The Worry, The Realization, and The Pride (Paul Goldstein)

goldsteinAbout the author: Paul Goldstein, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, and now residing in the Bergen area of Norway, has been actively involved with the stuttering community for more than 30 years.  He has been a member of various Massachusetts chapters of the National Stuttering Association (NSA), and of Norsk Interesseforening for Stamme (NIFS, the Norwegian national stuttering association); and has attended many conventions and conferences of stuttering organizations, both nationally and internationally.His educational background includes a master’s program in speech-language pathology (Emerson College), a degree in music and mathematics (Clark University), and a doctoral program in music composition (University of Chicago).  He is a pianist and composer, with 17 works on YouTube.  Currently he works in social services in Norway.

This is his fourth appearance at the Online Conferences.  Previous submissions were published in 2002, 2004, and 2011.  Other articles of his can be found on the Stuttering Home Page.

Looking back on more than six decades of meeting life’s challenges without «normal» speech fluency, I recognize certain patterns in how I have viewed my experiences.   This has been an adventure, marked by gradual evolution in my personal perspectives, with ups and downs as well as detours. But the direction has zig-zagged upwards.  It is like a mountain climb, beginning in eerie twilight, advancing towards a mountaintop bathed in perpetual sunlight.

In numerous aspects of my life’s journey I recognize three distinct phases – an initial profound worry, followed by realization that the worry could be resolved; and culminating in personal pride, that the reasons for my initial worry are no longer roadblocks.

Here are three examples of how that pride has come to be:


THE WORRY

By age 20, my speech had worsened to the point that speaking to people was immensely difficult.  I blocked often and for long periods of time.  It occurred to me then that most people would probably not want to converse with me, or take the time and patience to meet me.  I had no close friends to speak of.  To obtain friends seemed a daunting task.  I often felt lonely, with a worry that this loneliness would probably be perpetual.

THE REALIZATION

A speech pathologist helped at that time to dispel the clouds of that gloominess.  Through repeated questions he elicited the reluctant information from me that I had no close friends to speak of. He advised that regardless of how severe my stuttering happened to be, I needed to get out there and meet people, to find people to converse with, and make new friends.

I was greatly skeptical.  Was this even possible?

But skepticism aside, I followed his advice, and began meeting as many people as I could on the campus of Clark University where I was then a student.

To my great surprise, I discovered that even with my stuttering, many of my fellow students enjoyed meeting me!  Not only that, but I made an even more astounding realization – that people simply DIDN’T CARE whether I stuttered or not.  They were interested in what I had to say, not how I was saying it.  And believe me, I had a lot to say if people were willing to listen!

THE PRIDE

A number of the friends who I met during that break-out period are still close friends of mine today, more than 40 years later.  Over these past four decades I have made countless friends.  A large number are in my old home state of Massachusetts, with many others throughout the world.  I value all my friendships highly, and nurture them as I can.  Recalling that I was once virtually friendless, I take pride that I now have so many friends that it is difficult to keep in touch with everyone.  I consider each friendship to be a jewel whose value is priceless.


THE WORRY

During my teenage years and into early adulthood, a specific worry often gnawed at me. Who would ever want to marry someone who stuttered as I did?  It was difficult for me to find dates when I was in my 20’s.   Occasionally I succeeded, but I perceived my often severe stuttering to be a formidable barrier.  Although I found that most women didn’t mind that I stuttered, I certainly did.  I especially feared asking women out who I didn’t know well, afraid I would be rejected due to stuttering.

THE REALIZATION

For a while in my early 30’s, I was having increasing speech successes as the result of a fluency shaping program.  Gaining in confidence I began placing personal ads, and soon I was enjoying dates with many women.  I didn’t mention stuttering in my ads, but always mentioned the disorder in my initial phone call (even if I was speaking fluently as a result of practiced techniques).  In this way, I made sure that a potential date always knew about my stuttering in advance, and wouldn’t be surprised if I had speech difficulties during the first date.

Indeed I did often have speech difficulties during my first dates.  Nevertheless about half of my first dates led to subsequent dates, regardless of how my speech happened to be.  I was beginning to realize that the degree of my speech fluency was nowhere near the concern of others as I imagined it to be.

The question that plagued me in earlier years, about who would ever want to marry me, was gone from my mind.  I now realized it had no merit whatsoever.

