The Boy Who Was Ashamed (Matt Schreifels)

schreifelsAbout the author: Matt Schreifels.  I am 36 and have stuttered for most of those speaking years, so I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a stuttering professional. I’m from the United States, Minnesota specifically. I like woodworking although I currently do not have a workshop, but it’s a goal of mine to someday own one. I have a guitar. Being able to play it is a different story, but it’s a work in progress.

Early on, before I had a clue as to what stuttering was, I was somewhat aware that I spoke differently from my family and classmates, but (if I remember correctly) I tended to ignore the struggle in my mouth for a few more years, until the inevitable grade-school mocking that kids are going to do. Being young and impressionable, I then became ultra-aware of my stutter and grew up not talking about it to anyone but my family. Up until four years ago I hated when someone would allude to a block I just had, or a word I stuttered on. I was ashamed and wanted those moments to pass faster than they did.

These days, I am in a better place. Having a stutter made me who I am today. Had I never had a stutter, I believe I would be a different person, and not necessarily a better person. Sure, I had tough moments because of it, but I’m thankful for those moments.

I’m proud to have come to terms with my stutter. I realized there currently isn’t a cure for it, so why was I beating myself up for having it? Yeah, there are techniques I could work on to lessen the blocks and repetitions, but I will still stutter and that’s okay! If anyone would have told “younger” Matt that he would care A LOT less about stuttering 20 years in the future, he would not have believed them.

Be happy with who you are! Be proud of yourself, no matter what challenge you must face!

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Comments

The Boy Who Was Ashamed (Matt Schreifels) — 68 Comments

  1. Hi Matt – congratulations on such a great contribution to the ISAD conference. How do you deal with moments when you are not OK with the stuttering?

    • Thanks Pam.

      In the moment of the stutter I just fight through it and get the words out. If I have a lot of “those” moments throughout the day, I’ll usually listen to loud music when I get home.

  2. Hey Matt.

    This is a wonderful contribution. I am happy to hear that you came to terms with your stuttering. It is only a part of who you are, not who you are, and no one should be ashamed. I am curious to know how often, if at all, do you use techniques to aid with stuttering? Thanks! 🙂

    • Hello Shiry,

      Thank you. I do not use any speech techniques (for good or bad) just stuttering through the words works best for me.

  3. Hi Matt.
    Thanks so much for your contribution. “Proud to have come to terms with my stutter”. Great inspiration.
    Hanan

    • Hello Hanan,

      Thank you. This is my first contribution for ISAD. I’m glad to be a part of it!

  4. Hi Matt – your piece really brings to light how powerful shame can be and how important it is to address it as soon as possible. I’m so glad you’re in a better place today — you deserve it!! Thanks for writing this.

    Dori Holte

    • Hello Dori,

      Thank you. I feel so fortunate to to be at the level I am with my stutter. I sympathize for younger stutterers (and adults who have yet to find their “better” place). I’m always hoping they find the support (therapy, if they chose to do so) they truly deserve!
      Thank you for your great parenting and hard work you’ve done with the stuttering community as a whole!

  5. Hi Matt,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Feeling ashamed is a real issue for children and adults who stutter. As a future SLP, really want to help children who stutter accept their stutter as soon as possible and “come to terms” just like you did. I really like how you brought up that point that there isn’t a cure for stuttering so stop beating yourself up! This is so true and something we need to instill in our clients and help them understand that just because they stutter doesn’t mean they can’t achieve their goals and go after their dreams. Your story is a great inspiration for other people who stutter about taking pride in themselves and not letting their stutter control them. Thank you!

    Jackie

    • Hello Jackie,

      Thank you for reading my story. I look up to all SLP’s. They the best friend (maybe even the only friend) of many stutterers. Without people like you we would be lost in our own lonely world. So the thanks goes to you.

  6. Hi Matt,

    I really appreciate your insight and your willingness to share your experiences. I love how you described that if you had never had a stutter you would be a different person, and not necessarily a better one. I think that’s an important point to keep in mind because your experiences have taught you valuable lessons that so many others will never understand.
    I do have one question for you. You alluded to the use of techniques that lessen blocks and repetitions, do you still use them?
    Thank you again for your eyeopening piece!

