Unleashing Your Sexy Stuttering Superstar!

kaufmanAbout the author:  Steven Kaufman is not only a person who stutters, but a motivational speaker who has taken what was once thought of as a curse and used it as his greatest power to help bring about changes in the stuttering community, one day at a time. Steven has spoken at numerous National Stuttering Association conferences as well as in the academic community, and continues to advocate that nothing is ever off limits to people who stutter. He currently works for the federal government and lives in the outskirts of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and his greatest joy is speaking passionately about stuttering and the advances that have come in the field of speech therapy. Among his interests are karaoke, charity galas, and being a servant to his all black domestic shorthaired cat, Lucky.

Motivational speaker. Advocate. Dreamer. Teacher. As a person who has stuttered ever since age three, my life could be best described as a constantly swinging pendulum of extreme highs and lows. From graduating college magna cum laude, to surviving a suicide attempt and asking why I was still alive when my stuttering had driven to me the most desperate point in my life, the one saving grace that had kept me going was that I was unafraid to do what others didn’t want to do. Were you afraid to raise your hand in class and volunteer? That wasn’t me. Did you not want to get up and make a presentation because you were paralyzed by the thought of everyone looking at you like a petri dish under a microscope? I never met a microphone I didn’t like. Despite the fact that I loved to talk and had frustrated numerous Speech- and Language Pathologists (SLPs) (and one actually said I’d never be able to achieve a high rate of fluency), there was still something missing from my life. I never had any real friends growing up, and I did so many stupid things to fit in, such as printing a monthly list of the top 20 “hottest” girls in the grade, which earned me a one-way ticket to the principal’s office. I never understood how some people just naturally had things happen for them. Call it the “golden ticket,” the “it-factor,” but whatever that was, my stuttering was determined to not let me live the life I wanted. I spent four years of my life looking for a job, and it was at that time I started studying other people. They weren’t necessarily successful people, but they just had something that attracted others. It was at that point that I decided I was going to be one of those people. I was going to use my stuttering to help motivate and empower others. No longer would I be held hostage by what others wanted me to be, because I needed to be a confident, outgoing person. I decided to unleash my sexy stuttering superstar, and things have never been the same.

As a person who stutters (PWS), I have endured every type of negative comment, some of which have really made me wonder how cruel we can be as a society. “Spit it out,” “I can’t wait for you,” or “Are you having a seizure?” became commonplace daily occurrences for me. However, I learned to channel my anger and frustration to make positive changes for others. I started speaking locally to schools in the New York City metropolitan area where speech pathology classes were given, and I realized that my speech was not that big of a deal as I thought it was. As I became more proficient, I started tapping into going bigger. So much so that I have set a bucket list goal where I want to speak at every state speech and hearing association conference. I’ve already crossed three off my list (Virginia, Georgia, and Florida), and will hopefully gear up for five or six in 2016. Most important of all, I have discovered my purpose in life: I want to help everyone who stutters be the very best version of themselves. I believe PWS are extraordinary in every sense of the word. There are three tips that have been integral to me becoming the person I am, and if you implement these into your life, you will be well on the way to showing the world your positive energy:

First, you must never let anyone keep you silent and prevent you from saying what you want. I never forgot seeing a T-shirt with the slogan “I Stutter! Because What I Have To Say Is Worth Repeating.” How true that is… and more. Imagine you are walking around the local mall and you are getting hungry for a sandwich at Subway. As you begin to approach the door, the doubts begin to sink in and you hear the laughter in your head: “Oh, you don’t want to enter. Why make them have to listen to you?” YOU have the power to flip the switch. Every time you say something that you never thought you could do, your strength and resilience grows. A first step will lead to the bigger things. We all have the right to be heard and don’t ever let stuttering take that right from you!

Second, embrace who you are. This took me a very long time because we are our own worst enemies. No one sees our stuttering the way we do.We have memories of asking someone out for a date, and being surrounded by giggles. We all have the power to make huge changes in our life, and the person we are now will not be like the one tomorrow. I love my stuttering and put myself out there every chance I get. I love to say “I don’t really stutter, I’m just blessed with instant replay.” When I speak at conferences, I say that “I am the original stuttering D-I-V-A: Dynamite Individual who is Very Attractive.” Confidence makes people want to come up to you, and ask what you’re about. I’ve been laughed at lots of times. But I honestly don’t care. Not everyone is going to accept me, and finally I can say that’s OK. Eventually, we all reach a point where we find out who matters, who never did, and who never will. An anonymous author said that, and I know it is true. Stuttering is not the only challenge I face. I’m also what you call “high-functioning,” due to mild Asperger’s. Some may say I was dealt a losing hand. But as singer Sheryl Crow said in “Leaving Las Vegas”: you “take this losing hand and make it win.” I am doing a darn good job of that. We who stutter are absolutely not losers!

Third, please get involved with a support group. For ten years, I have gotten involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA), and I have served as a chapter leader for the Long Island region, and now I am a regional chapter coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic. There is no greater feeling that being around others who truly understand you, and are walking the same steps you are. People come for different reasons. Fellowship, a safe place to practice their techniques, or a chance to get away from the regular world for an hour where they can talk about their speech and the difficulties they endure. A support group can be a tremendous catalyst to make you feel better about yourself. When you talk about your experiences, you grow stronger both personally and professionally. You will learn that you are never alone in this life!

You may frequently feel that stuttering may have been the worst thing that can happen to you. I can’t tell you the number of times I wished I was deaf so that way I wouldn’t have to hear some of the things I did. But I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s my calling now to make this world welcome for PWS, and you can do this as well. Are you ready to unleash YOUR sexy stuttering superstar?

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Unleashing Your Sexy Stuttering Superstar! — 99 Comments

  1. Hello everyone! Thank you for stopping by and reading my paper. I hope while you are here, you will get the chance to read everyone’s works and comment on them. I am very happy to answer any questions you have, and I look forward to chatting with you all! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  2. Thanks for the essay Steve. You are always so eloquent! I especially appreciated you talking about also having Aspergers. I feel that so many of us have other Disabilities as well (I, as you know, have a learning disability) and sometimes I feel that we have to check those other things at the stuttering door and not able to bring all of ourselves into the stuttering community. Thank you for bringing all of yourself into everything you do! <3

    • Good evening Miss Nina! Thank you so much for your very kind words about my paper. It has taken me a while to accept my Asperger’s, and I am still not fully there yet, but I have drawn a great deal of inspiration from the work that I do with everyone who stutters. I don’t hold back anything because it is only when we reveal our true selves that we can help others embrace who they are. I am so thankful you are part of the disability advocacy community as well!!! The work you do is very important too…and I know you will keep fighting! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  3. Hi Steve — thank you for sharing your story. Your courage, intelligence, and passion are truly inspirational. I am mom to a 19-year old who stutters and a parent advocate. After five years of speech therapy, our son choose silence over use of speech tools or risking speech errors. It was heart-breaking. We spent the next 10 years unearthing his voice and now he rarely holds back – even though he continues to have speech tension, sometimes quite severely. I’m always so encouraged when I read stories like yours. Best wishes and keep doing what you’re doing!!!

    • Good morning Miss Dori! I would like to thank you for reading my paper and offering your insight. Being a person who stutters for the longest time felt like I was fighting for control of one soul-the person who I know I can be versus the one I felt forced to be because of my speech. I went through five speech pathologists in a seven year stretch and I had a few who even gave up on me because working with me was an exercise in futility in their eyes. But I strongly believe that inside all of a voice that absolutely has to be shared with the local community and the world outside. When you shut down, your stuttering wins and it is going to celebrate by saying “I made someone keep quiet! I accomplished my mission.” In fact, this past summer I made a big step by asking my parents to come to the 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference in Atlanta. I hope you will be there with your son and be able to partake in a special event that is going to show you life will never be the same and you never have to fear your stuttering or how you are going to react to it. Please keep advocating and remind your son that what he has to say is important, even if it is just going into a store in the local mall and asking where something is that he wants to buy. Continue this journey and I promise when you reach that point of self-acceptance, you will look back and know that you have been part of something extraordinary!

      • I have been to several NSA conference and plan on being there in 2016! Not sure about my son, he’s applying for internships at NASA (as I said, he puts himself out there – both figuratively and literally :-)) I have a Facebook page (Voice Unearthed) that you’d be welcome to join. PWS have so much wisdom for parents!

        • Good evening Miss Dori! I am actually in that group and I would love to meet you in Atlanta for the conference too! I am hopeful my parents will want to attend-I sent them an emotional appeal because for so long they have cited examples like “We don’t think we’ll get anything out of it,” and so on. I really believe an event like this will reach them and change their perspective!

          • That would be lovely! And I hope your parents are able to make it too. Sorry I forgot you were in my group — I guess it’s a good sign since we’re up to 445 people and I can’t remember all the names!! Thank you for being part of VU and I look forward to meeting you in person in July.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. I am an aspiring speech-language pathologist, and I was very inspired by your essay! I honestly think you can make a big difference in many people’s lives with your positive attitude. But I do have one question: at what point, if any, did you decide to have such a positive attitude about your stuttering? I know you said you had a lot of highs and lows in your life, so I am interested in how your positivity came about.
    Kayla Martin

    • Good evening Miss Kayla! Thank you so much for reading my paper and asking your question. I am quite flattered by the compliment about my positive attitude, and it means a great deal to me. A few years ago when I was attending a National Stuttering Association conference(more on that at the end), I sat in a workshop given by Dr. Lee Reeves about self-help, and I never forgot this quote: “When the student is ready to learn, the teacher will appear.” This can apply to many things in life, but especially it was true in my case with regard to stuttering. When someone hits rock bottom, that is when the desire to change comes about-look at a person who struggles with drinking, or drugs, etc. I was so frustrated and hurting that I did not want to have to face my stuttering anymore, especially when I lost out on a job I wanted-but it was after surviving my suicide attempt I knew that it will always be part of me, and we DO have a choice as to how we can deal with it-we can embrace it and try to use it to make meaningful change, or we can let it destroy us one day at a time. I know what my purpose is and what I am fighting for every day. As an aspiring SLP, I would strongly encourage you to look into NSSLHA, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (http://www.nsslha.org) and especially the National Stuttering Association, located at http://www.westutter.org. Student SLPs are especially welcome, and I hope you will consider attending our 2016 conference in Atlanta, July 5-10. You will not get a better chance to learn about stuttering first-hand from those who live it every day. As always, the pleasure was all mine Miss Kayla! Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  5. Hey, Steven, I’m one of those people who read everything you write. Thanks for this article. It’s awe-inspiring. You are amazing.