Regarding my old fear of rejection due to stuttering, it was now being replaced by a new bold positive thought:  If someone would reject me for lack of speech fluency, that person was simply not worthy of my time or attention.

THE PRIDE

In the stuttering support groups I attended, a fascinating question was sometimes posed:  If you could start life over again as a fluent person, discarding all events of life up to this point (both positive and negative), would you do it?

Most were firmly against this hypothetical proposal.  They insisted that stuttering had brought them special values in life, such as increased empathy for others and valuable lessons in dealing with life challenges.

But I and a few others were just as adamant that we would indeed accept this – to start life over again as a fluent person.  I, for one, felt that nothing positive had ever happened to me because of my stuttering.  Despite my increasing acceptance of myself as a person who stutters, I still saw nothing positive in my disorder.

This all changed dramatically for me at age 45.  In early 2000, a fluent Norwegian woman with a mysterious fascination in the problem of stuttering found me at a stuttering-related website.  Very quickly a cyber-relationship developed.  Three months after our initial e-mails, Liv flew to the U.S. to meet me.  One week later we were engaged.  Four months after that I moved to Norway, and we married in Bergen ten days later.

Stuttering had brought to me my life happiness.  It had brought me into a new life, in a beautiful country; in a peaceful, accepting, and caring society.

In my new life I take pride not only in my wonderful wife Liv, but in my family of stepchildren and step-grandchildren, and a foster «weekend daughter» with special needs.

Now of course, if I ever encounter the question again about whether I’d start life over as a fluent person, my Norwegian answer stands ready:  «Nei takk.  Livet er fantastisk!»  [«No, thank you.  Life is fantastic!»]


THE WORRY

During my childhood and early teenage years, it was becoming increasingly obvious that no real help was available for my stuttering. I had tried a variety of approaches without positive effect. An endless parade of school speech therapists treated me from first through sixth grades, and seemed completely flummoxed by my case, without a clue as to what to do with me.  I was placed into articulation groups to practice sounds such as /s/ and /r/,  but of course articulation wasn’t the problem.  I knew exactly how to make the sounds, but my speech mechanism just wasn’t willing to obey.

Between the ages of 4 and 10, I was also treated by staff at a Youth Guidance Center – who seemed to know even less than the school therapists.

For a few years as a teenager, I was treated by a neurologist/psychiatrist who claimed to know how to eliminate stuttering.  I saw no evidence of that alleged knowledge.  At one point he prescribed a powerful drug, which did nothing for my speech but caused devastating side effects.

The situation appeared hopeless to me.  Was I destined for a lifetime of severe speech blockages nearly every time I spoke? What would my life as a grown-up be like?  Would I ever be a happily fluent speaker?  I was worried about my future even as a child.

THE REALIZATION

I was 17 when I first encountered a therapy that was beneficial.  A speech pathologist introduced me to pullouts, and worked with me on reducing avoidance and secondary symptoms.  My blockings reduced, and for the first time I began to realize that not all was hopeless.

Later, following the advice of another speech pathologist, I broke out of my self-imposed shell – and began to experience the World Wide Web of people two decades before it came online. At age 21 I enjoyed sustained fluent speaking for the first time, while working through an experimental fluency shaping program.  Though the tremendous successes disappeared some months later, as mysteriously as they had suddenly arisen, I now realized that fluency was within the grasp of possibility.

Within the next few years, I tried two other fluency shaping programs.  Unfortunately successes were limited, and positive effects were gone within a matter of months.

For the remainder of my 20’s, I continued to stutter severely, but enjoyed life all the same.  I found that I really enjoyed meeting people and fostering friendships, with stuttering not being of much concern.

I often recalled the wise words of my mother, who told me when I was a teenager and reluctant to enter social situations:  «Stuttering is like having a little pimple on your nose.  So what?». At the age of 30 I found my greatest success with fluency shaping, through the Hollins Communications Research Institute.  Following daily intensive practicing for three months, I reached what I regarded as the ultimate pinnacle of life achievement – fluent speaking in ALL situations!  This had never happened before! It was a dream come true! Miracle of Miracles!!  Now I’ll be fluent forever!!!…

Yup, the Miracle of Miracles!  I remained fluent for four months. Bam!  I tumbled from my pinnacle, the first of many relapses following an extended period of consistent fluency.

For the next 15 years I struggled back and forth through numerous fluency refreshers, recapturing the magic each time.  And each time I stayed fluent for weeks or months by slogging through an hour of dull intensive practicing each day.