    • Hello Emaier,

      Thank you. When I was in speech therapy many years ago I learned some techniques. I never really applied them out of the SLP’s office. To this day I do not use any to get myself out of a stutter. They haven’t ever worked for me, but truth be told, I didn’t practice often as I should have either.

  7. Hi Matt,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m a second year SLP student currently working with a grade school boy who stutters. I notice that he too wishes we wouldn’t discuss his moments of stuttering. Is there anything anyone could have said to you at that age that might have made you feel more at ease?
    I really appreciate your willingness to share your story as it helps provide insight and inspiration for others. I will often think of your comment that fluency would have made you a different person, but not a better one. Thanks again for your insight!

    • Hello Deanna,

      Thanks. It’s great to hear you’re an SLP and that you are currently helping this boy with his stutter. He is lucky to have you working with him at his age!
      If I would have met another kid around my age who stuttered would have had a huge positive impact on me.

  8. I also am a student, although I am a first year graduate student learning about stuttering. I also would like to know what you think could be some beneficial tips or comments that could make a person who stutters feel more at ease. I have not yet worked with a client who stutters but am excited because I am sure that I will learn a lot.

    I am from Minnesota too! Thanks for sharing your story, its very insightful and I am eager to hear back from you and others about tips and ideas to help people who stutter feel more at ease.

    • Hi Mariah,

      The biggest tip that I can personally relate to,along with MANY other stutterers I know is to let them finish their own sentences. As much as the listener thinks it might be helpful to complete their phrase/sentence when they block or stutter it is anything but helpful (unless you happen to know the PWS and it’s been talked-over beforehand). I’m sure all of your future clients will greatly benefit from your SLP expertise.

      P.S. It’s grea to see fellow Minnesotans, especially on an International platform.

  9. Hello Matt!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think it is wonderful that you have become more comfortable with your stutter. What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to a child who just became aware of their stutter?

    • Hello Kristin,

      Thank you. Depending on the child’s age, I would encourage him/her to (slowly) put themselves into uncomfortable situations, to build that confidence, thick-skin they are going to need to be able to function in this world. In time they may change their thinking around to not caring as much what others think. I still don’t dive head first all the time, it’s something I need to work on.

  10. Hi Matt,

    I am a speech language pathology graduate student, and I am interested in working with individuals who stutter. I found your story very moving, and I am so happy that you are in a good place now. Was there anything in particular that helped you come to terms with your stuttering and helped you get to a better place? I’m wondering if there is some advice I could give to an individual who stutters to help them get to a good place with their stuttering and themselves as well. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Hello Melissa,

      Thanks for taking the time to reading my story and for your career choice in helping PWS. Four years ago I came across Stutter Social (stuttersocial.com) I consider it an online support group. Stutter Social did a 180 on my mindset on how I saw myself (and how I thought the world saw me). I recommend it to anyone who stutters.

  11. Greetings Matt,
    I truly appreciate your willingness to share your story. I think the definition of being a successful person is someone who appreciates who they are and sees the inherent value in all life experiences, good and not so good. I don’t imagine for one second that growing up as a PWS would be easy, as kids (and grown up kids alike) can be cruel and insensitive. However, more people need to hear the words “I will still stutter and that’s okay!” I think that you are in a good position to be a role model to youth who stutter and are able to make a positive impact on youth who are struggling with self-acceptance and self-confidence. Thanks again for sharing your story.
    Joanna

    • Hello Joanna,

      Thank you for reading my paper and I thank you for your kind words!
      I would love to somehow be able to speak with kids the same age I was when stuttering negatively affected me the most, being able to bring it full circle.

  12. Hi Matt!

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a graduate student studying to become an SLP, I am curious as to what happened four years ago that helped you come to terms with your stutter and become comfortable with stuttering? Were there important people in your life that helped you with this? Was it a particular event that influenced you to change how you view stuttering? I am glad to hear that you have moved past your insecurities in this area and are more accepting!