    • Good evening Miss Ruth,

      Thank you for your very kind words and the sincere compliment you gave me. Being part of the stuttering community has given me everything-my voice, my heart, my spirit, and my unyielding commitment to do what I can to try to make the lives of people who stutter just a little bit better. I sincerely hope you will be there in Atlanta for the first ever joint National Stuttering Association & International Stuttering Association as we bring together two communities sharing one voice! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  6. You are one of the first people I have ever read about or seen that has not only accepted that they stutter, but has created a thriving life around it. I can feel your immense enthusiasm even through my computer. I think others who read your paper will find hope in the fact that you have seen both sides of the emotional aspect of stuttering in that you have been at the bottom, but have also managed to make your way to the top. I think you are a prime example of a person who is able to take any situation and make it a positive one. I am very pleased that you have not kept all of your confidence and your positive attitude to yourself because I know many people, fluent or not, that could use the positive uplifting attitude that you possess.

    • Good evening Jaime! Thank you so very much for your comments and feedback on my paper. To say that you can feel my immense enthusiasm through the computer shows that I am a person who lives life with passion and trying to make sure everyone who stutters can do so with a positive attitude. Believe me, I do have my days when my stuttering tries to push me to the breaking point-after all, there have been too many times I wanted to go to the multiplex on a Saturday night but I realize I have only thirty seconds to say one sentence and I contemplate whether or not I am capable of that. But I have no other choice but to go forward. Being a person who stutters means that we have to accept the pendulum swings in both directions-and many times there will be days, or weeks, when it feels like it is forever locked in a way we don’t want it to go. But I need to share with everyone who stutters that you can see the sunrise even in the deepest valleys. That is why I encourage everyone to get involved with support groups run by the National Stuttering Association, which has been a huge driving force in my life. You can visit them at http://www.westutter.org and find out about the life-changing work we do. Thank you again for your kind words! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  7. Great paper, Mr. Steven. I admire your determination and perseverance…and putting yourself out there–not only in your daily life, your public speaking, but karaoke too! 🙂 Keep On keeping on!

    • Good evening Miss Heather! Thank you so much for saying that-there is a saying that you don’t know how strong you are until that is the only choice you have left. I love continually advocating and making sure that no one has the right to tell you to be quiet. When it comes to stuttering, we all need to be heard and we should never communicate through someone else-our voices matter and everything that comes out of our mouth has meaning. I am just as big an admirer of the things you do as well…and I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  8. Hello Steven,

    I am currently in graduate school for SLP and taking Disorders of Fluency this semester. I really appreciate your entire paper and the explanation of your personal experiences with stuttering. I especially like how you clearly expressed yourself as an outgoing person who continued to to keep your humor after the overcoming an obstacle AND you turned it into a way to be an advocate for others. My question is how, as a future SLP, to better counsel and advocate for a person who stutters? Particularly, finding the correct way to be an aid in their ENTIRE life journey as a person who stutters, including mental illness and self-confidence.

    • Hello Miss Rachel,

      Thank you so much for reading my paper and asking a very challenging and detailed question! The one you asked definitely requires a great response in so many ways. I am a firm believer that everyone who stutters must undergo a journey of self-acceptance. This is not an easy thing to do by any means-and I have met so many people in the stuttering community who are at different points regarding this-I know many who have confidently accepted it as who they are and they are learning to use it to make positive changes in their life, and others, but there are also some who feel ashamed and spend many years denying that they even stutter, that it is just something “they have,” like it is an albatross. It can be very frightening to look in the mirror and understand who you are-I never call myself a “stutterer,” for instance. It must be “person who stutters” because we are all human beings and we deserve that respect. When I was younger, I had bounced around to different SLPs, and in a period of seven years I went through five of them, and I was told more than a few times I “just couldn’t be taught,” similar to the refrain of “not a team player” that you hear in so many situations. I think in order to aid a person who stutters in their entire life journey, the first thing you must do is empathize-when you meet with a client for the first time, ask them “What would you like me to help you with?” I realize now that even though an SLP may be a great source of information and provider of techniques to help you speak more clearly, there’s more to it than that. You must listen and relate-because our speech impacts more than just our talking-it reaches many things that others can take for granted-the ability to date, or enter a professional field-there are so many people who stutter who might want to be a teacher, a lawyer…but they often choose something else because they fear their speech will come into play-and it should not at all. As an SLP, you should also draw on your own experiences and create parallels to what the client is facing. When I was struggling in my job search for four years, my SLP was there for me every step of the way-and his encouragement was one of the reasons I had to keep going, even when my parents were like “Whatever…if that’s what gets you through the day, great.” I can say in my heart with the thought you put into asking me this, you’re going to be a SLP who will do great things. I would also encourage you to check out the National Stuttering Association web site, which is at http://www.westutter.org, and you can also find a wealth of information there. I also hope you will want to come to our annual conference in Atlanta, July 5-10, 2016. This will be the best classroom you will ever see….and you’ll meet some of the most extraordinary people who stutter, as well as the SLPs who help them. As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

      • Thank you for your detailed response! It gives me a lot of insight and advice on the SLP I hope to become!

        • I am planning on attending the conference in Atlanta, I look forward to possibly meeting you and hearing you speak!

  9. Hi Steven,

    Great article, your positive outlook on life is truly inspiring! I am currently a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student enrolled in a Stuttering class this semester. As a first year student, I do not have too much experience with PWS, but I am very eager to learn about others’ experiences so I can be as helpful to my clients as possible! Through your experience with speech therapy, was there a certain SLP or technique you used that benefited you the most?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Shannon Cassidy

    • Hello Miss Shannon,

      Thank you for taking a few minutes to read my paper, and for the very nice compliments! With regard to your question, I learned many techniques, including one that was a little unorthodox (but that is for the end). The very first experience I had with any type of speech therapy was when I was seven years old, and it was “stretching out all my words.” Looking back on that, I am not sure if any SLPs still use that-because like with many other fields, there is evolution-and treatments that were around 20-30 years ago may not be used anymore, or if they are, there are very few practitioners who use them. A few years later, I had the chance to work with Miss Linda Tepperman, who was at that time one of the most pre-eminent speech pathologists on Long Island. She was a very big proponent of controlling my speech with “airflow,” which was breathing in a specific manner and exhaling very slightly before I speak. Then, a few years ago, I worked with an SLP who gave me an exercise to do which raised my eyebrows at first, but it turned out to be something that helped me out tremendously. For fifteen minutes every night, I had to lay down on my back and place something flat on my stomach, like a notebook. I had to breathe in and out with that item on me, so that it would “force” my body to get adjusted a new way of breathing and it would limit my vocal blocks. What’s interesting though is when I do motivational speaking, it’s very hard for me to use these techniques-but not for the reasons one might think. Sometimes I get very excited and the rush of being up there just blows me away and it’s like everything goes right out the window, if that makes sense. I do want you to know though that when you learn about what applications to practice, it is never a one size fits all approach. What works for a five year old child is not necessarily going to work for a 50-year adult. For most of my life, my stuttering was mild to moderate, but the last few months it has turned into moderate to severe and I am doing a lot of ticks that I never had before-closing my eyes, staring at the floor even though I know I am not supposed to do that. But my stuttering is also the greatest strength I have-I can’t do what I do in my life if I didn’t have it. In closing, I would love for you to check out the web site for the National Stuttering Association, located at http://www.westutter.org, and you can also find them on all forms of social media. We have so much to offer those who want to get involved with the stuttering community, and there are ample opportunities to get involved as a volunteer and student SLP. You may also be interested in attending our annual conference, where you will have the chance to learn first-hand how stuttering shapes all our lives, and meet with some the best SLPs in the country (and world) who can teach you things you will never learn in any textbook! It will be July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. We hope to see you there! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  10. Hi Steven,

    Great article, your positive outlook on life is truly inspiring! I am currently a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student enrolled in a Stuttering class this semester. As a first year student, I do not have too much experience with PWS, but I am very eager to learn about others’ experiences so I can be as helpful to my clients as possible! Through your experience with speech therapy, was there a certain SLP or technique you used that benefited you the most?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Shannon Cassidy

  11. Hello Steven,
    Your paper was an inspiration to me. I am an SLP graduate student and find your positive words and personal experiences beneficial to me as I continue my education. I was wondering..do you think your three tips could be generalized into the lives of other people with speech disorders other than stuttering? Or do you believe those would be key factors in people feeling positive about themselves in general? I think what you are doing and the goals you have set for yourself are admirable. Good luck in reaching all 50 states!

    • Hello MW152440 and good evening to you,

      Thank you for swinging by this web site and reading my paper! In regard to your question, there are may different speech disorders out there, but I would certainly encourage these tips to be used by everyone regardless of what challenges they may face. My experiences are certainly unique in the sense that I am coming from the perspective of someone who stutters, but these feelings can certainly be applied to others. I always believe it is of such critical importance to work with SLP graduate students especially because they are the next generation when it comes to stuttering. If you can, I would love for you to visit the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and learn all about who we are and the wonderful work we do. You can become a fan on Facebook and “like” us, and we are also on Twitter as well. It is also my hope that you will want to join us at the 2016 NSA & ISA Joint Conference next year, from July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. It will be the best investment in your studies that you can make, and once you come to one, you will want to attend every year. I would also like to thank you for sharing that my goals are admirable. I have three states down, and I’m hoping to do Texas, Maryland, Louisiana, California, Michigan, NJ, and Pennsylvania next year! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  12. Hi Steven!

    I am a speech-language pathology graduate student in my second year and enrolled in a fluency class this semester for really my first exposure to stuttering and the stories of PWS. I appreciate your story and how real you described some of the fears and difficulty you grew up with in school and social life as teenager. In our class so far, we have talked a lot about confidence and overcoming fears which you talked a lot about.
    My question is, we have learned that it could be beneficial for PWS to actually purposefully stutter in public situations when first beginning therapy to expose the fear of those moments and to become more comfortable in situations with unfamiliar listeners. Is that something you have ever been asked to do during any type of therapy/intervention and what was your experience with that if so?