When I couldn’t find a spare hour to slog through intensive practicing, my speech started falling apart.  Every extended streak of fluent speaking ended in relapse, sometimes leaving me at a lower point than before the streak began.

I knew now that I could speak fluently if I put in the enormous time and effort required, an important realization.

But after 15 years of riding this fluency-relapse-fluency-relapse seesaw, I decided I had enough.  There must be a better way….

THE PRIDE

…. And sure enough there was.

This was in fact the ULTIMATE realization, leading into pervasive life happiness and new-found pride in having made that discovery.

Until age 46 I had presumed that attaining consistent speech fluency was the key to achieving life satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment.

After meeting Liv and moving to Norway, I now realized this was not true.

Life happiness does not depend on how consistently fluent one’s speech happens to be.  It was a realization that I was late in coming to.  People have strengths in different areas, and indeed I have strengths in many areas.  But maintaining fluent speech on a consistent basis is just not one of them. For the record, I no longer practice fluency shaping techniques.  Yes, I still stutter, sometimes severely.  But I no longer have to endure the fluency-relapse-fluency-relapse seesaw effect, and good riddance to that!

I have found love in a beautiful environment, in a wonderful caring society.  I’ve worked in social services for the last 15 years, and have been active in making music as a pianist and composer.

Life is good, and I am happy.

And in that I feel the ultimate pride.

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Comments

The Worry, The Realization, and The Pride (Paul Goldstein) — 22 Comments

  1. Thank you, Paul, for yet another excellent ISAD online conference paper. It was delightful having the opportunity to share time with you and Liv in Bergen and also seeing you in Atlanta this summer! You eloquently shared your journey toward acceptance and “the ultimate pride” and provided encouragement for those still beginning the journey. Do you have any specific advice for a clinician working with someone stuck in worry who is just beginning the journey?

    Judy Kuster

    • Hi, Judy. It was very nice to spend time with you in Norway, and also to see you at the conference in Atlanta and participate in your workshop. Thank you for all your valuable contributions to the field; the thriving of the stuttering community of today certainly owes a great deal to the accomplishments of your career.

      To answer your question, I would suggest a multi-pronged approach. First of all, a client who feels a sense of hopelessness (as I once did) needs to be reassured that improved fluency is a realistic hope. It would immensely bolster a client’s self-confidence to learn that improved fluency is distinctly possible. I would try various methods to induce fluent speaking, even if it is for a temporary period of time within the clinical setting, and even as a result of specially contrived circumstances. Inducing relaxed fluency as a result of slow smooth moderately deep diaphragmatic breathing is one example. Other possibilities may be reading in unison, or use of altered auditory feedback such as DAF. Once a client realizes that he/she is capable of producing fluent speech (or speech that is more fluent), this in itself is an empowering concept. The realization that “I can do it” is an important initial step in dispelling the dark clouds of hopelessness.

      Another important aspect is emphasizing to the client how very important it is to make every effort to meet as many people as possible, and to spend time socializing and meeting people. This was a crucial breakthrough in my own case. In this connection it’s important to emphasize that regardless of how disfluent one happens to be, meeting people and making friends provides very valuable lessons of life – namely that the majority of listeners do not mind stuttering, are patient, empathetic, and understanding; and care much more about what a person is saying than how one is saying it. Of course there are, unfortunately, occasional exceptions. But if a client carries out assignments to meet a large number of people, and spends time with them, he/she will soon realize that uncaring or insensitive listeners are in fact a small minority.

      Ideally, the clinician should work to help develop both these aspects simultaneously. On the one hand it’s important to work with the client on physical methods to facilitate more fluent speaking, and to gradually widen the scope of situations in which these methods can be applied with practice. At the same time, a great deal of socializing needs to be encouraged, regardless of how one’s speech happens to be. It’s important for the client to realize that one can work to gradually increase the scope of situations in which one has improved fluency; and at the same time to live life to the fullest, to enjoy meeting people and making friends.

  2. Paul,
    I am impressed at how healthy you view your stutter. I imagine you maturity comes from living as a person who stutters for so long. I wonder if I could rely on your experience as well. I am a Speech language pathologist student and it was great to hear all your positive interactions with SLP’s. I think stuttering can be a difficult area for SLP’s to treat. I want to be the best for my stuttering clients some day. What advice do you have for SLP’s and their interactions with persons who stutter?
    Ben

    • Hi, Ben. Thank you for your important question.