    Thank you,

    Victoria Berto

    • Hello Victoria,

      Thanks for reading. It all changed for me when I came across Stutter Social on Google Plus Hangouts. These online “hangouts” (video chat room with up to 10 people per “hangout”). Before this ever existed I hadn’t really talked with many other stutterers. It was quite cathartic.

  13. Hi Matt,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I am a graduate speech language pathologist and am interested in learning more about how to assist our clients who stutter. I know self-esteem is a huge part of treatment and you quote about how you believe that you would have been a different person if you didn’t stutter, but that you would not have necessarily been a better person. What helped you reach this point of acceptance?
    Thank you!
    Rachael Dana

    • Hello Rachael,

      Thanks for your interest in my story. Having the opportunity to connect with other pws. I believe if I didn’t have that resource of video chatting with fellow stutterers via Stutter Social (similar to Skype) I would have probably stayed in “that” spot.

  14. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for sharing your story! I am a graduate student studying to become an SLP. I also happen to have a brother who stutters, and my best friend also stutters. Both have very different attitudes toward stuttering. My friend has come to terms with her stutter and has accepted it as though it were her eye color- something that is a part of her and that she cannot change. My brother on the other hand still struggles deeply with his stutter, and is incredibly ashamed. My question for you is, how did you go from being ashamed like my brother, to accepting and confident like my friend? Is there someone in your life who helped you, or did you do it on your own? Is there any advice you might have for me in helping my brother become more confident about his stutter? I am so happy that you have accepted your stutter and learned to appreciate that your stutter has made you the person you are today!

    Thanks again,

    Colleen Hogan

    • Hello Colleen,

      I’m glad to hear you’re friend has a positive outlook on her stutter. It doesn’t come easy. I highly recommend using current technology such as Stutter Social (stuttersocial.com). It’s a Google Plus Hangout, a video chat room with other stutterers. Once in the chat, you can participate or just listen to the conversation, it’s very laid back. This community of PWS is what changed me and I’m very thankful. I’m not saying it will have the same effect on others as it did on me, but it might be worth a try. Thank you for reading my paper, much appreciated!

      I hope your brother finds peace in himself with his stutter. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

  15. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for sharing! As a graduate student is Speech-language Pathology and currently taking a course in fluency, we have focused a lot on the “acceptance” piece. I am curious on what happened to shift your views on your stuttering?

    Thanks again,
    Brittany

    • Hello Brittany,

      Thanks for your interest in my story. Acceptance can be hard to come by when it doesn’t even seem possible, (it came out of nowhere for me). I did find it however, when I first heard about Stutter Social, a video chat room supporting one another. It is super powerful to have others fighting for you while they are battling with the same issue. So hard to even put into words.

  16. Matt,

    Your insight into what it is like to grow up with stuttering is very enlightening. I feel that it is important for other PWS to hear about others in the similar situations. Sharing stories gives others hope for the future.

    I am a Speech-language Pathology graduate student and feel that that acceptance is a very important piece of fluency treatment. Is there a certain idea or event that shifted your view of your stuttering? What kind of advice would you give an aspiring Speech-language Pathologist when dealing with PWS?

    Thanks for sharing your story!
    Katy

    • Hello Katy,

      Thanks. I would have benefited greatly from stories like the other submitted papers on this site when I was younger (and all those other years). Words can be powerful beyond measure.
      Stutter Social had a huge impact on my life. I am extremely grateful because of it. Talking with other stutterers had such an impact that I actually log on to a (Stutter Social) Hangout just to hear others stutter. To me, hearing stuttered speech puts me at ease (seems weird I know, but its the truth).
      I had to think about this one, I couldn’t think of a specific piece of advice but rather something they may not want to tell you. There may be days your client isn’t in the mood for therapy, but he/she is in a session anyhow. They may act as though they’re interested but just aren’t feeling it. That happened to me most of my sessions anyhow… 😉

  17. Hey Matt,
    You said that four years ago you were still extremely ashamed of your stutter and would be angry when anyone alluded to your blocks, etc., but now it is different. What was it that helped you in these most recent years to bring you to this better place? What helped you come to accept your stutter as part of you?

