You’re never too old… (Alan Badmington)

alanAbout the author: Alan Badmington, a retired police officer (from Wales in the UK), commenced stuttering in childhood.  He is an active and highly successful public speaker, winning numerous awards (in competition with fluent speakers), as well as appearing as a finalist in the Association of Speakers Clubs UK national public speaking championships on two occasions. Alan regularly addresses diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness about stuttering, while his media involvement has further brought the subject to the fore. He has travelled extensively to fulfil speaking engagements on three different continents, including a keynote speech at the 2004 World Congress for People Who Stutter in Australia, where he also won the Oratory Contest. He has addressed SLP students in the USA, as well as undertaking presentations/workshops at NSA/BSA and ASHA conferences/events.  His papers, articles and poems have been reproduced in numerous publications and on various international websites/forums. (alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk)

In a recent online discussion, a member of one of the international forums suggested that older people are less likely to possess the motivation to address their stuttering.

That has certainly not been my personal experience.  I was relatively “long in the tooth” when (in 2000) I decided to re-appraise my communication issues and explore a more expansive lifestyle.

MOTIVATION FOR CHANGE

I was initially motivated to take such a step after hearing a middle-aged Person who stutters (PWS) relate how he had successfully embraced public speaking. Until that moment, I truly believed that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. His testimony provided evidence to the contrary – I wanted to follow his example.

However, in order for me to do so, I knew that it would be necessary to change the narrow way in which I viewed myself. I needed to challenge the limiting beliefs that had been holding me back for so many years.

I began by adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards all avoidance strategies, including word substitution (upon which I heavily relied).  I also made the momentous decision to become more open about my stutter, by sharing (with friends, family members and even total strangers) how it impacted upon my everyday existence. After a lifetime of doing everything possible to conceal my oral struggles, I abandoned my attempts to portray myself as a fluent speaker.  I hoped that such transparency would lead to a more authentic existence. Being honest with myself and my listeners, subsequently had a hugely desensitizing effect.

PLAN OF ACTION

I devised an extensive plan of action that would deliberately (and routinely) place me in challenging speaking situations. I became proactive in seeking out new experiences by scouring newspapers, notice boards and other sources in search of events that would enable me to interact with other people (particularly those I did not know).  I simply wanted to broaden my horizons and experiment with life.

I suddenly became aware of the plethora of exciting workshops/seminars that are available within the community. In the past, the relevant advertisements/notices had failed to register with my conscious mind because my self-image rejected the thought of me participating in such activities. However, now that I had become receptive to these interests, the information “jumped out” at me from the pages. 🙂

I enrolled for numerous classes that were seemingly unrelated to stuttering. They embraced such subjects as assertiveness, self-esteem, confidence building, positive thinking, communication/counselling/listening skills, drama, singing and dancing.

Such exposure allowed me to discover parts of Alan Badmington that I simply did not know existed. A wide range of attributes, skills and qualities (that had been lying dormant and untapped for so many years) unexpectedly blossomed.  As time progressed (and I became more comfortable in undertaking such tasks), my self-image widened appreciably to accommodate these new roles.  In addition, I had regular opportunities to engage in conversation with persons drawn from diverse backgrounds – something that I enjoyed immensely.  You can be assured that I did not shirk from making them aware of the sizeable challenges confronted by those who stutter. 🙂

PUBLIC SPEAKING

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

I plucked up the courage to join the Association of Speakers’ Clubs, a UK-based organisation that has its origins in Toastmasters International.  My presentation and (overall) communication skills were considerably enhanced, together with my self-confidence.  In addition, my internal critic became less vocal.

It wasn’t long before I accepted an invitation to give a talk to a local group, designed to increase public awareness and understanding of what it is like to be a person who stutters. During the 60 minutes presentation, I spoke (in considerable detail) about my personal experiences – including describing the intricate ploys that I used to shield me from shame and embarrassment. I was overwhelmed by the favourable response.

Following that introductory session, my speaking engagements escalated rapidly as news filtered along the community grapevine.   The need for speakers is insatiable. Without virtually any promotion, I have now shared my life story with several hundred audiences.

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

Due to the enthusiastic manner in which my talks are received, my beliefs and perceptions (of what others think about me) are now extremely positive. It is evident from the feedback that I have gained recognition, respect (and even admiration) from those whom I address.

EXPANDING FURTHER

Once I had embarked upon a more expansive lifestyle, it didn’t take me long to discover that I was capable of achieving things I had always chosen to avoid. This gave me such a thrill.

Having sampled those delights, there was no holding me back. I had a burning desire to step even further outside my comfort zones and explore uncharted waters. Age was not a factor- I simply wanted to expand my self-imposed boundaries and enjoy the experience of fulfilling roles that I had previously considered difficult, or impossible.

Freeing myself from the gravitational pull of my previously limiting thinking, I felt a sense of liberation, as well as discovering that so many other exciting paths now lay within my compass.  Such realization encouraged me to aim for new horizons and travel in many different directions.

As I reflect upon that exciting period in my life, I realize that I simply did whatever I wanted to do, without concerning myself about the outcome. I didn’t worry about succeeding – that wasn’t even a consideration. I just had a yearning to venture deeper into unknown territory and sample the fresh experiences.