      From my experience as a person who stutters and a client of quite a few SLP’s, and from the experiences of many others who stutter who have had similar experiences, there is a Number One cardinal rule in treating people who stutter – which unfortunately too many SLP’s tend to violate:

      If a client has experienced a difficult disfluent situation, or a more general relapse, after a period of progress with his/her speech, it is most important NOT to blame the client in any way. It is NOT the client’s own fault that he/she has a disorder with neurophysiological (or neurogenetic) roots, and a neurogenetic predisposition to stutter. (The evidence of this from a quarter-century of research with brain scans is now overwhelming.)

      An SLP needs to be aware that client progress with the disorder of stuttering can act quite a bit differently than progress with many other types of speech, language, or cognitive disorders. With many other disorders treated by SLP’s, one can expect a relatively smooth line of progress through a competent treatment protocol and dedicated co-operation and effort on the part of the client. But with stuttering a more zig-zag route of progress is commonplace. Relapses are a natural part of the process of treatment. It may feel frustrating to a clinician to work with a client who stutters, to witness major progress in enhanced fluency (or decreased disfluency) in many situations, only to have the client relapse some months down the road. This, if it occurs, must be regarded as a natural part of the progress of the treatment. Instead of blaming the client in this situation, the client needs to be reassured that not all is lost, and needs to receive very positive encouragement to continue to work towards treatment goals. This requires a special patience, understanding, and empathy on the part of the SLP. The client needs to understand that relapses are entirely natural, and indeed are to be expected on occasion.

      For a person who stutters who has had a relapse, there is nothing worse than being told by one’s clinician that the relapse was one’s own fault, in not trying hard enough or in not following directions properly. The client most likely would feel bad already, with reduced self-confidence or self-esteem. To be blamed for the relapse would make the client feel even worse. I say this because I have met many people who stutter who have experienced this (and I have too). The ways in which many SLP’s deal with disfluency relapses in their clients often results in negative feelings between people who stutter and SLP’s.

      So I would strongly advise SLP’s to have a great deal of patience with their clients who stutter, to expect occasional relapses, to know how to bolster the self-confidence and motivation of clients following a relapse, and to be very understanding, accepting, and empathetic. If the client realizes that relapse is a natural part of the process of making progress with one’s speech, the client will be able to approach continued treatment with a calm acceptance and motivation to achieve treatment goals anew, and proceed up the mountain once more with a refreshed sense of purpose and dedication.

  3. Mr. Goldstein,

    Thank you for sharing the worries, realizations, and pride you had/have as an individual who stutters; I admire your outlook and acceptance on stuttering. As your mother said, stuttering is like a pimple… So what! I am a second year graduate student pursuing my goal to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I am currently enrolled in a fluency course in my program, in which I am learning of effective treatment approaches for children who stutter. I am interested to know the kind of fluency shaping techniques that were part of your treatment as a child? Also, when your stuttering occurrences are relatively severe at times, what techniques, if any, do you use when conversing with others? Thank you for your response!

    • Hi, Poolel, and thank you for your most interesting questions! I’m glad that my article has been helpful to you in your studies, and that you’re developing an interest in the treatment of stuttering.

      Your first question is very easy to answer. And I will add – unfortunately, it is very easy to answer. I had absolutely no exposure to fluency shaping techniques as a child, none whatsoever. My first experience with fluency shaping occurred in 1975 when I was 21.
      To be fair, this was not a reflection on the competence of the school speech therapists of my childhood (they weren’t called speech-language pathologists then). Fluency shaping techniques, as we know them today, just weren’t around in those days (the early 1960’s). Though it has some roots going back to c. 1970, fluency shaping did not emerge as a widespread method of stuttering treatment until the mid-1970’s. Fluency shaping techniques for children were developed somewhat later.
      During my childhood, today’s scientific knowledge of the physiological and neurophysiological roots of stuttering was not yet known. It was then widely felt, at least in the United States, that stuttering was primarily a psychological or psychodynamic problem, not a physical one. Stuttering therapy for children from the 1940’s until the 1970’s was widely influenced by the theories of Wendell Johnson, who saw stuttering in diagnosogenic terms, i.e., that stuttering is caused by its diagnosis. In line with those theories it was strongly felt that stuttering should never be treated directly in children, only indirectly from a psychological viewpoint. Today, most fortunately, this perspective is now as obsolete as typewriters, and dial telephones attached to kitchen walls.