    • Good evening Miss Meredith,

      Thank you for so much for your question! I would have to respond by saying stuttering purposefully in public is a good approach but to take, but only when the time is right. It is ironic you bring this up because on the “Stuttertalk” podcast, this topic was discussed not more than a week ago. As you can imagine, different SLPs view this a plethora of ways-there are some SLPs who go for a “confrontation” approach, yet there are others who feel that it should happen when the time is ready. I believe I am not the typical person who stutters because I never let my speech stop me from saying what I wanted or participating in class. I have done many motivational speaking presentations where I talk about a “Fear Factor” approach-stay with me on this. If you have ever watched the show, the first line that is said is “You are all gathered here to do one thing-and that is look fear straight in the eye.” The very first speaking engagement I did I was petrified, and I would be lying if I said I had all the courage in the world because I sure as hell didn’t. But after I made it through that, it was “my trial by fire” and I became really good at speaking in public after that. I am not sure why this is, but I can speak to really large crowds very well, but not so much in one-on-one situations. There was only one SLP who believed in that approach, but I ultimately believe it is up to each SLP to practice their own methods-the ultimate goal is to help the client reach a level of self-acceptance in their own lives and know it is OK to stutter. I would love for you to check out the National Stuttering Association’s web site at http://www.westutter.org, and there is a wealth of information available fluency disorders that will be a treasure trove to you as you pursue your degree. While you are there, please become a fan of ours on Facebook, and I hope you will want to be there in 2016 for the National Stuttering Association & International Stuttering Association 2016 Annual Conference in Atlanta from July 5-10, 2016. As always, the pleasure was all mine! Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  13. Hello Steven,

    Thank you for sharing your story and the three tips that you live by. It is amazing to read about your journey and the struggles you have endured to be the inspirational speaker that you are today. I really like the quote “I believe PWS are extraordinary in every sense of the word.” I believe that too. It is truly great to see you have found your calling and you are such a super star. Continue with the great work and keep inspiring people!

    • Good evening Miss Kristin,

      Thank you for being part of this ISAD conference and for your insight on my paper. It is still hard for me to fathom this remarkable journey I am on. Something I have spoken about in my motivational presentations is that sometimes it feels like we live in the “United States of Instant Gratification” where we want to have everything now. I would have liked to have reached the point in my life where I am now much sooner, but sometimes it does not always work out the way we want to. Our lives are not about us individually, but the lives we impact along the way. It really is about the path we take-here’s a perfect example. You never mentioned if you are a current SLP or a graduate student, so I will assume you are the latter-when you receive your Master’s degree, you are not going to remember the moment when you walk across stage, you will remember what it took to get there-the nights when you stayed up all night cramming for exams, the pain of having to rearrange your schedule to attend your clinical hours,trying to explain to a girlfriend (or boyfriend) why you couldn’t get together with them this week. If you would like to meet more inspiring people and learn how extraordinary our community is, I would recommend you learn more about the National Stuttering Association-please visit our web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of us on Facebook. I hope you will also consider attending the NSA & ISA 2016 Annual Conference, scheduled for July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  14. I imagine many PWS gain inspiration from your words and motivational speeches. People who may think their stuttering is anything but “sexy” can encounter a different point of view and perhaps begin to embrace their stuttering, or at least consider alternatives to the way they currently view themselves and their stuttering.

    You stated in your first tip that PWS have the power to “flip the switch,” i.e. turn a negative thought into a more positive one. I think for many it can be difficult to make a change from having negative thoughts and feelings to having more positive ones. Can you give a specific example or approach of how someone who stutters might “switch” out these negative thoughts when they come (or better yet, before they come)?

    You are truly an inspiration not only to PWS, but to myself- as a future SLP- who also wishes to help PWS. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been when people made negative remarks about your stuttering. I applaud you for using your experiences to help and motivate others. Thank you for doing what you do.

    • Hello Miss Krista, and good afternoon to you! Thank you very much for reading my paper and for your very kind words to me! As a person who has experienced numerous tailspins with my speech, I have learned that I have to be resilient even more than most people are. It seems like especially in today’s world, we often move at a hyperspeed pace and I have heard (and seen) too many times that the words spoken by people who stutter are often finished and everyone who stutters has the right to be heard, and no one should take that away from us-ever. I like to see myself as a person who stands out in every way and help others who stutter know that if they really believe in it, their stuttering can be used as something special to unite and reach others. I have spoken at many conferences and sometimes there may be SLPs out there who do not believe in my message, and if that is how they feel, it is OK. I always stress that I am just one person who stutters-all of our experiences are unique-just like fingerprints, no two ones will ever be alike. Confidence is a very sexy asset to have-and it took me nearly losing my life to find that out. To “flip the switch,” I would say that first thing above all else, is to know that you are capable of doing so. I have met many people who have told me, “I can’t do that.” And my response is, “You can’t do that, or you won’t do that?” Their response is, “Same thing.” No, it’s not the same thing. Everyone has overcome significant obstacles in our life, and it is within us to make something happen-but we need to know we can. We must draw on those experiences and push ourselves to go deeper than ever before. Once we believe, then it is within us to achieve! And once you know, there is no limit to how far you can go. I wish I could say I no longer hear negative remarks-but some of them have really been extreme. One person said “It would have been better if you are deaf so that way no one has to hear you,” and another woman said “You need to learn to play for the other team because no woman ever wants to go out with someone who stutters.” You really do not know how strong you are until that is the only choice you have left. In closing, I want you to find out about the National Stuttering Association-please visit http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of us on Facebook. And keep your calendar open for our 2016 NSA & ISA (International Stuttering Association) annual conference, which takes place July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. I hope to see you there! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  15. Hello Steven,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a future Speech-Language Pathologist in my first year of grad school. I love hearing positive stories such as yours. I think you are a true example of how PWS can overcome negativities in their life and overcome the negatives of society and achieve all of their goals. The three tips you provided are great therapy resources and I appreciate you for sharing those. Your courage and positive attitude about life is inspirational and I think you can change the lives of so many people.

    • Hello there MarySue and good evening to you! Thank you so very much for reading my paper and taking the time to leave some feedback. I especially love hearing from graduate students who are studying to enter this field because you are the “next wave” and in order to achieve the most success from your clients, you have to have a “never stop learning approach.” One of the things that I have learned first-hand as a person who stutters is that once you allow yourself to get caught up in the negativity that permeates your environment, it’s extremely hard to get rid of-and sooner rather than later, your thinking is going to be altered because you will start to succumb to what people are saying and feeling toward you. We are only in control of one person, and that is ourselves. I spent too many years of my life trying to live up to expectations that were unrealistic. I don’t need to be someone else, and I don’t want to be. We do have the power to listen to what we want to, and also we can influence ourselves into being the person we want to be. Society may want me to say everything quickly and keep things moving, but for me I don’t want to. What I have to say is very important and my attitude is you will wait as long as it takes for me to speak. Confidence is a very sexy asset to have. As a student SLP, I would love if you can do yourself a very big favor: Check out the web site of the National Stuttering Association, which can be found at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. And if you want to be on the front lines of all things stuttering, please consider attending the 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference, hosted in conjunction with the International Stuttering Association, July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  16. Hello Steven,

    Thank you for writing this, it’s so inspiring, and not only PWS can take away the positive message from this post, the way you’ve taken something perceived as negative and used it as motivation to help others is amazing, and I feel privileged to be able to read this.

    Keep doing what you’re doing,
    Student SLP (UK)

    • Good evening Miss Tara Jane! Thank you so much for your comments. It took me so many years of my life to reach the point that I am at now, and you are absolutely right that this can be applied to not just people who stutter. Although I come from the perspective of someone who stutters, there are many people who have not necessarily stuttered but have taught me so much about why it is important for me to keep advocating and sharing. Although I work in a very disability-friendly area (in the suburbs of Washington, DC) and my employer is supportive (the federal government has a lot of employees with disabilities), I too also see first-hand how some people treat others, and they look down on them. The market where I am is very type-A, and I can’t tell you how many times I have had my sentences finished, or people try to guess what I am saying. There are many people out there who probably wish I would stay quiet. But I am not like that at all, and until the day I am no longer on this earth, I will keep talking and sharing why people who stutter are important and why the world needs to know them. When you have a chance to do so, I’d really love it if you could check out the National Stuttering Association’s web site, which is located at http://www.westutter.org, and I also would like to encourage you to keep the dates of July 5-10, 2016, open too, because the NSA is going to host their 2016 conference in conjunction with the International Stuttering Association-it will be two communities speaking with one voice! There is so much to be learned and together we are going to put the world on notice that people who stutter are stronger than ever! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  17. Hi Steve! This is such a motivating and inspiring read – thank you! I am a final year Speech and Language Therapy student (UK) and really believe using stories such as yours would really help others. Allowing others to see different insights and outlooks provides them with such a confidence boost and that they are not alone. 🙂

    • Good morning Miss Bethanie! Thank you so much for coming by and reading my paper! One of the main reasons why I wrote this paper is because I feel so strongly about reaching out to everyone who stutters and letting them know that even through the most painful of times, there is always a way out-and you can see the shining light through the darkness. Being a speech language pathologist is more than offering guidance about how to control your speech and understanding what the different breathing techniques are. I believe that there is a very big emotional component as well-because for people who stutter, this is a true rollercoaster of a ride-whenever someone guesses what you want, you feel guilty for speaking-and you shouldn’t. Sometimes it seems like we have a limited amount of time to say what we want, but we must make the world adapt to us-there is no other option. I believe inspiration can come from many sources-for some people, they use their faith, others draw on their experiences with family. For me, my stuttering is where I draw my greatest inspirations and hope from. If I may, Miss Bethanie, I would love for you to check out the National Stuttering Association’s web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. Additionally, from July 5-10, 2016, we will be co-hosting our annual conference with the National Stuttering Association, and we will feature a clinical symposium where you can learn from some of the best and brightest speech pathologists in the country and world. I hope you will consider attending and being part of this extraordinary event. As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  18. Good evening Steven,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Reading this was like taking in a breath of fresh air – absolutely refreshing! I am a future Speech-Lanugage Pathologist in my first year of graduate school. I believe unleashing your “sexy stuttering superstar” was the best decision you ever made. Just look at how many lives you are touching! I love the fact that you set a goal to speak at every state speech & hearing conference. I hope to see your name at the Pennsylvania Speech and Hearing Conference (PSHA) in Pittsburgh, PA for 2016 as I will be attending and would love to hear you speak!

    Never forget how far you’ve come,
    Colleen

    • Good evening Miss Colleen! Thank you so much for your comment about unleashing the “sexy stuttering superstar” was the best decision I ever made! It certainly was, and more. I too had a lot of doubts because my speech had caused a lot of extensive difficulties for me, but I knew that I was ready to make a huge change in my life. But I also believe that it is important too to show people that you can have fun with stuttering. For many people who stutter, this is a painful concept because when they think of stuttering, the word “fun” is the last thing anyone would think of-after all, there isn’t anyone out there who probably would ask to stutter. However, a sense of humor is critical too. When I started to feel confidence with my speech, I said that “I made the greatest comeback since Lazarus himself rose from the dead.” One of my other favorite sayings is to frequently explain that “I don’t really stutter, but I am blessed with the gift of instant replay.” People LOVE to respond to those who are positive and feel very good about themselves. One of the challenges about declaring my bucket list goal is that it can get very expensive-after all, I am a federal employee and people don’t go into government to get rich. However, the rewards I get go far beyond money. I consider this making an investment in the future of the stuttering community that I care about very much-because there are so many speech pathologists out there whose knowledge of communication disorders, especially stuttering, is so limited, and we need to change that. That’s why it is so important for me to do what I can and make that my life purpose. It’s very ironic you mentioned you would be attending PSHA, because that was one of the associations I submitted a proposal to present at! I’m not that far from the Steel City, probably a three hour drive, but less than an hour if I fly there. The PSHA conference is in April, so I doubt I will hear anything, but as singer Tom Petty says, “Waiting is the hardest part.” But I always stay positive and I would love to present there-and if I am selected, I have a feeling our paths just may cross. What I would like for you to do in the meantime is to find about what one of the greatest joys in my life, the National Stuttering Association, is about. You can visit their site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours of us on Facebook. I also hope you will want to consider attending our 2016 conference, which will be hosted along with the International Stuttering Association, on July 5-10, in Atlanta. It will be a perfect opportunity to learn about everything you could want to know more about stuttering, and life. As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven. And a very special thank you for encouraging me to never forget how far I’ve come-and even more, where I’m going!