Once I decided to embark upon a concerted plan of action, I didn’t require any further motivation. You see, I was fulfilling roles that I had always dreamed of undertaking; I was speaking in situations that I had principally avoided; and I was saying the things that I had always wanted to say. It was enlightening to discover that embracing uncertainty (and facing the unknown) can be so exhilarating.

We need to take risks if we are to advance in any walk of life (irrespective of our age) – not just in relation to our speech. Progress is achieved when we are willing to expose ourselves to uncertainty by treading the paths that generate fear. Unless we place ourselves in more demanding situations, we will remain ignorant of our true capabilities. Living a safe and predictable existence denies us the opportunities to discover just how courageous and extraordinary we are.

CHANGING MINDSET

However, behaviours are not changed by retaining the status quo. We need to widen our self-concept to accommodate the new roles – otherwise our existing self-image will continue to impose its restrictions.

Personal development occurs when we venture beyond our existing comfort zones. It requires re-drawing our mental maps so that we increase the size of our safe and familiar areas. When we feel the discomfort, we know that we are confronting the fear. It confirms that we are taking risks. Like the turtle, you can only move forward when you stick your neck out. The only limitations are those that we impose upon ourselves.

The success we achieve will be proportionate to the risks we take – we become increasingly powerful as our lives expand to accommodate more experiences. As our power increases, so does our confidence in our own ability. We find it easier to continue the process of stretching our comfort zones, in spite of any fears that we may experience. I certainly found that I became more adventurous as time progressed, the magnitude of the risks expanding correspondingly.

When we achieve something that we, hitherto, regarded impossible, it causes us to reconsider our limiting beliefs. If we conquer something that has challenged our advancement, we grow in stature. When we overcome hurdles, it opens our eyes to possibilities that we could never have imagined. When we are stretched by a new experience, we likewise grow as human beings.

Many of us are totally unaware of the sleeping giant that lies within us.  For so many years, I was convinced that public speaking was something I should avoid at all costs.  In effect, I was imprisoned by the narrow self-concept that shaped my thinking and behaviours. When I challenged my disempowering beliefs and exposed myself to risks, I accessed my true potential (albeit at an advanced age). 🙂

After a lifetime of dreading public speaking, it is now an integral and exciting part of my daily existence.  During recent years, I have had the pleasure of fulfilling a busy schedule of engagements on three different continents. In addition, I have extended my policy of greater openness by speaking about my stutter on radio and television.

It is sometimes difficult for me to recall the restrictive mindset that once so adversely affected my speech (and shaped my life). The things that I once routinely avoided (and which generated so much fear) have become readily accommodated within my enlarged self-image.  I now feel totally at ease (and derive immense personal satisfaction) in undertaking those roles.

DISCOVERING LIFE’S PURPOSE

The Scottish theologian, William Barclay, wrote:

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

I feel confident in claiming that most people are aware (at a very early age) of the date on which they entered this world. 🙂 But it can take some of us a great deal longer to identify the path(s) that we would prefer to tread in life, particularly if we happen to stutter.

Sadly, many of us cling to the belief that we cannot fulfil a specific task, or undertake a particular role, because we may have experienced setbacks in the past.  Many of us are held back by outdated beliefs, or another person’s adverse opinion.  During recent years, I have refused to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. Neither am I dependent upon the approval of others. My self-worth emanates from within.

Also within us lies a desire waiting to be ignited. By listening to our inner voice, it is possible to uncover clues that allow us to identify the things that stimulate us, and cause us to feel most alive. When we discover our true purpose/vocation in life, it can unleash incredible potential, together with a passion that motivates us to pursue those exciting goals, follow our dreams, and scale inconceivable heights.

I truly believe that the lives of many PWS could be significantly enhanced if more of us are prepared to be true to ourselves and speak publicly about the subject.  However, I fully appreciate that the very nature of stuttering is such that some may well feel reluctant, or unable, to discuss it with others.  I sincerely hope that this year’s ISAD Online Conference will prove to be a turning point in the lives of many by encouraging them to embrace a policy of greater openness and self-acceptance.

It has been my experience that it is never too late to break free from the limited self-image that restricts our aspirations. After many years of frustration and under-achievement, I am finally showing myself differently to the world. I’m also thoroughly enjoying the highly favourable manner in which other people are reacting to me.  We are never too old to become the person we’ve always wanted to be.

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Comments

You’re never too old… (Alan Badmington) — 58 Comments

  1. Welcome to the 2016 ISAD Online Conference. I hope that you found (or will find) my paper of interest. Please feel free to post your comments and/or ask me any questions you wish. If there is something you don’t understand, I will willingly provide clarification. Having contributed to each of the last fourteen annual conferences, I always look forward, with eager anticipation, to the meaningful (and diverse) feedback that I receive from all corners of the globe. I thoroughly enjoy the interaction and greatly appreciate the fact that so many of you take time out of your busy lives to participate in the threaded discussion. I value each and every response. There may be isolated occasions when (due to personal commitments) I will not readily have online access. Should this occur, please be assured that I will reply at the earliest opportunity. Well, what are you waiting for? 🙂
    Kindest regards Alan B

  2. Hello, Alan,

    I think that this paper is one of your best here yet. It has so much truth to it. It shines! And it certainly supports the adage I have adopted: “If you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet!”