      So unfortunately there was no fluency shaping available in my childhood. I really wish there had been, as I feel I really could have benefited from such an approach back then.
      I’m immensely pleased that fluency shaping techniques are now very common in child stuttering therapy. With competent intervention in the early school-age years it is very likely that many more children who stutter will be spared a chronic disorder as adults.

      Your second question is a bit more difficult, because my answer would be different at different times of my life. In large measure it depended on what kind of therapy I was going through at the time. In my later teenage years I sometimes used pullouts, which were devised by Charles Van Riper. Years later, while working through fluency shaping programs, and during periods of practicing and monitoring fluency shaping techniques, my “first-aid” for severe blocking was to attempt to relax my breathing flow –
      to try to smooth out my airflow as calmly as I could.
      The problem was that such “emergency” approaches seldom worked, as the situational stress on my speech was often too much to effectively counteract right then and there.

      Through experience I learned that the best method for dealing with periods of severe stuttering, or fear of severe stuttering, was preventing the stuttering from happening in the first place – through intensive practicing of calm diaphragmatic breathing and fluency techniques beforehand. If I failed to do this beforehand, it was generally too late to do much when in the throes of severe blocking.

      But today I take a different approach, for better or for worse. I no longer practice fluency shaping techniques, but simply accept myself calmly as I am, as a person who stutters. I’ve decided that at this point of my life, the perceived benefits of maintaining consistent fluency just are not worth the enormous time and effort I would need to sustain such a goal.
      There are times these days when I stutter quite severely. My only goal now in such an event is to try to relax myself and not dwell on my disfluencies. As a result of this approach, in an extended conversation, I can sometimes reduce my disfluencies as the conversation proceeds. That doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. And I just accept that.

  4. Paul,
    I enjoyed reading about your journey of pride. I am currently taking a graduate level fluency course and I would love to hear your opinions on a topic. I was curious what your thoughts were on the label of a person who stutters (PWS) versus stutterer? I know there has been some controversy of which the stuttering population prefers. Also, what advice would you have for a child that is discouraged by the inconsistencies of fluent speech that can co-occur with stuttering. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!
    Kelcy
    SLP graduate student

    • Hi, Kelcbo. Thank you for your very interesting questions!

      I very much support the use of the phrases “person who stutters”, or “people who stutter”, or the now often-used acronym PWS. I’ve long disliked the word “stutterer”, and for the last quarter-century I have not used the term “stutterer” to refer to myself or to anyone else who stutters (and have only used “stutterer” in printed context when it’s part of a direct quote from someone else).
      “Stutterer” carries a sting. It’s a noun-label, referring to a person by his or her disorder, as if the disorder was the most significant aspect of that person’s life. Stuttering is something that we who stutter DO (at times); it is not something that we are.
      I very much welcome the shift in terminology to “person who stutters” and “PWS”, which occurred largely in the 1990’s. It’s person-first language, and emphasizes personhood first, rather than the disorder. It is wonderful to see “PWS” now in widespread use in the field. This was something that had been advocated by the National Stuttering Project (later the National Stuttering Association)and others in the stuttering community as early as the 1970’s.

      If I interpret your second question correctly, you’re asking about advice for a child who stutters, who is frustrated by the fact that he or she sometimes speaks fluently and sometimes disfluently.
      Of course this duality is something that we who stutter all experience, and which sometimes baffles fluent listeners who aren’t familiar with the disorder of stuttering.
      I would encourage the child to pay attention to the fact that he or she sometimes speaks fluently (or “smoothly”; you can adapt the language to the child’s understanding). I would emphasize that stuttering (or “bumpy speech”) is something that can happen at times, but it doesn’t happen all the time. A clinician can emphasize that sometimes things can go as well as we want them to, and at other times things don’t go as well as we would prefer. And a clinician can emphasize that this is very common in life, in so many different ways.
      A child can be told: “We can work to make speech more fluent (or ‘smooth out the bumpy speech’) more often, by practicing some changes to make speaking easier (if the child is school-age). But it’s important to know also that so much of your speech is ALREADY fluent (or ‘smooth’), and that’s a VERY GOOD thing. The fact that you’re already fluent so much of the time makes our work so much easier! Just imagine how much harder our work would be if you stuttered (or ‘had bumpy speech’) all the time. But you DON’T – you only stutter (or ‘have bumpy speech’) SOME of the time. And that’s so important to realize!”
      This approach shows the child that the fluency/disfluency duality has a very positive side – namely that the child is often fluent. To use an old but useful proverb, this is analogous to showing the child that a partially filled glass is half full rather than half empty. Focusing on the fluency can really bolster a child’s self-image.