    Thank you!
    Elise

    • Hello Elise,

      For me, talking to other PWS deeply changed my attitude toward my stutter. Just talking about “it” was something I rarely did to actually looking forward to talking about the next time shocked me, but in a good way.
      The platform on which I was able to talk with other stutterers was Stutter Social via Google Plus Hangouts. For me, world changing.

  18. Hello Matt,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I loved to read that you have grown to appreciate your stutter. Like many who have posted, I am also in graduate school for speech-language pathology. I read in a comment that you admitted to not really practicing the learned techniques outside of speech therapy. As a future SLP, I would love to know why you didn’t want to practice learned techniques and if you would have changed anything about your speech therapy sessions? Thank you for your response in advance! -Emmery

    • Hello Emmery,

      Thank you for reading my stuttering paper. To be honest,the reason of not following through on my part of the therapy was I more/less didn’t really want to be there. At that point, I thought that therapy equaled being way more fluent than I was getting. Since it wasn’t happening (in hindsight, therapy can take years) right away, I must be doing something wrong. As not to offend my therapist, I told her I was practicing. All-in-all, I don’t think I was “ready” for therapy. As far as the sessions themselves,they were fine, even now I wouldn’t have changed anything about them. I put all the blame on myself, not my parents or the therapist.

  19. Hi Matt,
    I truly appreciated your article and how open you were to both your struggles and your successes. Thank you so much for sharing! Like a broken record, I, too, am a current graduate student in the hopes of becoming a speech-language pathologist. Coming from a counseling perspective, versus a therapeutic one, I was wondering what it was that allowed you to come to terms with your stutter, especially without (i’m assuming) a heavy presence of speech therapy? Your perspective and outlook are amazing and again, thank you for sharing!

    • Hello Whitev1,

      Thank you for your interest in my story. What truly allowed and changed me was the actual act of talking with other stutterers. Listening to their journey and challenges, being able to relate to them. If I had been asked many years before if I thought getting in contact with other PWS would help me I would have said no. Thanks again, good luck with all your future clients.

  20. Hello Matt,
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I am happy to hear you have accepted your stutter, and are thankful for those challenging moments in your life, since it has truly made you who you are today. Currently, I am a graduate student studying to become an SLP. I am enrolled in a Stuttering course and we have been learning ways in which to help children who are getting mocked and/or teased about their stutter. What were ways in which you dealt with kids mocking you? Do you feel as though your teachers/an SLP could have helped you more through this difficult time and if so, in what ways?
    Thanks again for your insight!
    Amber Huffaker

    • Hello Amber,

      Thank you for your kind words. I didn’t do anything specific during those moments. I basically “took” the teasing and kept it inside. To be honest I can’t recall if I told the teachers every time (I doubt I did). One way a teacher could help a student(s) who stutters would be to inform the class as a whole about stuttering and bullying. Thanks again.

  21. Hey Matt,
    What brought you from the “ashamed” kid you used to be, to the inspiration and accepting person you are now? If you did attend speech therapy, at what ages? I’m in the SLP graduate program, so do you have any words of advise on how I should provide treatment to PWS?

    Thanks,

    Natalie

    • Hello Natalie,

      Being able to open up with other PWS is what helped be transition from my ashamed mindset. It was life-changing for me. I was in therapy for about 18 months when I was 16-17 years old. I think its great that you’re in the SLP program. Never having had any education in the field, the only advice I can give you (out of my personal experience) some days clients may have better therapy days than others.

  22. Hi, Matt. Thanks for telling your story of acceptance and reconciliation with your stutter. So many young people struggle with their speech and are impacted socially. Your story will help many people who stutter to stop “beating themselves up” for having it. Thanks.

    • Hello Lourdes,

      Thanks for reading and taking interest in my story. Submitting the paper started out more for myself as a continuing way of coping, but I can only hope it helps at least one person.

  23. Hello Matt,

    Thank you for sharing your story and struggles of your stutter and your acceptance. I am an SLP graduate student about to go out into the field in just a few short months. That being said, did anyone help you to realize that your stutter was okay as a child or did you only receive negative feedback?

    Thank you,
    Chelsea Jones

    • Hello Chelsea,

      I want to thank you for taking the time to read my story. I came from a very good family. When my parents and I talked about my stutter we discuss about how it was okay. One can never have too many of those types of conversations, especially at that age, lol. Wish you all the best in your career!