    Take care.

    Ellen-Marie

    • Hi Ellen-Marie,

      Thank you, so much, for taking the time to read (and respond to) my paper. It was kind of you to write in such a generous vein. We are allocated a relatively limited period of time on this planet. This becomes more apparent as the years slip away. 🙂 When we focus upon what we don’t want (or choose to defer living a more expansive lifestyle until we feel that we are better equipped to undertake such challenges), it reduces the time at our disposal to devote to the tasks that we wish to fulfil/achieve.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  3. Alan, thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us. Too often I meet people who stutter and people who would like aspects of their life to be different, who say, “……but that’s me. I can’t do X. I fear X. I could never….” You are an example of a different path, a path of change, self development, making your life what you want it to be. You are an example of a beautiful way and have inspired me. I know you have inspired many.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you so much for your generous comments. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read my paper and provide such positive feedback.

      If we do not challenge the beliefs that are holding us back, they will remain to shape our destiny. Our future will merely be a repeat of the past.

      My approach to oral communication is now so different. Throughout my life, oral communication was generally a question of survival. Today, it has become a hugely pleasurable pastime. Having discovered (albeit belatedly) that the human voice is such a wondrous thing, I choose to use it at every possible opportunity. 🙂

      Thank you, once again.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  4. Hello Alan,

    Thank you so much for this empowering piece!! I loved the line about not worrying about being successful. So few of us are willing to step out of our comfort zones for fear of failure but you have laid those fears to rest. I appreciate your willingness to ignore all the potential barriers and just embrace personal growth.
    As a future SLP, I am curious as to your thoughts on being upfront with your stuttering. Do you have a technique that you use (ex: saying that you stutter upon introductions, increasing stuttering, etc.)? And did it get easier over time to state it out loud?
    Your willingness to experience new situations and challenge yourself to do things that you know will be difficult is truly inspiring. Thank you again for this story!

    • Hi Emaier,

      I hope I’ve addressed you correctly.

      Thank you, so much, for reading my paper and contributing to the threaded discussion.

      I will respond (more meaningfully) to the questions you posed within the next few days. Please accept my apologies for the slight delay. 🙁

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Emaier,

        Once again, I offer my apologies for this belated response but I have been heavily committed during the past few days (including fulfilling several public speaking engagements).

        I’m heartened that you found my paper of interest and most grateful for your positive feedback. The past 16 years have been truly life-changing, as I have confronted my fears and explored uncharted waters.

        You wrote:

        “As a future SLP, I am curious as to your thoughts on being upfront with your stuttering. Do you have a technique that you use (ex: saying that you stutter upon introductions, increasing stuttering, etc.)? And did it get easier over time to state it out loud?”

        In 2000, I enlisted the aid of a self-help program that advocated (inter alia) greater self-acceptance by encouraging everyone to speak openly about their stuttering (including the use of voluntary/pseudo stuttering). In company with other members of the program, I went out onto the streets and spoke to complete strangers. In some instances, I simply used voluntary stuttering to advertise the fact that I was a PWS – while in others I followed this up by talking about my ‘darkest secret’. This had a hugely desensitizing effect

        We were also encouraged to adopt a policy of greater openness with friends, work colleagues and members of our own family.

        When I returned home from that residential workshop, I continued to speak openly about my stuttering at every opportunity. I engaged in conversation with complete strangers – in restaurants; in the street; in stores; at airports; on trains – indeed, anywhere.  The reactions that I encountered were quite unbelievable – everyone was courteous and many (to whom I spoke) knew someone who stuttered. My perceptions and beliefs about what other people thought (in relation to my speech) became so positive.

        My decision to speak openly about my communication issues proved invaluable. Had I pursued my previous practice of attempting to conceal my situation, I know that I would have made every effort NOT to stutter. Aiming for fluency (and/or perfection) can place an enormous burden upon our shoulders. By making others aware that I might display dysfluencies (and imperfections) had the effect of ensuring that I did not continue to resort to the widespread avoidance strategies that had fuelled my fears (of speaking) for so many years. I simply chose the words that I wanted to say and uttered them without worrying about the consequences. Having pre-warned my listeners of the fact that I was a person who stuttered, I knew that they would not be surprised in the event of this occurring.

        Over the years, in my quest to increase public awareness about stuttering, I have shared intimate details of my life story with many hundreds of audiences within the community. In addition, I have undertaken interviews on radio and television, as well as being featured in newspaper articles. As a consequence, I am totally at ease with people being acquainted with my stuttering history. In fact, I am frequently approached (in the street and in other public places) by people who wish to chat about my experiences. 🙂 It is SO liberating.

        Emaier, I wish you every success with your studies and your intended career as a speech-language pathologist.