      • I realize now I should have opened with “Hi, Kelcy”. (I just noticed that you had included your first name with your comment.)

  5. Mr. Goldstein,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Stories like these bring hope to PWS. I am currently a graduate student at Illinois State University in the first year of the Speech-Language Pathology program. During my undergraduate education, I was able to help start an NSA support group chapter at my school and support PWS. During our meetings, we would sometimes ask the attendees how they would feel if they woke up one day and were fluent. Many people said they wouldn’t change a thing and that their stutter made them who they are. That says to me that they have found, or are on their way to finding, their pride in their stutter. Some were like you at first and decided they would be ecstatic if they woke up without a stutter.

    I really like how you mentioned how one of the therapists you worked with strongly encouraged you to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Good for you! It can be tough to step out of your comfort zone. It also sounds like you had a tough time going to different therapists who didn’t really know how to help you. That sounds very frustrating. All SLPs should be educated on stuttering and how to help individuals who stutter.

    I really enjoyed reading your story. It sounds like you are enjoying life and not letting your speech define you!

    Sami

    • Hi, Sami. Thank you so much for your very insightful comments! I truly appreciate them!
      It’s wonderful that you helped to start an NSA group chapter. Support group meetings are so important, and they have immensely helped many who stutter face their challenges with confidence and self-acceptance.

      Yes, I very much enjoy life now. But as you’ve mentioned, there were some tough times along the road to where I am today. The clinician long ago who advised me to seek out more social situations helped me a great deal in my adjustment process (though both he and I acknowledge that my speech itself didn’t improve while working with him).

      I’m happy that you enjoyed my story!

  6. Hi Paul – great paper. I always love your thoughtful, insightful writing. What a great way to categorize your journey – talking about worry, realization and pride. I especially like your ending – “Life is good and I am happy” and you take the ultimate pride in that. I think that’s what it’s all about. Being happy with who we are, all of our parts. Thanks for sharing this.

    Pam

    • Hi, Pam. Thank you so much for your very nice compliments. It was such a pleasure to finally meet you in person in July at the conference in Atlanta! (We had known each other online for years and years, and we even talked over the phone once, but had never before met in person.)

      I’ve also very much appreciated your writings as well. Thank you again for your insights and for your friendship!

  7. Hi Paul! As a future speech language pathologist who does not stutter, what advice could I give to my clients that will help them develop the courage that will allow them, like you, to go out and meet people? It seemed to take a while for you to find the pride in your stuttering to allow you to do so. Do you have any advice I could give to young clients in the future that will help them find pride in their stuttering early on?

    Thanks,
    Jessica

    • Hi, Jessica. Thank you for your interesting questions; and for your commitment to helping people who stutter develop self-confidence, self-esteem, and courage in facing their challenges by meeting new people!

      But I first want to clarify something. When at the age of 20, I followed the advice of my speech clinician to meet as many new people as I could, it wasn’t out of a sense of “pride” that I stuttered. I know that many others in this conference feel a sense of pride in their stuttering. I take a somewhat different approach to this topic – I consider stuttering to be not something inherently positive, but as a challenge of life to face in the most positive life-affirming way that I possibly can. My feeling of pride is not in the stuttering itself, but rather in my achievements that have come about while facing the challenges of life posed by the problem of stuttering. This is a subtle distinction.

      I would encourage teenage and adult clients to set goals for themselves in making it a point to meet a certain number of new people each day, or each week (or during each period between therapy sessions). They should also be encouraged to converse more with the friends who they already have, and with family members or relatives who they are comfortable in speaking with. Clients should also be encouraged to mention their stuttering to others, within a positive context (for example, that they are working on certain goals in therapy that are designed to bring about improved speech and more confidence in speaking with people).
      Clients who are very goal-oriented might be given an assignment in the form of a written checklist – the new people who they remember meeting, how long they talked with the new people who they met, and whether or not stuttering was mentioned in the conversation. If stuttering was mentioned, either by the client or the person being met, the client should note whether or not the new person made positive comments about the topic, encouraging or commending the client, or negative-type comments about the stuttering. It is highly likely that the client will discover that very few people would make negative comments. It is important that the client begin to realize that very few listeners really care if the client is speaking fluently or not. (Of course the client should be told that this checklist should only be based on what he/she happens to remember of these conversations afterwards, and no notes should be taken during the conversations themselves, so as not to impede the natural flow of the interactions.)

