference papers:

      “How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter”.
      http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2013/papers-presented-by-2013/how-avoiding-avoidance-transformed-my-stutter/comment-page-1/#comments

      Vicki, thank you for your interest.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  12. Hi Alan,

    I enjoyed reading your perspective and experiences with stuttering immensely! It is so wonderful that you have taken it upon yourself to educate more people about what stuttering is and what it isn’t. As a graduate student studying to be a speech-language pathologist, I am very grateful for your promotion for awareness. I know that I didn’t know how to react to a person who stutters before I began graduate school -most people don’t. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

    Kind Regards,
    Alyssa Kubinski

    • Hi Alyssa,

      Thank you for your generous comments. It was kind of you to write in such a vein.

      It is my understanding that many universities now invite persons who stutter to provide an input into their speech-language programmes. Such interaction is to our mutual benefit.

      The Internet has revolutionised our understanding of stuttering by facilitating the dissemination of a wide array of information, as well as affording opportunities to communicate with PWS and professionals around the world.

      I wish you every success with your studies and future career as an SLP.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  13. As this year’s ISAD Online Conference draws to a close, I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone who kindly read my paper – especially those who generously provided feedback. The questions you posed caused me to search deep within myself for the answers, thereby further enhancing my personal understanding of the paths that I have trodden whilst coming to terms with my communication issues.

    Please feel free to contact me privately if there are any matters upon which you seek further clarification.

    Kindest regards

    Alan