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  5. Hi Alan

    You are right when you say that age does not have to be a barrier to experience positive change. As you know, I have been following your example, to a certain extent, during the past two years. As I have ventured out of my own comfort zone and given talks to various community groups about stuttering, I too have come to realise that I am more than capable of doing something which I once thought “impossible”. I believe that we all are, given a pro-active and positive attitude. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.

    Hazel

    • Hi Hazel,

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I’m grateful that you took time to read my paper and provide feedback.

      I feel confident in expressing the view that we have both derived immense benefit from meeting (and/or learning about the positive experiences of) other PWS who have chosen to follow a more expansive lifestyle. When we are presented with evidence that it is possible to perform widely on life’s stage, our goals appear far more achievable.

      As you are aware, I have fulfilled many hundreds of public speaking engagements during recent years. Although I have now built up a varied repertoire of talks (incorporating many different subjects), by far the majority of my presentations have related to my own life story.

      Despite the fact that 99.9% of the audiences have no connection with stuttering, my talks generate such a positive feedback. Those present frequently tell me that (after learning about how I have successfully dealt with my personal adversity) they are similarly inspired to confront challenges that exist within their own lives. It has been enlightening to discover that there are many common threads affecting persons who stutter and those who don’t.

      However, I am extremely conscious of the fact that, despite successfully encouraging many thousands of people who DO NOT stutter to lead more expansive lifestyles, regrettably I am not conveying that message (or offering encouragement) to those within the stuttering community. My opportunities for doing so are extremely limited.

      I must admit that the situation leaves me with a sense of guilt and frustration – because, as you know, my own life was transformed when I heard a PWS speaking about how he had successfully embraced public speaking.

      Prior to hearing his story, I truly believed that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. A catalogue of painful experiences had fuelled my belief that I could never successfully undertake that task. At no time in my life had anyone previously suggested otherwise. As a result, I had become conditioned to believing that public speaking was the sole prerogative of “fluent” speakers.

      It is well documented that I was inspired by his activities and wanted to follow his example. He became my role model, opening my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine. After more than half a century of restrictive behaviour (and holding back), I finally allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something meaningful about my communication issues. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.

      The posts/articles that I read on the various international stuttering forums suggest that the lives of many PWS are still hugely (and adversely) affected by their limiting beliefs and lack of expectations. Many appear unaware of their true potential and fail to accept the challenge of venturing outside their perceived boundaries.

      I allowed my fears (and narrow self-image) to inhibit my personal growth for more than half a century. As a result, my life was, generally, unfulfilled. I sincerely hope that others who read this paper will discover that there are far more rewarding paths available for them to tread (if they so wish).

      Fear and self-doubt figure prominently in the lives of many people, not just those who stutter. They can sabotage hopes and aspirations. When left to our own devices, it is possible that we may never summon up sufficient courage to face the issues that impede our progress. However, we can gain confidence and encouragement by leaning upon the experiences of others.

      The fact that we happen to stutter need not preclude us from following an expansive lifestyle; neither does it prevent us from participating widely on life’s stage.

      I readily accept that some of us are presented with far greater challenges than others. We cannot select the cards that we are dealt, but it is the manner in which we respond to those challenges that determines the quality of our existence.

      It is important to recognise that people, in general, are subjected to trials and tribulations within their own lives. Such challenges/emotions are NOT exclusive to persons who stutter.

      I fully appreciate (and respect) that not everyone who stutters would wish to adjust their lives. Some PWS are accepting of their current position and have no desire to change. Each of us is responsible for the paths that we choose to tread. The decisions we make are personal and, invariably, relevant to our own unique circumstances. One important point – we should never attempt to persuade (or cajole) anyone into following our examples.

      Hazel, I wish you success and fulfilment as you pursue your public speaking activities; follow your dreams; and continue your exciting journey through life. You are an inspiration to many.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  6. Hi Alan – of course it’s never too late. You are a shining example of “good things happen to those who wait.” In some ways, it seems you waited for the time in your life that you were most ready to make huge changes in how you approached speaking. Would you agree?

    I’ve read your story many times and still feel hugely inspired by all you’ve done to help yourself and the stuttering community. Your example will make it easier for those that come behind you.
    -Pam

    • Hi Pam,

      Thank you for your generous comments. It’s always a pleasure from you – we don’t communicate with each other often enough. 🙂

      You wrote:

      “In some ways, it seems you waited for the time in your life that you were most ready to make huge changes in how you approached speaking. Would you agree?”

      I didn’t deliberately defer my decision to embark upon a more expansive lifestyle (or become a public speaker) until I had attained greater maturity. That’s just the way it happened. 🙂

      The defining moment occurred on April 1, 2000 when I witnessed another PWS speaking about how he had successfully embraced public speaking. (The date was so significant that it is indelibly imprinted upon my memory.) I was simply “blown away” by the fact that he had won several public speaking contests in competition with “fluent speakers”. Until that moment, I truly believed that public speaking lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. He opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine.

      For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something similar. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.

      A few weeks later, having gained an understanding of the harmful implications of avoidance (namely that it was fuelling my stutter), I adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards all such strategies. I simultaneously acquired an assortment of tools that allowed me to eliminate speech blocks and confront the words/letters/sounds that I had always avoided.