      If there is great reluctance on the part of the client in meeting new people, smaller more gradual steps can be taken. Perhaps, for example, it could be a goal to meet only one new person every few days. Or the clinician could assist the client in finding ways to meet new people with relative ease – for example, recommending particular situations where meeting new people would be highly likely.

      It’s always important to praise the client for all genuine efforts in meeting new people, and especially if there is a substantial conversation with someone new, even if the client reports being discouraged by the extent of his or her stuttering.

      With children, it is important to encourage social interaction with other children – as much as possible. It would be best to enlist the aid of the child’s parents, to encourage after-school activities, the meeting of new children, and expanding interaction with other children who the child already knows. It is important to encourage the child to make new friends during new activities, and also to meet and talk with classmates he or she is comfortable with, after school, on weekends, or during other appropriate times.
      If the child reports negative reactions from other children regarding his or her stuttering, it may be important for an adult (parent, teacher, or even the clinician) to intervene and explain to the children involved why it is wrong to react in such a way. Recommendations should be given to the children involved of what more appropriate behavior would be. This would greatly help create a more positive social environment for the child who stutters.

    • You’re most welcome, Hanan! Indeed, it’s my pleasure!
      Thank you so much for offering me the invitation to write for this conference, and suggesting different possibilities for approaching the subject of “stuttering pride”.

  8. I love your story Paul. You have been on quite a journey, literally and figuratively. I have had many of those same thoughts and experiences. I’m glad to see you reached a place of peace and acceptance with your stutter.

    • Thank you so much, Derek. It took decades to achieve that sense of peace and acceptance, but finally I arrived there (approximately 15 years ago). And I wish you the best of luck with your own journey!

  9. Hello Paul,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I am currently a first year graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I love that you were able to identify those three specific phases of worry, realization, and pride. Your first example really touched me as I feel like that specific worry affects such a vast number of young people with any type of struggle, not just stuttering alone. I have read other stories of these struggles leading to depression due to individuals not having a strong support system. Thankfully, your SLP was able to lead you through the darkness to seeing the many possibilities of you overcoming your worries. Whether or not you personally struggled with deeper concerns such as these, do you think that identifying these three phrases would lead a PWS who is experiencing these to seeing the potential for success? I have never experienced anything like this, but I feel as though seeing someone else succeed who had the same troubles that I had would inspire me.
    Thanks again for sharing!
    -Heather

    • Hi, Heather. Thank you for your very important comments and question.

      Although I don’t often admit this (since it’s so painful in looking back at some of my thoughts in the distant past, and also because it’s so irrelevant to my life today), during some of my later teenage years and to about age 20, I was really quite depressed. It wasn’t clinical depression – I’ve never had a problem with that – but it was depression due to my intense struggles to speak in nearly every situation, and my lack of a social life. Since oral communication is such a major part of life for most people, my perceived inabilities in this area deeply affected me.

      And to be historically honest, oral communication in that era was of even greater importance than it is in today’s world – this was long before the Internet, Web, e-mail, social media, and texting. Back then there were really only three common methods of interaction with people: speaking in person, speaking over the phone, or writing a snail mail letter. That was it.
      The first two options involved speaking, and the third option was cumbersome, as replies to comments or questions would take days or weeks (or months). And the telephone option was not always available, as long-distance calls could be very expensive!
      Speaking was important in nearly all communication between people, without today’s technological alternatives.

      So for someone who very often found it terribly difficult to speak, life was difficult in many ways – and frequently lonely (and depressing).
      But that was back then, a very long time ago.

      I would be very grateful and feel honored if my concept of these three distinct phases [worry – realization – pride] were applied in therapeutic programs for stuttering, for other speech or language disorders, or for the mastering of other problems in life. I thank you, Heather, for mentioning that possibility.
      Certainly feel free to use this concept if you wish, in your future professional work!

  10. Mr. Goldstein, Thank you for your insightful paper. Don’t we all have that myth of “My life would be perfect if I only had ___?” But you looked your myth right in the eye and laughed at it. That takes insight, wisdom and courage. Thank you for sharing your insight, wisdom and courage.

    Sincerely,
    Julie Spencer