  19. Hello Steven,

    I have recently embarked on a Speech and Language course, and found your story so enlightening and uplifting. It is so inspiring to hear about your journey so far and I’m sure your story will be a huge help to others who stutter,and assist in educating those who do not.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Sarah

    • Good evening Miss Sarah! First of all, let me thank you for coming by and taking a few moments to need my reflections. There is no greater calling in my life that is more important than helping to reach and inform people about what stuttering is and how it should be looked at. To the rest of the world I may be one person, but for sure I can say a voice is very powerful feeling, and for the first time, I am seeing myself in a different way. When you are confident and you know it, it oozes sex appeal and that attracts others who want to listen. It is my honor to share this with everyone who stutters and the people who help them. If you want to know more about stuttering, there are two avenues which I suggest you take, and they will be great assets to you. First, please visit the web site of the National Stuttering Association, located at http://www.westutter.org, and keep your calendar open for the 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference, which will be hosted in conjunction with the International Stuttering Association, on July 5-10, 2016, in Atlanta. If you want to be on the front lines of everything stuttering and what is related to it, there is no better place to be! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  20. Hi Steven,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am currently a master’s student in a speech-language pathology program. I find myself to be especially drawn to the stuttering population because I know how much of a psychological impact the disorder can have on individuals, like you, who have every reason to feel amazing about themselves! I am so glad you were able to accept your disfluencies and use them as an asset to help other people. I truly believe that everyone faces adversities, but it is not the challenges in life that define you, it is your reaction to the challenges that do. Thank you for your profound reaction!
    Your story reminded me of one I heard from a speaker during my undergraduate time at Case Western Reserve University. A man named Jerry Noblowski, who was an alumnus formerly on the baseball team, came to speak to the athletic apartment about how he overcame his stutter. You could clearly hear his disfluencies, but they were barely noticeable in comparison to his enthusiasm and sunny outlook on life. He encouraged students to be confident in their passions, and not let what others tell them get in the way of their dreams. He turned out to be a very successful businessman, giving presentations for his company regularly, but for the longest time his employers would not let him talk to customers at all. He persevered, and now as a retired adult, gives motivational speeches. I hope some time you can meet him, you have both inspired me a lot!

    • Good morning Miss Rebecca! Thank you for reading my paper and offering great feedback! I was especially impressed by your insight where you said that “you know how much of a psychological impact the disorder can have on individuals.” That is a very true statement. I have come across many people who often say “Well, stuttering is not a big deal,” or “It’s OK, I stutter too.” For those who do not know, it is evident that they are trying to make you feel better, and a long time ago, just hearing that would anger me to no end because you feel like you are being patronized. But stuttering does have a significant impact on one’s life in many ways: here are a few-for example, a person may avoid certain occupations where speaking is a great component, or even worse, they settle for menial jobs where they can avoid the world.A few years ago I heard a story from one one of my friends who stuttered and it absolutely broke my heart-there was a recent college graduate whose stuttering was so severe that he actually worked in a local Outback Steakhouse washing dishes full-time because he felt that it would be the best thing for him so that he would not have to interact with everyone else. I love to tell people who stutter that we DO have a choice-we can face our challenges head-on, or we can keep running away. I have spent so many years running-and eventually you reach that point where you say this is the end. This is where it has to stop. When I saw your comments about Mr. Noblowski, I think I know exactly who you are talking about-if it is the same man I am thiking of, that is Nobby Lewandowski, and he is truly one of my inspirations, as are many others. I have had the pleasure of meeting him in person, and he is one who encourages you to live life to the fullest. Very few people say they do, but only those who lead by example are the ones who bring that to life. I would love it if you went on Facebook and became a fan of the National Stuttering Association, so you can see what life is like when you become an NSAer! Additionally, from July 5-10, 2016, we are having our annual conference with the International Stuttering Association in Atlanta-and I hope you will want to join us! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  21. Hello Steven,

    I am a speech-language pathology student currently in my second year of graduate school. I really enjoyed reading your article! Your story is so inspirational and shows that it is possible to overcome even the hardest of times. I feel your three tips you talked about are valuable for everyone to follow in life, even for people who do not stutter in order to tackle the struggles we face and to lead us to encompass positive energy in life! I could even feel your positive energy as I was reading your words! I was wondering that having accepted your stutter and embraced who you are, do you ever find yourself slipping back into negative thoughts about your stutter? If so, how do you handle those feelings in order remain positive in your life?

    • Good morning Miss Rachel! Thank you for reading my paper and I would love to answer that question. As a person who stutters, I can’t tell you the number of negative comments I have heard in my life. And it seems like these last few months, I have heard so many of them that I never heard before, with some very vitriolic and quite hateful. I have been told that no woman will ever want to go out with someone who stutters, and I need “to play for the other team,” I have heard “You would be better off deaf so that way you don’t have to deal with everyone.” There are many people who think actions speak louder than words, but I strongly believe the exact opposite-words DO hurt people, and they will be remembered for a very long time. Of course, I have my good days and bad ones when it comes to stuttering. I know that this will be the case for the rest of my life, no matter where I live or how long I am on this earth for. However, I have to constantly remind myself of where I have been, and that there are always more roads to travel. Anyone can say they are “desensitized,” but the truth is that when a comment, you do feel hurt. It took me a long time to understand that I am not responsible for the fact that I stutter, but I am responsible for how I react to it. Confidence is a very sexy asset to have and once you get to that level where you say “This is who I am and you have a choice-you can accept it or keep moving,” that is when all the doors will start to open. And when the doors open, you feel incredible that you don’t have to hide the fact that you stutter. When you get a chance, please go on Facebook and become a fan of the National Stuttering Association, and check us out at http://www.westutter.org as well. I hope maybe we will see you for our 2016 annual conference in Atlanta, from July 5-10. As always the pleasure was all mine! Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

      • Thank you for this thoughtful response Steven. It hurts my heart to even read the horrible things that people have told you! I can’t believe how truly horrid some people on the earth can be to others. It deeply saddens me. However, hearing from people with your perspective on life gives me hope and makes me realize, like you said, we control the way we react to others. I believe surrounding ourselves with kind-hearted people is the best approach to dealing with the horrible people in life. I agree that words can be as hurtful or even more so than the actions of others. However, if we let the words of bullies control our internal thoughts and feelings then they are winning. Thank you so much for speaking out for what you believe in and making so many of us aware of strong strategies to implement into our lives for a brighter existence. It is true that confidence is sexy and you Steven are proof of that! Thank you again and keep shining!

        • Hello Miss Rachel and good afternoon to you,

          Thank you for the follow-up response. It really does amaze me the level that some people have to degrade others just because they can. As you know from my biography, I live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and I love many things about it-one of them is that the area is so disability-friendly, and there is a big movement here to continue providing people with disabilities every opportunity to advance and succeed in their lives. But at the same time, Washington is a city of power and arrogance. You may have heard the term “Type-A personality,” and it lives here in more ways than one. People don’t care who they have to run over to get to where they want to go, and when they look at themselves in the mirror, they can live with what they did. That’s not the type of person I am, or what I want to be.

          We do have more power than we realize. There are many people who stutter who might disagree with that statement and say, “Well I stutter-I just have to accept that this will be the way it is.” Of course, you can accept the fact that you stutter, but it certainly does not mean you have settle for people to mistreat you either. We are all human beings and we deserve basic respect. I know this might sound like I am preaching to the choir, but it’s something I strongly believe in. When I update my status on Facebook every day, I make sure to say something positive about my stuttering-I never use it for political purposes or to say, “Hey guess what-I’m drunk again,” or to get back at someone. I believe that as you grow up, you decide that you are way past that chapter in your life-but not everyone feels that way, unfortunately.

          I may be high-functioning but in many ways I also know that I can make a difference in people’s lives-and I choose my words carefully. Here’s a perfect example of that: Last year, I was attending a black-tie gala for the Washington Humane Society, which was held in downtown Washington. I like to stand out, so I dressed in formal tuxedo tails-jacket, pants, tie, cummerbund, and matching scarf-I like to go all out. Well, at the table I was seated at, there was a very nice couple who were both partners in local law firms. So we started talking, and I shared with them my work for the National Stuttering Association, which I am very passionate about. About halfway into the conversation, the woman said “You definitely seem like you are very sensitive-maybe this isn’t the right place for you.” I was taken aback by that and asked her to explain. So she said “Washington can be a cutthroat city-you seem to be very caring and gentle, and maybe you might be appreciated somewhere else.” I responded by saying, “Yes, I know DC has a lot of Type-A personalities. I have one too, only mine stands for awesome attitude.” I said it was nice to meet you, and I walked away. I don’t allow anyone to tell me how I should act or try to fit in. And yes you are right-confidence is a sexy attitude to have!

          As always, the pleasure was all mine. I hope you will make it to Atlanta!

          Respectfully yours,

          Mr. Steven.

  22. Hi Steven,
    I absolutely loved reading your post, especially your point about “embracing yourself”. I think it’s hard in general for anyone to truly embrace and love themselves, and I’m sure that living with stuttering does not make it any easier. Your bravery and self-love is inspirational, not only to the stuttering community, but to anyone who is struggling with self-esteem issues and accepting who they are. I so appreciate your outreach- the world needs more positive thinkers like you!
    I am currently an SLP graduate student, and I feel so ashamed that you have had negative experiences with SLPs. What things do you think SLPs should keep in mind while working with PWS? And what could your SLP have done/not done to better support you in your journey? I want to make sure that I want to support my future clients in the best ways possible, and would appreciate any personal insight you could give!

    Thanks again, YOU ROCK! Hope to hear you speak at a conference some day!