      The success that I achieved gave me the confidence to venture outside my safe areas and tread less familiar paths. I devised an extremely pro-active plan of action that allowed me to challenge myself in a wide range of speaking situations.

      Whilst acknowledging that my retirement from the Police Service (at a relatively young age) afforded me the time to step outside my comfort zones in this manner (particularly while fulfilling my extensive public speaking engagements), it is relevant to mention that the absence of work commitments also created drawbacks.

      Had I still been employed as a police officer, I would have been presented with a host of opportunities to interact with the public on a daily basis. Conversely, I was now obliged to use my own initiative to seek out such challenges.

      You further wrote:

      “I’ve read your story many times and still feel hugely inspired by all you’ve done to help yourself and the stuttering community. Your example will make it easier for those that come behind you.”

      Thank you! We are both committed to increasing public awareness and understanding about stuttering. I sincerely hope that other PWS will follow our example and speak more openly about the impact that it has upon their lives. I feel it is to our mutual advantage.

      Pam, you have contributed so much to the stuttering community during recent years. As I have previously opined – it owes you an enormous debt of gratitude. You are an inspiration to many (including me). 🙂

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Pam,

        I’ve just noticed a typo in my earlier response. The opening paragraph should have read:

        “Thank you for your generous comments. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you – we don’t communicate with each other often enough. 🙂 ”

        I attribute the error to advanced senility. 🙂

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  7. Hi Allen,
    I am truly inspired by your story and your transparency. Thank you for sharing this and your journey with stuttering. As an aspiring SLP, I am so fascinated with the individual stories of people who stutter and all of the uniqueness that comprises their own personal journeys. I really connected with your statement on how you said you saw yourself through a narrow view, almost as if you put yourself in a box. It wasn’t until you silenced the doubting voice in your head telling you what you couldn’t do that you experienced authentic liberation. I too have internal struggles that hold me back and tell me I cannot achieve what I want to do. That is why I was so moved reading your paper and was inspired to start trying to do things out of my comfort zone to silence the doubts and to live a more expansive lifestyle. My question for you is, what would you say the best initial step would be for silencing the doubting voice in your head? Either certain thoughts, words, routines or actions are the first things that come to my mind, but I am really interested in what worked for you and pushed you from your first motivated thoughts to your first public speaking event.
    I appreciate your humility, and willingness to share, and that you now have the freedom to have a more authentic existence.
    Thank you for inspiring me to do the same.
    -Devan Carter

    • Hi Devan,

      Please accept my apologies for the slight delay in responding to your post. 🙁 I intend to reply more meaningfully tomorrow, when I have returned from fulfilling yet another public speaking engagement.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Devan,

        Thank you, so much, for your generous feedback. It was kind of you to write in such a positive vein.

        You wrote:

        “As an aspiring SLP, I am so fascinated with the individual stories of people who stutter and all of the uniqueness that comprises their own personal journeys.”

        It is important to recognise that (although they may possess similarities) every PWS is unique. We come from different backgrounds/cultures; have encountered different life experiences; are affected by different doubts and fears; and possess different aspirations/expectations. We also commence from different starting lines and operate in accordance with different values and belief systems. That is why we should never attempt to compare our progress with others, nor be surprised when someone else decides to tread a contrasting or less conventional path.

        Reading/learning about the lives of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. There is something very satisfying about witnessing (and in some cases, assisting with) the growth of a fellow human being. It can also alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware – in relation to therapies, techniques and the opportunities to experience our true potential when we are prepared to expose ourselves to uncertainty and change.

        As a result, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives. We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, as well as discovering that there are exciting and fulfilling paths that we may choose to tread. But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of walking alone.

        You further wrote:

        “I too have internal struggles that hold me back and tell me I cannot achieve what I want to do. That is why I was so moved reading your paper and was inspired to start trying to do things out of my comfort zone to silence the doubts and to live a more expansive lifestyle. My question for you is, what would you say the best initial step would be for silencing the doubting voice in your head? Either certain thoughts, words, routines or actions are the first things that come to my mind, but I am really interested in what worked for you and pushed you from your first motivated thoughts to your first public speaking event.”

        You may wish to check out the following paper that I contributed the 2013 ISAD Online Conference. It outlines (in considerable detail) the many and varied paths that I trod when venturing outside my own safe areas.

        “STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives”
        http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

        I was heartened that several SLPs/SLP students subsequently wrote to me to say that they intended to utilize the contents/principles (contained in the paper) to overcome their tendency to hold back and avoid confronting challenges within their own lives.

        You may also find it useful to peruse a few of my other past ISAD Conference papers. The titles and links are shown below:

        “How I Changed My Stuttering Mindset”
        http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad8/papers/badmington8.html

        How Beliefs and Self-image Can Influence Stuttering
        http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/badmington12.html

        Our beliefs and self-concept create the script by which we act out our lives – they set the boundaries to our accomplishments. The moment I relinquished my old self-image, I discovered incredible opportunities for growth. However, if we fail to confront our limiting beliefs, they will continue to restrict us.