  24. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for sharing your story! Do you care to share the idea of the conversation shared between you and your family about your stutter? Why did you chose to only confide in them? I am a 2nd year SLP graduate student currently working with my first fluency client. The family is very worried as the stutter has become significantly more severe in the past few months. The child doesn’t seem to be as concerned. Do you have any suggestions for conversation topics I can share with the family?

    Thanks!

    • Hello Garlandea,

      I don’t recall specific details of our conversations but I know they were nothing but supportive. I confided with them because we were and still are very close. I naturally felt comfortable with talking with them about my struggles.
      As you know, there is no cure for stuttering. I would just be as honest and up front with them as possible. You could remind them will teach him/her techniques to use when they choose. (For the record, I’m not an SLP).
      Thank you for reading my story and good luck in your career!

  25. Hi, Matt!!
    Thank you for sharing your story! It is terrible that so many children who stutter endure what the same mocking that you did; however, it was heartwarming to read about how you are now at peace you’re your stuttering and are proud of who you are. I love how you pointed out that stuttering has helped shape the man you are today and that never having stuttered at all would not necessarily have made you a better person. I feel like this is an important message for all PWS to hear! As a future SLP, I am interested to know if there is anything else you feel is important for PWS to hear. Is there any other message that you feel would help foster confidence and peace in their lives?
    -Katie

    • Hello Katie,

      Thanks for reading my story. It’s great see all of these current and future SLPs such as yourself! Not every stutterer is at a place where they don’t mind talking about their stuttering/blocks. I believe the more PWS surround themselves with fellow stutterers and people who they love and can trust the better off they will be.

  26. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for sharing your story for so many people. I was wondering if those who alluded to your block were typically people who you knew well or unfamiliar people? How did you respond when your stutter was focused on?

    Thanks,
    Emma

    • Hello Emma,

      Thank your for your interest in my story. The people who acknowledged my blocking were unfamiliar people who didn’t know my situation. My reaction was to block harder, when I finally was able to get past the block I talk really fast, just to get it out. more times than not, they weren’t able to make it out so they ask to repeat it. Sometimes that would happen a couple times.

  27. Hi Matt,

    Do you have any suggestions for a future SLP to better assists those who stutter reach a point of acceptance?

    Thanks!

  28. I love that you found a way to love yourself for who you are. There is so much power in that. What support do you wish you had from family and professionals when you were growing up that you didn’t receive?

  29. Hey Matt,

    First off, I enjoyed reading your paper on your stuttering experiences. I’m truly glad you wrote it for all of us to read. I noticed there were a lot of comments already, but I didn’t take the time to read them all, so I apologize if I’m asking a question that you’ve already answered. I was actually hoping you wouldn’t mind sharing a little bit more about some of those tough disfluent or stuttered experiences- the ones that you describe as being thankful for, the ones having helped to shape you into your person today? Unless it is too personal, would you mind sharing anecdote or two?

    I myself do not stutter, but in 7th grade, I was diagnosed with “Testing Anxiety” and have struggled academically with it ever since. So I can empathize on some level when it comes to being “a little bit different” from one’s classmates, but I’ll still never know what it means to stutter. When I look at my testing anxiety, I tend to see the DISorder instead of the disORDER (negative thoughts about it versus trying to find a positive). But then again, it’s hard to find something positive in not being able to take your exams in the same way that everyone else can. In high school, I envied my peers for being able to take a test in the amount of time that they did. It can be hard to find the silver lining in nearly failing a test because you were so anxious (even though you knew the material before going in to it!!!) but in your case, you seemed to have found the “silver lining” in living with disfluent speech. So your situation seems to be quite different from mine, which really sparked my curiosity in wanting to know more. Like you, I somehow managed to accomplish my goals despite my testing anxiety. I made it through a bachelor’s degree, and I’m working on a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. I’d love to hear more about what specific obstacles you’ve encountered and how you overcame (or perhaps barely managed) them.