    Liana Yee

    • Good morning Miss Liana! Thank you for stopping by and reading! I have so much to say about your comments, so pull up a chair and get ready. Although I have had some negative experiences with SLPs, as I look back on it, I do feel that I contributed to it somewhat because I was looking for a “cure” and as we all know, there is none. This was at a time when I was very young and of course, going to speech therapy on a Saturday morning is not exactly the most attractive thing when you would rather be home playing video games and watching cartoons. However, as I grew into my adolescent years, I had gone through five SLPs in seven years and that was one of the lowest points. A good SLP has to show empathy and realize that stuttering is not just a communication disorder, but there is a human element involved too. I have come across many SLPs who saw me as just another “bill to waiting be paid,” and that they could care less-and that is absolutely the wrong approach. I never refer to myself as a “stutterer” or “stammerer,” but as a “person who stutters.” An SLP must never forget it is about the PERSON. It is, and it always will be. An SLP must assume many roles-teacher, motivator, and also serve as a sounding board at times too. There was one SLP who I worked with and his name was Carmine Zito, and I give him all the credit in the world for reaching me when no one else could. Miss Liana, please consider visiting the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. And hopefully we will see you in Atlanta for our 2016 annual conference from July 5-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  23. Hi Steven,

    All I can say is wow! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story! I admire your “take-the-bull-by-the-horns” attitude toward stuttering. You are clearly an inspiration for everyone! It is amazing how you have used your story as platform to help others who struggle with stuttering; everyone with and without a stutter should read your paper! It takes a lot of effort to embrace yourself and share your difficulties and turn them into positives and be an advocate. As a first year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology in Wisconsin, I want to be the best SLP I can be by not just trying to “fix” a person who stutters. It is SO much more than that! I want to be an SLP who can help a person be who THEY want to be, and an SLP who doesn’t define success as “curing a stutter.” Your 3 tips to being a “sexy stuttering superstar” are great words of encouragement. Thanks again for your awesome post, and helping others with (and without) a stutter realize they can be who they aspire to be!

    Lauren King

    • Good morning Miss Lauren,

      Thank you so much for your feedback…and to have you say “wow” says it all! However, I must say that that your comment needs to be returned a thousandfold to you and the other student speech pathologists who have provided invaluable suggestions and insight regarding all things stuttering-the questions you are asking will never be found in any textbook or clinical setting, and there is an undeniable thirst for knowledge here that makes sharing my story even more critical. It still amazes me that to this day there are many SLPs who still believe you can “fix” a person’s stuttering. I once wrote a long time ago that you can never even attempt to do this because it is just not possible. You can “fix” certain things: a car, an appliance, even an animal (by having them spayed or neutered), yet it seems like there is a great deal of misinformation out there about stuttering. I have to state emphatically that while there is no cure for stuttering, it can be controlled-and it is so essential that we, the stuttering community, must keep advocating and especially be ever-vigilant for “snake oil” sellers, those who claim to cure stuttering-it just is not true. You are so correct to say that there is much more to stuttering, and especially about the kind of SLP you want to be-the definition of success varies from person to person. I’ve worked with SLPs who felt success was getting me “fluent in six months,” which never happened, and there were a few who felt their definition was “making the insurance company happy.” It IS about the client, but at the same time it’s about the strategies you implement too-the performance of an SLP should never be dictated by “Well, have I made this person fluent?” Of course, that’s not the case. An SLP can take on many goals-they can provide the person who stutters with confidence, they can offer emotional assistance, and they can even force them to look at stuttering in ways they never thought before-if you told me that I would be able to do motivational speaking, I would have said you can sell me the American Legion Bridge connecting Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia at a reasonable price-but I am doing it, and more. Our lives are works and progress-some of get to where we want to go sooner than others, and sometimes it takes us the longer way-but there is no final destination, there are always new things to learn and inspiration to be shared! Wisconsin has a lot of schools with communication sciences and disorders departments, so I do hope that you will also get involved with the local chapter of NSSLHA there, which can be a great asset to your future studies (and resume too!) I would encourage you to go online and check out the National Stuttering Association web site, which is located at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. Hopefully if you are not doing anything next summer, you will want to be part of the NSA (and International Stuttering Association) annual conference, from July 6-10, 2016, hosted in the city of Atlanta. Additionally, on July 5 & 6, there will be a clinical symposium where you can learn so much about stuttering and be on the front lines. I really hope you will want to be there! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  24. Steven, thank you so much for sharing your positive story with the world! I was instantly gravitated to reading your paper because it has an enticing title. I instantly felt that your personality was radiating through the title and I wanted to learn more. You did not let me down after I read your story. I am a graduate student studying to become a speech-language pathologist and I had a question that came to mind while reading. What is one piece of advice you would give someone if they feel like they are just about to give up? What would YOU have wanted to be told during those tough times? This is a question that I feel would help me when working with people who stutter in my future clinical practice. I have not been able to experience the feelings you have and was wondering what you would share with me. Thank you!

    • Good morning Mach0205,

      Thank you so much for your participation in the ISAD conference and for reading my paper! The one piece of advice that I would give anyone who is struggling with their speech and might be tempted to raise the white flag is to draw inspiration from different sources in their life. As a person who stutters, this is something that has helped me immensely, and still does today. We live in a world where positive news just does not seem to come around often-and when you struggle with numerous setbacks which start to affect all aspects of your life (from college to dating to working), it will seem like everything snowballs together and you start to feel like you are the only person in an avalanche, if that makes sense. I have met some people who the world may think are just some people who stutter, when in reality, they have persevered and overcome many challenges to get where they are now. I think the most important thing, though, is that you simply cannot allow yourself to get caught up in the web of negative thoughts from friends, family members, even teachers who may say “Well you shouldn’t do a class presentation,” or “Maybe that field is not right for you.” Everyone who stutters should have a strong support network of people who will keep you grounded and focused on what you want to accomplish, and they can act as a barrier or shield to keep those destructive influences away. If you would like to be part of a special community where there is absolutely no negativity and only positive encouragement, I’d love for you to join the National Stuttering Association! Check out their page at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan on Facebook. Hopefully you can join us for our 2016 conference, which will be held July 6-10, in Atlanta as well! As always the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  25. Steven,
    I love your outlook and approach on stuttering (The unleashing of your sexy stuttering superstar) I think most people who stutter seem to stay in the shadows but you are out there advocating. When you talk about your life being compared to a pendulum with extreme highs and lows, I can understand, not because I necessarily stutter but because that is how my life is (extreme ups and downs).
    What brought you to the point of suicide, especially since you didn’t shy away from the spotlight?
    I agree that you should never allow anyone to silent and prevent you from saying what you want. It’s true that everyone has the right to be heard. Embracing who you are is vital for everyone who feels insecure. It’s true that we are our own worst enemies. Instead of stuttering being a derogatory word, why don’t we start using it positively. Such as, “I DO stutter, which means, I am blessed with instant replay.” It always feels good to be accepted or loved as the way you are. Once again, I love your outlook and I truly appreciate your willingness to share. Thank you for your inspiration!
    Candice

    • Good morning Miss Candice,

      Thank you so much for reading my paper and becoming active as a participant in the ISAD conference! You are right when you say that most people who stutter seem to stay in the shadows but I like to think that is now changing. With the release of “The King’s Speech” in 2011, stuttering has now taken on a greater role in the disability community and there are many people who do understand it better-maybe not to the extent that we wish they did, but there is no denying that the film had a significant role in changing that. But that being said, we cannot assume every year something like that will happen, and people who stutter are now becoming more active and outspoken. No one should have live their life in complete silence. I did for so long-and I regret that every day. You stated that your life is very similar to the swinging of the pendulum-both extreme highs and lows. I am very sorry to hear that you are experiencing that, but I do understand and connect with those feelings-and I hope that very soon you will experience a happy medium where you do not have to wake up asking yourself what today will feel like for you!

      There were a number of factors that brought me to the point of suicide, all of which played a significant role-my stuttering was a major one-I could not even say my own name, and in junior college, professors were very hesitant to call on me. One time when I raised my hand and the professor actually picked someone else because of time constraints, I continued to raise it and he responded by ignoring me. I have always been outspoken, and have never apologized for that, so I said “Ignoring me isn’t going to prevent me from doing this,” and he stopped the class and said, “This is my classroom-and if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave, “ and then he asked me to do so because I disrupted the class. I have had many incidents like that, and especially in high school, my self-worth was non-existent. Even though I spoke in class, I never participated in activities because I felt like I was toxic-I missed out on my senior prom and spent it at the movies, which I was so ashamed of. My social experiences were the main catalyst for my attempt-it should not hurt to grow up, but for me it did, in many ways. I’d like to tell you people change, Miss Candice, but many of them do not-and I cannot allow myself to hang around with them. I have to stay committed to being true to myself and knowing what I do for the stuttering community is very important. I love to inspire people and make them feel better about themselves. I like to see myself as a “professional motivator, just with a stuttering twist.”

      I hope that the next time you are on Facebook, you will want to visit the National Stuttering Association page and become a “fan” of ours. You can visit us at http://www.westutter.org, and if you are looking for a great highlight to your summer, please be part of the 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference from July 6-10, 2016, in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  26. Hello Steven,
    I really appreciate your witty post and your honesty. I am studying to become an SLP and it was helpful to read that the one SLP had a lasting negative impression as we all wish to avoid that with our clients. I am very inspired by your goal to attend all of the conventions and I hope to catch you in whichever state I end up. You will be yet another superstar that we can talk to our fluency clients about with regards to acceptance and their ability to follow their dreams. I really appreciated you talking about positive reframing in your post as we encourage clients to reframe their own communication experiences and thoughts about their own stuttering.
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    Michele

    • Good morning Miss Michele,

      Thank you for your compliments! I have had some interesting adventures with SLPs for sure-I like to think the process though was similar to “playing the field” in terms of dating, or searching for the perfect college/university. Not every school will work for each person-some students can thrive in bigger schools where one class can have 400 students, others need that one-to-one attention so their best work can be done-I think it is the same with SLPs, there is never a one-size-fits-all approach, nor should we consider using one. I think it is very important to positively reframe our experiences with stuttering, however, I am also cognizant of the fact that this is something that takes time for people who stutter to build up to. It took me about nine years to stop blaming myself for the fact that I stutter, and I had many nights spent asking why it was me who had to bear this burden. But once you realize that you can look at stuttering in a different way, you can transform your life if you are willing to accept the fact that you can see yourself in a positive manner, every door will open for you. I am a firm believer in that. In this day and age, anyone can say, “Yes, talk is cheap-go out and SHOW me.”

      By writing this paper, I BELIEVE in what I have to say. I live these values every day of my life. That is something I take a great deal of pride in, and everyone who stutters should also eventually reach that point where they say “I own my stuttering and I am proud of it!”