        In the following ISAD Conference paper, I (inter alia) outlined the impact that our thoughts have upon our lives and described some of the strategies that I used to deal with negative thinking. I also touched further upon some of the ways in which I chose to expand my comfort zones.

        “Letting go of my inhibitions to lead a more expansive life”
        http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2014/papers-presented-by/pws-speak-for-themselves/letting-go-of-my-inhibitions-to-lead-a-more-expansive-life/

        Your post concluded:

        “I appreciate your humility, and willingness to share, and that you now have the freedom to have a more authentic existence.
        Thank you for inspiring me to do the same.”

        My decision to adopt a policy of greater openness was a hugely important factor in assisting me to come to terms with my lifelong communication issues. As you will note in the papers I have listed above, there were also many other valuable components that allowed me to successfully complete (what I sometimes refer to as) my stuttering jigsaw.

        Devan, I wish you every success with your studies, as well as you chosen career as a speech-language pathologist.

        I’m sorry that you had to wait a few days for my response.:-(

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  8. Hello Mr. Badmington,
    Thank you for sharing your story. As I began reading your paper I thought to myself, “This would make a great movie.” Your writing is encouraging and inspiring.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Please feel free to address me as ”Alan” (Mr Badmington makes me feel so old):-)

      Thank you for your generous comments.

      You wrote:

      “As I began reading your paper I thought to myself, “This would make a great movie” ”.

      I can only recall three meaningful movies about stuttering being released during recent years. They varied considerably in content and duration:

      1. “The King’s Speech” (2010) – 1 hour 58 minutes
      2. “Stutterer” (2015) – 12 minutes
      3. Unspeakable (2006) – 89 minutes

      Incidentally, the first two films won Oscars, while the latter documentary (written and narrated by Canadian PWS John Paskievich) won a special jury prize at the Whistler Film Festival. As a matter of interest, I did, in fact, make a brief appearance in Unspeakable but viewers would have missed the 2/3 minutes interview if they happened to blink.:-)

      Whilst a movie that features a PWS can increase public awareness, the unique nature of stuttering makes it difficult to accurately reflect the issues that we face. Whilst there may be similarities – we are ALL different. Another factor is that, far too often, the characters (in fictional movies) are portrayed in an unfavourable light – as murderers, drug addicts, rapists, simpletons and even an animated cartoon character.:-)

      Colin Firth’s portrayal of the British monarch (in the King’s Speech) granted the stuttering community its 15 minutes of fame and some members (of that community) grasped the opportunity with both hands. They stepped out of the shadow into the public gaze and allowed the spotlight to illuminate their ‘darkest secrets’ by allowing themselves to be featured in TV, radio and newspaper interviews. This required immense courage.

      It is important that we do not allow our voice to be silenced now that the euphoria (surrounding ‘The King’s Speech’) has receded. As we know so well – today’s news stories are soon relegated to the past. Unless history repeats itself (with a possible sequel to the award-winning movie), it is unlikely that we will ever again encounter such an accommodating climate in which to discuss stuttering.

      Over the years, many people have encouraged me to write an autobiography – but I simply haven’t got around to doing it (I’ve been having too much fun).:-) However, someone from within the stuttering community has very kindly assembled most of my past 15 ISAD conference papers, poems and miscellaneous other writings into a free online book. If you are interested, here is the link:

      “No Longer Lost for Words: From Stuttering to Public Speaking and Beyond”

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

      Thank you, once again, for your interest.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  9. Hi Alan. Good paper, as always. I’m curious about the “zero-tolerance policy towards all avoidance strategies.” At a recent support group meeting, we discussed this, i.e., how giving in to avoidance feels like losing, but saying exactly what one planned to say can feel like defeating the stutter. Did you experience similar feelings upon adopting your policy?

    • Hi Dale,

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for reading my paper and providing feedback.

      You wrote:

      “At a recent support group meeting, we discussed this, i.e., how giving in to avoidance feels like losing, but saying exactly what one planned to say can feel like defeating the stutter. Did you experience similar feelings upon adopting your policy?”

      I relied heavily upon a wide array of avoidances for so many years. They served as a crutch, protecting me from shame and embarrassment. But, I was blissfully unaware of their harmful influences. By choosing to avoid certain words/letters/sounds and situations, I did not appreciate that I was, indeed, strengthening those very fears.

      The moment I became aware of their damaging effect, I took steps to eradicate ALL avoidance strategies from my life. I was determined that I would no longer avoid (or hold back) under any circumstances. Addressing such behaviours played a hugely significant part in enabling me to come to terms with my stuttering/blocking/communication issues.

      Fluency was not something on which I focused. I had a desire to become a better communicator and say exactly what I wanted to say. I realized that as long as I continued to practise extensive avoidance, I would never experience the satisfaction of using the words of my choice.

      By adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance, I was able to release myself from their adverse influence and emotional charge. I have completely relinquished my long-held stuttering mindset by readjusting my beliefs and self-image. Today, my life is totally free of thoughts about stuttering (or avoidance) – they are simply non-existent.