    Thank you,
    Kimberly

  30. Hi Matt, I am also a second year graduate student. I appreciate you sharing your story with stuttering. I am glad that you are in a good place with your stuttering. I was happy to hear you found the stuttering social group and were able to speak with other people who stutter. I wish that people who have negative self-thoughts regarding their stuttering. Having worked as a teacher, I believe there needs to be more education and acceptance of stuttering taught in the schools at an early age. It would be beneficial to both children who stuttered and children who do not stutter. I think everyone could use some more empathy and maybe something like that could help curb “grade-school mocking” that caused your negative feelings. Just some thoughts.
    Thanks,
    Stephanie

  31. Matt,
    Your story is very inspiring and helpful for both people who stutter as well as SLPs and future SLPs like me! You mentioned that if you were to tell the younger version of yourself just how little you worry and care about stuttering now that he wouldn’t believe you. What do you think could have been done in your childhood and early years to help you achieve that confidence sooner? Or do you think you needed to work through that process on your own to get the point you are at today?
    Thanks,
    Olivia

  32. Matt,
    I love your message about being proud of who you are. I am a first year graduate student and am currently taking a Fluency class. I see that you wrote that you are in a better place about your stuttering now than you used to be. Did you gain some of this confidence and pride through working with a speech pathologist? Or did this realization come from yourself and your own life experiences?
    Thanks!
    Kim

  33. Hi Matt

    Thanks for sharing your story. Its amazing to know that you are able to put your stutter under control and enjoying your life. Thanks so much again.

  34. Hi Matt,
    I loved reading your story. I’m actually studying to become an SLP and found your story about your experience very helpful. Your story, like many others, will help me understand what people who stutter go through. I have a question for you : How did your family help you with your stuttering?
    Thank you,
    Andrea

  35. Hi Matt,
    Your story is very inspiring and I am so happy you have overcome certain struggles and have accepted your stuttering. What do you think would’ve helped you accept the stuttering earlier in life?

  36. Hi, Matt!
    I love how personal your story was. I was just wondering, do you think had you met another friend when you were younger with a stuttering problem also that you would have been a little less reluctant to hide it from others and been more comfortable?

  37. I really enjoyed reading about your experience with stuttering! I am currently in grad school for Speech-Language Pathology and am taking a course in fluency. Did you ever engage in avoidance behaviors or avoid conversations so that people wouldn’t hear you stutter? If so, how did that affect your social life?

  38. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is so valuable to others who are struggling with these issues to read about people like you who have grown in your journey. Of course, nothing is ever perfect and we often have a tendency to beat ourselves up. However, it is important to share those moments with others. Thank you for your genuine attitude! If you don’t mind sharing, what would you say is still your greatest struggle with acceptance?

    Thank you,

    Shannon Schield

  39. Hi Matt,

    I greatly enjoyed reading your story! It was so great to read that stuttering is okay for you and that you are joyful and proud to be who you are. I found it interesting when you mentioned that you encountered some tough situations when you were younger. What were some of those moments and how did you learn to make these moments more comfortable? I look forward to hearing your response! Thank you!

  40. Hi Matt!
    I am so glad that you are in a much better place today and that you’ve successfully been able to find a positive way to accept stuttering. Currently, I am working with a young child who stutters who is struggling to open up and talk about his stuttering. I am wondering what resources/strategies you found most beneficial to help you develop a more positive self-concept?

    Thanks!
    Jessica

  41. Thank you for sharing your story! I really liked that you mentioned that had you never had a stutter you would be a different person, but not necessarily a better person. I am currently studying to be an SLP, and I feel that sharing stories like yours with children who stutter is important. You mentioned in your story that there were moments you were ashamed of your stutter, and I know that many other people who stutter can feel the same way. Do you have any advice I can give children who stutter who may be feeling embarrassed?

  42. Matt,

    I am so happy that you have come to love and feel confident in yourself. I can see stuttering has been your paramount struggle, like many others who also stutter. You should be so proud to share this and encourage others toward acceptance. I hope as a future SLP to share this great attitude and strength in your story to motivate others.I thinking coping strategies and building confidence seems like one of the most important factors in working with people who stutter, would you agree?

    Thank you,

    Carly