      Unfortunately you did not tell me where you are studying now, and I could have let you know if that is a state I will get to in 2017. One of the hardest challenges with regard to my desire to do this bucket list endeavor of speaking to all fifty state speech and hearing associations is that many of them are held at the same time each year, and you can only do so many. For example, I would like to do Ohio, but it turned out the Ohio convention was on the exact same days as Texas. Sometimes it can be frustrating to know you want to do as many as you can, but the schedule does not allow it. Alas, certain things are out of our control, I’m afraid =)

      I hope that the next time you are on Facebook, you will look up the National Stuttering Association and become a fan! We are also online at http://www.westutter.org, and if you want to have a memorable summer highlight, come be a part of the 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference, from July 6-10 in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  27. Hi Steven!
    You are such an inspiration to everyone, not only to people who stutter. I admire your perseverance and positive attitude. Keep being a DIVA and helping others through your talks. I hope you accomplish your bucket list. Don’t let anyone bring you down and continue owning that stutter!
    Swathi

    • Hello Swathi!

      Thank you so much for reading my paper. It has taken me a long time to really accept “ownership” of my stuttering, and I don’t think anyone can blame me for that-I have known many people who stutter who still aren’t sure they are ready to accept this fact and they keep telling themselves that it is really nothing when they are tormented by the experiences they endure every day-having to feel rushed, frightened to ask for something they really want because the words won’t come out the way they want to. But I have found a certain peace that I have done so, and it’s the best feeling in the world. However, I am aware that when I speak, not everyone will want to hear my message. I submitted a proposal to present at ASHA, which is one of the biggest conferences in the field of speech pathology, and I received a “Thanks but no thanks” notification-and although all authors can have the option to ask why their presentation was rejected, I suspected the reason why was that it was not aimed at the right audience-the presentations they were looking for are more academic and technical in nature, and perhaps they felt it would be best suited for another forum. That is OK by me-I’m never going to stop telling my story to those who will listen-and every “no” will lead to a “yes” from someone else.

      If you are interested, I’d like to recommend that you follow the National Stuttering Association on Facebook and become a fan of ours, and frequently visit their web site at http://www.westutter.org too. And keep your calendar open in case you want to come to our 2016 National Stuttering Association Annual Conference, scheduled for July 6-10 in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  28. Steven,

    This is the first paper that I have read on this site so far and you have truly set the bar high for all the others to come! I admire your zealous outlook on life and how you turned a situation that could have continued to control your life into one that is helping others. You commented that you may have been dealt a “losing hand” being a PWS and someone with Asperger’s. My brother, who just turned 20, also has a diagnosis of Asperger’s, and although he is not a PWS, I think he could benefit from your post. He too struggles in certain communicative environments and probably could agree with the feeling of looking back on a social situation that sent him home cringing and asking why he said something he did. However, being able to overcome these situations and realizing that you are only human and learn from them instead is something that I don’t think he realizes yet, but I hope he will soon and find his inner superstar!

    I think that we all can take the powerful words that you have written and apply them to not only therapeutic situations but to daily life practices and remembering that we are the ones that control our happiness and our overall outlook on life! Thank you so much for your inspiration and for being a role model for PWS!

    Chelsea McKinnis

    • Hello Miss Chelsea!

      I was absolutely floored by your compliment about setting the bar high! Thank you so very much! When I wrote this paper, I felt that I could provide two unique perspectives since for me, stuttering and Asperger’s are so intertwined. We do have a choice with regard to how we live our lives. I have seen many people who stutter who feel that it has been taken away from them, so they just accept it “as the way it is,” and nothing else happens. We all have the power and the capability to rise to the occasion, and take back control from something that doesn’t want us to have it. In my teenage years and into my twenties, I was so angry over my stuttering that I felt because of it I was a real wild child-I did things to hurt myself and others who care about me but I was just too blind to see it. Although I cannot get that time back, I do have the ability to reach out and help others and maybe, just maybe, keep making this world a little better for others who stutter and those who have Asperger’s as well.

      I, too, for the longest time, have tried to hide the fact that I am on the autistic spectrum. But I realized that I could not do it anymore-I always tried to run away from it. I have said this in many of my presentations that you can get good at many things, but running away should never be one of them-because once you start, you’ll never stop. And there will come a time when you will say “I’m tired of this” and once you hit rock bottom, that’s when you’re ready to go forward. I have had so many points like that in my life. Although I do live in an area that is very disability-friendly such as Washington, DC, I have encountered an overwhelming number of people who might see me as the one who is always aloof, cold, or disinterested-and to them, saying “I have Asperger’s” is a real problem. They are so worried about their own image that they can’t take the time to understand others. Those are not the people I want in my life-ever. I’ve been asked by women, “Why are you single? You’re polite, respectful, well-mannered.” Those are good qualities you rarely see anymore. I am not sure how to respond, but I say, “I’m single because the world does not fully understand those who are different.” All I can do is keep going and try to make things better the next day than they were today.

      You sound like you are extremely close with your brother-I wish I was with my family. It’s not perfect by any means, but I don’t really think they fully understand what it means to be an “Aspie.” I want to say though that the term is in no way meant to be derogatory or insulting, as many people refer to themselves as that. You may not be able to trade places with him and see what things are like from his perspective, but you can be there to listen, to offer constructive advice, and know that no matter what happens, you will always be there for him. There is a wealth of information available online about Asperger’s, and it is well worth the reading.

      I would love it if you would like to find out more about the National Stuttering Association-you can look them up at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. I also hope you will want to attend our 2016 Annual Conference, scheduled for July 6-10 in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  29. Hi Steven!
    Wow, what a great story and thank you so much for sharing! You are an inspiration to so many people and not only to those who stutter. You took a negative situation in your life and turned it into a positive one. I think it is great that you have become an advocate for stuttering and made a goal to speak in every state. (I hope to hear you speak in Wisconsin!) My younger cousin just began stuttering and I hope to share with her your 3 main take away points. I think that everyone can relate to a negative situation and apply your 3 main points and become a sexy superstar!

    Thanks again for sharing your story!

    Heidi Hoffman

    • Good morning Miss Heidi! Thank you for participating in the ISAD online conference. I have received a lot of great feedback regarding my desire to speak in every state, and every time I receive an acceptance of my proposal it just further cements that fact that especially for people who stutter, there is no reason for us not to be heard-we DO have very interesting stories to tell but even more than that, there is plenty of substance which demonstrates the fact that no one has to give up hope, and there is nothing wrong with the fact that you stutter at all. I remember meeting a gentleman one time who informed me that “Maybe I do talk slower than most people, but I have no issue with communicating-and that is exactly how it should be. We all have voices and need to use them to the fullest extent possible because someday there will come a time when we won’t be able to. I want it to be said about me that I gave everything I had in this world to the stuttering community and I never remained quiet. When you take something that nearly destroyed you and give that anger and hurt a voice, it really does come back to you because you are giving the gift of hope-and that is something you cannot put a price tag on. I would definitely consider the state of Wisconsin for 2017-in fact, I looked on their web site yesterday but unfortunately I missed the cutoff for a submission date, but there is always next year-it is something I will bookmark for sure so that as soon as the process opens, I will be the first one to submit. Since you mentioned your younger cousin started stuttering, I hope you will be able to get “early intervention” and take her to a speech pathologist who specializes in that. If you are looking for a wealth of information about stuttering or anything relating to the field, check out the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan of ours on Facebook. I also hope you will want to consider attending our 2016 annual conference on July 6-10, to be held in Atlanta as well! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  30. Hello Steven,
    I enjoyed reading your essay on how you overcame your difficulties with stuttering. You embraced your journey to help PWS overcome their own challenges in life, encouraging them bring that “sexy stuttering superstar” out into the open. You have allowed me to look at stuttering in a new perspective so that I can later encourage PWS to bring out their stuttering and embrace their challenges.
    Thank you,
    Kayla
    SLP trainee

    • Good morning Miss Kayla! Thank you for stopping by and reading my paper! I believe that each person who stutters has a unique perspective on their speech. One of the conclusions I came to early on when I started public speaking is that I have to be respectful of how other people who stutter feel. You see, I am very open and raw about my stuttering, and nothing to me is off limits-I will gladly answer any questions that people will ask me, but at the same time I must be cognizant of the fact that not everyone has embraced who they are. To say “My name is _____________ and I stutter” can be terrifying for many people, and they must work up to a point of self-acceptance. For some people, it comes very quickly and they can move on. For others, it takes years, if they ever do at all. I take pride in bringing a fresh perspective to the world of speech pathology. That is very important to me whenever I speak to graduate students and at conferences. I understand there is a big academic component, but I love to be original-when you are taking your classes, I want you to think about a professor you may have liked. Were they unorthodox? Sometimes it is those kinds of teachers who you remember. A creative teacher can make the most mundane of topics come alive. I have spoken to many SLPs who stutter who have felt that learning about apraxia may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but if you are being taught by an instructor who loves what he does, and it shines through, that is someone who makes a great impression on you. I strive to do that every day because I believe in my stuttering and I believe I can make a difference. Speaking of making a difference, I’d like for you to learn about an organization that has had a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of everyone who stutters, and that is the National Stuttering Association. You can look up their web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become a fan on Facebook. And if you’d like to make your summer memorable, please consider joining us at the 2016 Annual Conference (co-hosted with the International Stuttering Association) on July 6-10, in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  31. Hello Steven,
    I really enjoyed reading this story and found it so motivating. I am in graduate school to become a Speech Language Pathologist and really enjoy reading about your perceptions and feelings about your stutter. This was so inspiring! I do have a question for you, what advice do you have for me as a future professional who may counsel and treat a person with a stutter? I love how confident and motivated you became concerning your stutter and would love to know how to convert this to future clients. Thanks! Macy

    • Hello Macy! Thank you for your comments and especially for your enthusiasm in asking how to counsel and treat a person who stutters? In the question you asked, you actually hit on one of the first concepts-you should always refer to someone as a “person who stutters.” When I was the Long Island chapter leader for the National Stuttering Association, this was something I strongly believed in when I ran my meetings-that we would never use the world “stutterer” or “stammerer,” only “person who stutters.” Why? Because not only is the proper thing to do, but it is a reminder that we are people first. I have come across too many people in my life who feel that just because I stutter it doesn’t make me part of society because I can’t express myself. I would never want someone to feel that way at all. Secondly, I would suggest that you see yourself in many different roles, and I am going to explain what I mean by that. Although your formal title may be speech language pathologist, stuttering encompasses many feelings on the spectrum of emotions-anxiety, fear, depression, and these are very hard to shake, which can lead to poor self-esteem and unwillingness to do things because the person who stutters is afraid to. You must show empathy and compassion, and know that sometimes when a client comes in, perhaps they do not want to go over techniques and discuss progress-they just want to vent and share what happened with their stuttering that day. Each therapist will be unique to the people they work with. I have had some SLPs who have been very regimented and really did not want to know anything about my life, but the best results I ever got were with the ones who cared about me and wanted to know who I was and what made me the person I am today. I hope you will check out the National Stuttering Association web site, located at http://www.westutter.org, and become our fan on Facebook. Keep your calendar open for our 2016 conference, located in Atlanta, from July 6-10. As always, the pleasure was all mine! Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  32. Hi Steven,
    I loved your article! The ways your have dealt with your stuttering are something that I would love share with future clients. I would love to know what moment in your life changed your views on your stuttering? – Courtney