      When I became aware of the ramifications of avoidance, I immediately took steps to eliminate the practice. I simply refused to avoid any word, letter, sound or situation. I told myself that I would rather stutter/block than succumb to temptation. I had arrived at a time in my life where I was determined to bring about change.

      Although I had been using avoidance strategies since childhood, it was only when I took time to closely scrutinise my behaviours that I realised just how widespread they had become. They had infiltrated so many different areas and involved so much effort and energy. It was both enlightening and frightening to discover the extent to which avoidance had crept stealthily, sneakily, insidiously and progressively into my life – influencing so many of my decisions.

      Having successfully adhered to a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance since May 4, 2000 (yes, it was so significant that I remember the date):-), I am free from their harmful influences and gravitational pull. When I initially decided to abandon my lifelong practice, it was necessary for me to utilize my conscious brain to combat any tendency to fall back on evasive strategies. After all, that had been my default program for more than half a century.

      As time progressed, the urge to avoid grew less and less before finally disappearing. Today, NON-AVOIDANCE has become my unconscious behaviour.

      Incidentally, my decision to address the issue of avoidance coincided with a simultaneous (and equally momentous) decision to abandon the prosthetic device (Edinburgh Masker) which I had worn for more than 20 years. My motivation was generated by a desire to gain independence from the support that both had provided. Those dual crutches served me well but, having relied upon them for such a lengthy period, I finally wanted to stand on my own two feet. I wanted to walk unaided through life.

      Relinquishing the Edinburgh Masker, and choosing to say the words of my choice (IRRESPECTIVE OF THE CONSEQUENCES), proved to be so liberating. It was an incredible feeling to finally break free from the debilitating oral shackles that had inhibited me since childhood.

      Not surprisingly, I felt apprehensive when I first embarked upon my more expansive lifestyle. But, as my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different. We don’t change anything by retaining the status quo.:-)

      Choosing to say specific words (that I had intentionally neglected for so many years) was bound to be scary. In the initial stages, it is possible that those who were familiar with my usual speaking pattern may have considered that (on occasions) I was speaking less fluently. But that didn’t bother me. You see, I had come to view my word substitutions as “stuttering on the inside” and felt that I needed to bring the matter out into the open in order to resolve the issue.

      Within a relatively short period of time, the apprehension receded and was replaced by a feeling of excitement. The external dysfluencies were also short-lived, as I rapidly grew in confidence. Today, there are no words/letters/sounds that continue to hold an emotional charge, or generate negative thoughts.

      I have relinquished my long-held stuttering mindset by readjusting my beliefs and self-image. My life is totally free of thoughts of about stuttering – they are simply non-existent. Neither do I experience any anticipatory fear when faced with any speaking situation. Today, I simply pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary and look forward to every speaking opportunity.

      Dale, you may wish to check out the following paper that I contributed to the 2013 International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference. I think it will give you (and members of your support group) a better insight into how I eradicated avoidance:

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

      In addition to reading the principal article, you/they may also find it useful to scrutinize the various interactions that I had with persons who kindly provided feedback (and posed many searching questions). Due to the large volume of exchanges, the comments are split into two sections. Those which you will see displayed (when you click on the above link) occurred during the latter days of the conference. You may also access the earlier (and, I believe, more interesting) exchanges by clicking on “Older comments” (located immediately below the paper). I’m sure that these instructions will make sense when you visit the website. 🙂

      Incidentally, the 2013 paper also incorporates my poem “Changing the Words Around” which further elaborates my feelings towards avoidance, while also describing some of the steps I took to eradicate it.

      Dale, I hope that you will find something of interest midst my senile ramblings. 🙂

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      PS In addition to addressing avoidance, I have also abandoned my previous perfectionist trait. As a result, I have not checked this response for errors – so you may well discover some typos and/or duplication. 🙂

  10. Alan,

    I am a graduate student taking a Fluency disorders course this semester. In the course we are learning so much about a holistic approach to treating the whole person who stutters. I appreciate all that you do to share your story to impact others. It is great to know that age was not a factor for you. I have a personal question.

    Whenever you decided to make the change to avoid all avoidance behaviors and fully embrace your stutter… what were the challenges that you faced internally? Also, how long did it take you to fully succumb to letting yourself speak naturally instead of using tactics to avoid stuttering? Thank you in advance for your response and for the time and energy you put into this field.

    • Hi Haylee,

      I am most grateful to you for taking the time to read my paper and participate in the threaded discussion.

      You wrote:

      “In the course we are learning so much about a holistic approach to treating the whole person who stutters.”

      I’m heartened that you are being acquainted with the benefits of addressing stuttering holistically. I strongly believe that working on the mechanics of our speech has only limited value. I certainly discovered that, in order to achieve permanent gains, I needed to dismantle the psychological framework that had supported my stutter for more than 50 years.

      Incidentally, several of my past ISAD Online Conference papers describe the diverse paths that I have trodden whilst successfully coming to terms with my lifelong communication issues. If you wish to conduct a Google search of “Alan Badmington”, you will find the relevant links.