    • Good morning Miss Courtney! Thank you for your message and for reading my paper. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the answer to your question because there have been so many moments, but one stands out in particular that I think really proves to be the catalyst. In the fall of 2002, I completed a paralegal certification class at a university on Long Island, and had started applying for positions with local law firms. I was eventually hired by one where the partners of the firm were alumni, so there was a connection. Although they were interested in hiring me for a legal assistant position, I was shocked when they placed me in a clerical position with their billing department that wasn’t going anywhere. I was there for about nine months and was not sure why they did not want me to work in their division, and then one day in the cafeteria I happened to meet a young woman who graduated the same program I did. She earned a 3.0, I received a 3.5. We both had no experience, but she didn’t stutter. I did. It was the only conclusion I could draw from it-they probably had never any intention of letting me at that job, they probably “felt bad about my speech” so they offered me something else. I was seething and eventually I called them out on it-and the next day, I was terminated. In many ways though, I have never been so happy for that to happen, because it started me on the journey I am today. I think back to that every day and say “If it wasn’t for them, who knows where I would be?” Of course, the partners are still there, and I doubt they remember me. But the more that I think about it, they do not deserve the privilege it is to be part of my life. Only those who really support me unequivocally do. I consider it a real honor to be able to do the things I do for the stuttering community, as it is what drives my life. Another thing that drives me is my involvement with the National Stuttering Association. If you go to http://www.westutter,org, you will see the difference we make in the lives of those who stutter-and you can be our fan on Facebook. And if you’d like to see that up close and personal, please consider attending our 2016 conference from July 6-10 in downtown Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  33. Hi Steven,

    I really admire the advice you give to PWS. I am a first-year graduate student studying speech-language pathology and found the tips of you give for having a positive outlook on life and becoming the best version of themselves so insightful and easy to do. I truly enjoyed reading your story, and hope only the best for you while you continue to help PWS.

    -Julz

    • Good morning Miss Julz,

      Thank you so much for what you wrote! Reading comments like yours means everything to me. Even though as a person who stutters, I will always have good days and bad days, and sometimes the latter increases more than the former. I never thought I could ever reach the point that I am now in my life, but once you feel confident in what you are doing, you will only want more-and that is why I want to take my life to the next level, which is why I set my goal to make speaking in every state happen. I would like to wish for you to do something for me, too-I would love for you to check out the web site of the National Stuttering Association at http://www.westutter.org, and become our fan on Facebook. If you also want to do something really special during the summer of 2016, come join over 1200 of your soon-to-be new best friends at our annual conference, July 6-10, in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  34. Hi Steven,
    As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but think that if I was a person who stuttered, I would feel much more confident and feel much more driven! I really enjoyed your article as well as your strength to look at being a person who stutters in a positive way. I hope to convey this positive outlook onto my future clients.
    Thank you, Jordan

    • Good morning Jordan!

      Thank you for your participation in the ISAD conference and for your insight regarding my paper! I hope that when you do work with future clients, you will show them that are good examples of people who continue to persevere every day with their stuttering. Of course, I have spoken to SLPs who have cited examples of performers such as the late Marilyn Monroe, James Earl Jones, Oscar-winning screenwriter David Seidler of “The King’s Speech” fame, and many more. However, the most important thing you can do is showcase regular people, too. I love to do motivational speaking and talk about stuttering 24/7, but I am also a regular person with the same challenges others face-balancing work and life, etc., and more. Something that would be even better is for you to let your clients know about the National Stuttering Association too! Check us out at http://www.westutter.org, and be our fan on Facebook. Our 2016 annual conference is scheduled for July 6-10 in Atlanta, and someday that will be you in attendance, or a family going and making this a special trip-and you will feel good because you passed that knowledge on! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  35. Hi Steven! I really enjoyed your article. Your positive outlook on life and sense of humor is inspiring. I liked reading about how you overcame the obstacles in your life and become an advocate for other people who stutter. The education you provide will hopefully help those of us who do not stutter be more accepting and understanding. Also, I think the three tips you gave are great pieces of advice for anyone and are things will I will remember as embark on a career as an SLP. Thank you for all that you do!!
    Kate

    • Good morning Miss Kate!

      Thank you so very much for contributing to this conference and reading my paper! It is so important to remember that people who stutter have so much to teach students who want to become future speech pathologists. You can’t get any better experience by talking with one who is happy to share their story and apply that to working with clients when you do your clinical hours in school. If you want to be taught by some of the most extraordinary people who stutter, please be part of the National Stuttering Association-we are online at http://www.westutter.org, and I’d love it if you became our fan on Facebook. For four days, two voices in the stuttering community are going to merge together to form one voice for the 2016 National Stuttering Association & International Stuttering Association Annual Conference, held in Atlanta, from July 6-10. I hope to see you there! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  36. Steven,

    Thank you for sharing your story – you’re an inspiration! I liked your advice on facing your fears and saying what you want, when you want. I believe that building strength and resilience in this way is something that all people, both those who do and those who do not stutter, should strive for. As someone who can be shy and hesitant to speak my mind, this certainly resonated with me.

    I also liked that you brought up support groups. As an SLP graduate student, it’s easy for me to forget that treatment isn’t all about the therapist and PWS. I’ve learned that stuttering is complex and sometimes
    emotional and isolating, and I can’t think of a better place to find help, acceptance, and solace than with a support group. Great advice. Thanks again for sharing!

    -Shana

    • Good morning Miss Shana,

      Thank you so much for reading my paper and providing feedback! I can’t even begin to stress how critically important and advantageous it is to join a support group. When I first started to attend meetings as a member of the Long Island chapter (and later on as the chapter leader), I was not sure what to expect, and that is a common theme echoed by many people who stutter when they first walk through the door. In fact, there might be some people who think it’s absolutely crazy to have a support group for people who stutter-they find themselves stuck in a mentality that these types of groups only exist for alcoholics, drug users, and the like. However, there have been numerous demonstrated studies that show that getting involved and participating in a support group does tremendous things for members, such as increased confidence, and less focus on the speech then before. For people who stutter, we do tend to be our own worst enemies, and for good reason-no one sees us the way you and I do. But when you meet others who stutter, regardless of how old they are or where they are going in life, you draw such inspiration from that it becomes a routine for you. You attend every month just like you would brush your teeth every day, and after you attend, there is such a glow around you. I hope you will become a fan of the National Stuttering Association on Facebook, and check out our web site at http://www.westutter.org too. And keep your calendar open for our 2016 conference co-hosted with the International Stuttering Association, July 6-10, which will feature a research symposium that you will definitely want to check out! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  37. Hi Steven. Thanks for sharing your story! I am noticing throughout many posts like yours that SLPs are often not doing or saying the right things to help support and empower someone who stutters. What would you suggest as advice that an SLP do differently to assist a person who stutters gain comfortability and acceptance? Different strategies work for different people but was there any techniques you used that were taught by any of your past SLPs? I feel as if you have such a positive outlook on your stutter and that is half the battle! Being able to accept it and acknowledge it in a positive way is not too common and others can really look up to you and use you as an example of how to increase confidence and live life the way you intend. Great read. Thanks!

    • Good morning TTavill!

      Thank you for stopping by and reading! Over the course of my treatments, I have been exposed to many different philosophies, but if I could recommend one regarding comfortability and acceptance, it is that the SLP has to stress that stuttering is just a very small part of who you are. I realize this is easier said than done, because many people who stutter feel like they have been labeled all their lives and it is the only thing they know. Being an SLP is not just about offering techniques and ways to control your breathing, there is a very big emotional component to it. One of the SLPs who I worked with back home on Long Island told me every week that I had to do one thing that I would never normally do, and I had to report to him what it was. At first I was not sure what the purpose of the exercise was, but I started to do it-here’s an example. I love public speaking, but it is a real difficult thing for me to engage in one-on-one conversations and making phone calls. There is a term called the “Ma Bell syndrome” because for people who stutter using the phone can frighten them to the point where they had to avoid it. I called the Amtrak number to book a reservation to Washington DC, but “Washington” and all the words that start with “w” cause me problems. So I got on the phone with one of their operators and started to speak, and of course, it happened again-I started blocking. So the person on the other end said “Waxahchie Falls? Winnipeg?” as if to guess where I wanted to go, but I would not stop and eventually I said “Washington” even though it took me one minute. When I shared this with him, he said “You will now be able to call anyone and know that even if you block, you will be able to know that you have the ability to do it-you never had that before. You are not just a person who stutters here, you are someone who can communicate on the phone like other people.” I always remind myself every day that my speech is merely a small part-I can decide if it will be a huge one. And when it is small, people will see that it does not impact you to the extent it once did. When you can, please check out the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and be our fan on Facebook. Maybe we’ll see you for our 2016 Annual Conference in Atlanta, from July 6-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  38. Hi Steven,
    Fantastic article! Thank you for sharing your story and struggles with us. It always amazes me how cruel and insensitive people can be, and I absolutely love that you have taken a positive outlook on life and have not let anything, including your stuttering, stand in your way. You truly are an inspiration to people who stutter, and to those who don’t!

    • Good morning Miss Crystal,

      Thank you so much for being a part of my paper with your comments! People often say in life that hindsight is 20/20, but as I will be 38 next year, I am learning what really matters about my speech and what doesn’t. People who stutter may not realize this, but they DO have a choice as to how they can look at their stuttering. A lot of people are afraid to think of stuttering as something positive, and I can understand that, because it has brought them a lot of personal pain and setbacks that they don’t want to talk about. I used to be that person for many years, stuttering was not talked about with my family and it was one of those topics that we rarely discussed at the dinner table. But our life is about the journey, and I could never have imagined myself on it at all. There is nothing so important in my life than giving back and continuously advocating for the stuttering community. One of my favorite philosophies comes from, of all people, Miss Miley (Cyrus). I have been laughed at for saying it, but I will share it with you: “There’s always going to be another mountain, I’m always going to want to make it move, Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. It ain’t about how fast you get there, it ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.” It really is. When you graduate and get your degree, you’re going to walk across that stage, but you are not going to remember them symbolically handing you the diploma. You’re going to remember everything it took to get there-late nights, cramming for exams, teachers who wanted you to rewrite papers ten times so that it would meet their specifications, maybe even turning down chances to hang out with your girlfriends/boyfriend because you needed to get something done. When I am always sharing my story, I feel alive. Right now, I am more alive than I ever thought I could be! I’d love for you to go on Facebook and became a fan of the National Stuttering Association, and you can look them up at http://www.westutter.org, too. Perhaps you will want to be part of our annual conference, scheduled for July 6-10, 2016, in Atlanta! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  39. Steven,
    I truly enjoyed reading your article. Your enthusiasm and positive attitude is infectious and you are very inspiring! I’m so happy that you’ve found this place in your life where it seems like you’re thriving. Thank you for sharing your story- I feel like allowing other people into your life (both the good and the bad)can help others who may be struggling to find their way. You are a great example of what life can be.
    Thanks again! Megan

    • Good morning Miss Megan,

      Thank you for all your compliments! It means a lot to me to say what you did. One of the toughest things I have had to endure is being part of crowds where people aren’t willing to accept you for who you are, or understand why you are who you are. But I have drawn inspiration from many sources, some off the beaten path, that have helped me when I reach out to others. One of my favorite series to watch is “Inside The Actors Studio” on Bravo, and I especially pay attention to the last ten minutes, which is the questionnaire segment, where the students can ask questions of the performer, ranging from the craft of acting to the business. One time they had Tom Hanks on, and a student asked him about the movie “Turner & Hooch” (it was not a big hit at the box office), and he said “I worked harder on that movie than any other one”, including the ones that won Oscars. He stated “You learn more from the things that do not work out than the things that actually do.” How relevant that is! You can apply that to jobs, relationships, so many things. I learned the type of people I want to associate with, and the ones I don’t. The ones who don’t I just have no time for, because I want to be with those who can appreciate differences. When you get a chance to, I hope you go on Facebook and check out the National Stuttering Association’s page, and become one of our many fans! If you also want to consider being part of an incredible event, I hope you will come to Atlanta next year for our 2016 Annual Conference, scheduled for July 6-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  40. Hi Steven,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper.

    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.

    Like you, I have discovered that when we challenge our restrictive beliefs and self-image, it really is possible to participate fully on life’s stage. The only limitations are those that we impose upon ourselves.

    Thank you for sharing. I hope that others will be encouraged to unleash their sexy stuttering superstar personalities upon the world. 🙂

    Kindest regards

    Alan Badmington

    • Good morning Mr. Alan,

      Thank you very kindly for your comments! I had the pleasure of meeting you a few years ago at a National Stuttering Association conference. I have been coming there for ten years straight, and I believe it was one of the very early ones I attended. I recall you were a very powerful speaker and you were genuinely captivating to the audience. To see that you are still continuing to do the lecture circuit and be frequently cited as an authority on stuttering provides me with a standard I hope to live up to. For the first twentysomething years of my life, I lived life away from the shadows of speaking but now that I am doing it every day and loving it, it truly is an addiction that I cannot get enough-I love to keep sharing my story and providing others with the foundation to help them build a life where stuttering is a positive force. I hope someday you will return to an NSA conference and we will again have the chance to chat in person. When you can, please check out the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and be our fan on Facebook. Maybe we’ll see you for our 2016 Annual Conference in Atlanta, from July 6-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  41. Steven, I am not a PWS but I found myself feeling motivated regardless! I loved your tips and I’ll have to look out for opportunities to hear you speak. Hopefully you make your way to New Jersey! It’s awesome that you channeled something ugly (frustration and anger) into something that really assists others in being the person that they are. I’m glad you made peace with yourself and in doing so, are able to drive others to do the same.

    • Good morning Krausmli!

      Thank you for your comments and it is appropriate that you bring up the state of New Jersey because that is one of the states I submitted a proposal to for 2016! Their conference is not coming up until April though, so I doubt I will hear anything before the end of the year. There is a certain serenity that has come into my life now that I have accepted my stuttering as part of my life. We all possess the ability to decide how much of a factor it will become in our daily lives. It took a lot of moments to finally understand why I stuttered, but now that I know I control my own destiny, it is only the right thing to do to share that with others and help them along the way. I hope that you will check out the National Stuttering Association web site at http://www.westutter.org, and become our fan on Facebook. Hopefully you will want to join us in Atlanta for the 2016 Annual Conference from July 6-10, too! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  42. Great article and great advice!

    You mention how important it is to get involved with a support group. Many of the individuals that I have met who stutter had never met another PWS until they were older. Were you around other people who stutter growing up? Or was it something you sought after as you got older?

    I hope you enjoy your bucket list journey as you continue to empower PWS to be confident and open with themselves.

    Thank you,
    Kaylie

    • Good morning Miss Kaylie!

      Thank you for contributing to our conference and asking your question. One of the common themes that seems to be echoed at the attendance of National Stuttering Association conferences is that many of the members have said they found support groups late in their lives. Stuttering primarily affects five times as many men as it does women, and because of the work the NSA does, we now have support groups for adults, teens, and children in about 85 percent of the country. The first time I attended a meeting was in my twenties. Serving as the Long Island chapter leader really helped me out personally and professionally and I owe a debt of gratitude that I can never repay because it showed me character, good morals, leadership, and how to put others before me. In my early years growing up, I hated my stuttering so much that I felt myself develop a “Well if others don’t care about me why should I care about them?” mentality. That has now forever been replaced by one where I must go forward and share my knowledge with as many people as possible. I would love if you could be a fan of the National Stuttering Association on Facebook and bookmark their site at http://www.westutter.org, and hopefully we’ll see you in Atlanta for NSA 2016, July 6-10! As always the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  43. Hi Steven,

    As many others have expressed, I was refreshed and happy to read your enthusiasm for overcoming your trials and encouraging others to do the same! I think what makes your advice stand out from others is that it pushes techniques for confidence in communication and individualism that can be used by anyone–not just PWS. As far as your lines, “Every time you say something that you never thought you could do, your strength and resilience grows. A first step will lead to the bigger things,” I am reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote to, “Do one thing every day that scares you”. This is a quote I have lived by since college, and it has made each day of my life feel much more meaningful and beneficial to my growth as a naturally reserved and shy individual. I suppose I feel the quote is in line with the idea you discussed, that our strength grows every time we do things we don’t think are possible for us. To return to my original comment, I appreciate the way you have presented your encouragement and challenges to others, since realizing that we all have struggles here and there with communication and identity regardless of labels or identification as a PWS is quite humbling…and if we each challenge ourselves to push our limits, we will inevitably find positive results (at least much of the time!).

    Thank you for your wisdom, and take care in your future speaking endeavors!

    Zaneta

    • Good morning Zaneta!

      Thank you for your comments. After re-reading my paper a few times, I definitely appreciate what you said about the fact this guidance can be used by anyone. You may have heard the mantra from the show “Rent” that there is no day but today-and that is right! Someday there will come a time when we have no days left, and I want to be remembered as someone who never let his speech stand in the way of doing ANYTHING that he wanted! And speaking of wanting, I hope you will want to go to http://www.westutter.org and visit the National Stuttering Association web site, and become our fan on Facebook. And if you want to be with some amazing people who love their stuttering, come to Atlanta for the 2016 Annual NSA Conference, from July 6-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  44. Hi Steven,

    It’s so great to see how you persevered and did not let your stutter stop you from doing anything! Many kids who stutter are afraid to speak and get embarrassed so it’s refreshing to hear your story of being so confident. Even if you were trying to do silly things to fit in, it’s still a great feat that you were able to speak so confidently around your peers. It’s also wonderful that you are able to go to numerous different states and talk about your experience with stuttering, I can only imagine how great it feels to be telling others that they too can overcome their fears/negative thoughts towards stuttering the way that you did!

    • Good morning Miss Vicki,

      Thank you very much for your comments! I am grateful for what you said and you are right, there is no better high than getting up behind a microphone and sharing your thoughts about stuttering with others who are going through the same thing you do, and those who can help. Inside all of us is a voice that we need to use and we CAN do things we never thought. I believe in people who stutter and if I can help someone along the way, to me, that means everything! I hope you will go on Facebook and become a fan of the National Stuttering Association, and you will want to attend our 2016 annual conference in Atlanta next year from July 6-10! As always, the pleasure was all mine. Respectfully yours, Mr. Steven.

  45. Hi Steven,
    My Name is Karen and I’m a first year graduate student @ Edinboro University in Edinboro, PA, presently taking a Fluency Disorders class. I am especially impressed how you advocate that nothing is ever off limits to people who stutter and that taking that first step will lead to bigger things, advise we can and should utilize in our own daily lives. I’m positive you have been able to reach so many who feel trapped and have nothing to offer to society. I believe you do put your whole heart and soul into sharing your stories with others. Thanks for giving so much to so many.

    Karen

  46. Steven,

    Thank you for sharing your story! You are truly an inspiration! I really enjoy your slogans. “I am the original D-I-V-A” is a saying that resonates with me. So empowering and creative! Was there an event in your life that lead you to unleash your stuttering superstar? Was there a certain therapeutic technique that helped you become more fluent? I wish you the best of luck and hope that you get to cross everything off of your bucket list. I hope to be in attendance when your speak in New Jersey!

    Kind regards,
    Janine

  47. Steven—
    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring, uplifting essay! I especially love the fact that your three tips can be not only applicable to those who stutter, but also to those who struggle to gain self-confidence. As everyone knows all too well, we will have good days and bad days—ups and downs—and sometimes it’s hard to pull ourselves up when we’re feeling low. I am not a person who stutters, but as a speech-language pathologist student I want to do whatever I can to help my future fluency clients embrace and unleash the “sexy stuttering superstar” within them! Do you have any helpful mantras I can share with these clients (and honestly myself as well!) to regroup after a sudden, stinging moment or hurtful encounter that could make or break a good day?

  48. Thank you for sharing, Steven! It’s wonderful to hear how you were able to turn around from a very dark place and develop such a positive attitude. I personally do not stutter, but I think your advice about embracing who you are and fearlessly projecting confidence is relevant to everyone; happiness is yours if you’re willing to take it!

  49. Hi Steven!
    Your article was awesome to read! I loved your humor (especially the repeating joke), and I loved how your words can ring true for life in general. No matter what life throws your way it’s important to 1. Never keep silent, 2. Embrace yourself, and 3. Have a support group! Thank you for sharing and inspiring those around the world.

    Lizette Flores

  50. Hi Steven-

    Thank you for sharing your varied experiences as a person who stutters! Having known you through these years, I admire how you deal with the vagaries of the pendulum of stuttering.

    I also think of your courage in sharing how you have dealt with Asperger’s. We do not see each other often enough but I appreciate having you in my life.

    Jeff