      Alternatively, many of the papers are contained in the following free online book:

      ““No Longer Lost for Words: From Stuttering to Public Speaking and Beyond”
      http://www.freestutteringbooks.com/uploads/3/2/1/1/32111425/microsoft_word_-_no_longer_lost_for_words_for_file-6.docx.pdf

      You further wrote:

      “Whenever you decided to make the change to avoid all avoidance behaviors and fully embrace your stutter… what were the challenges that you faced internally? Also, how long did it take you to fully succumb to letting yourself speak naturally instead of using tactics to avoid stuttering?”

      Having commenced stuttering in early childhood, I developed a wide range of strategies to protect myself from shame and embarrassment. I began avoiding words that appeared to cause me difficulty. Almost unconsciously, I substituted them with others that I felt more confident in using.

      I became a ‘walking thesaurus’, developing an expertise that enabled me to provide a wide array of synonyms (commencing with different letters) whenever a ‘difficult’ word loomed large on the horizon. This, generally, concealed the true impact of my struggles.

      In 2000, I learned about the immense implications of such a practice. I had previously been oblivious to the fact that, whenever I changed a word, I fuelled my fear of saying that word. Each time we avoid something, we strengthen its influence over us. We can evade for so long, but the time will eventually come when we have to say a specific word, or speak in a particular situation. When that happened, I found that my fear level had increased to such an extent that I stuttered more severely.

      Although I had been using avoidance strategies for many years, it was only when I closely scrutinised my behaviours that I realised just how widespread they had become. It was enlightening (and in some ways frightening) to discover the extent to which avoidance had crept insidiously into my life – infiltrating so many different areas.

      I immediately adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance. I vowed that I would never again substitute a word, nor shirk the challenge of any speaking situation.

      In common with many other persons who stutter (PWS), I found my name to be particularly challenging and would only use it when it was absolutely essential.

      I addressed this issue by routinely introducing my name into everyday conversations. I didn’t wait until it was imperative (for me to say it) – I began uttering it at every opportunity, even when it may have appeared inappropriate. I would simply slip it into exchanges when there was little pressure, particularly in the company of friends and family.

      After a while, I found that my name presented fewer problems. Each time I said it, a heartening message was transmitted to my subconscious saying, “Hey, you’ve just said Alan Badmington”.

      Throughout my life, the same little voice had constantly reminded me that I could not say it – thus strengthening my self-limiting belief and contributing to future anticipatory fear. By reversing the adverse dialogue that I had been having with my inner critic, I eventually convinced myself that I could say that emotionally charged combination of words.

      The thoughts that occupy our minds prior to engaging in a speaking situation are hugely significant. What we believe about ourselves, as well as the manner in which we perceive the environment that we are entering (or the persons with whom we are due to come into contact) will, undoubtedly, influence our approach and expectations. In addition, it will almost certainly have a considerable impact upon the outcome. If we anticipate a negative scenario, we prepare ourselves for that eventuality. But when we believe that things are possible, they are more likely to occur.

      In addition, I began answering the ‘dreaded’ telephone with my name. When it rang, I would pick it up and immediately say “Alan Badmington”. I avoided any preamble or surplus words (such as “Hello, this is Alan Badmington speaking”). That would have been an easier option but I intentionally made the decision to confront my fears head-on. Even today, I instinctively answer the telephone in the same manner – it has become so automatic. The difference is that it now holds no fear whatsoever.

      When I attended my first British Stammering Association Conference in 2001, I seized the opportunity to expand my comfort zones even further. Those who are familiar with such events will know that each delegate is issued with a conspicuous lapel badge that makes their identity readily available to everyone else. I raised a few eyebrows when I removed the official name strip and replaced it with the following handwritten message:

      “Please ask me my name, I enjoy a challenge”.

      Today, having consistently demonstrated that I can say my name in any situation, I have no fear whatsoever about introducing myself. However, had I persevered with avoidance, the same long-established disempowering beliefs and limited self-image would have continued to impose their restrictions.

      I also adopted a similarly proactive approach in respect of other letters/sounds that held an emotional charge. Each day, I would call toll free numbers that I had plucked from the Yellow Pages directory, creating fictitious enquiries in which I would intentionally use words commencing with ‘challenging’ letters (and they were plentiful).

      I rang hotels and restaurants, reserving tables/rooms in the name of “Alan Badmington”. I would call back 30 minutes later to cancel the reservation.

      I approached total strangers in the street and requested directions to locations that I perceived would be difficult to say. Sometimes I would ask for such places as `Badmington Road’, ‘Badmington Drive’ or ‘Badmington Gardens’, even though I knew they didn’t exist. 🙂

      Not surprisingly, I felt apprehensive when I first embarked upon my more expansive lifestyle. But, as my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different. We don’t change anything by retaining the status quo.

      Choosing to say specific words (that I had intentionally neglected for so many years) was bound to be scary. In the initial stages, it is possible that those who were familiar with my usual speaking pattern may have considered that (on occasions) I was speaking less fluently. But that didn’t bother me. You see, I had come to view my word substitutions as “stuttering on the inside” and felt that I needed to bring the matter out into the open in order to resolve the issue.

      Within a relatively short period of time, the apprehension receded and was replaced by a feeling of excitement. The external dysfluencies were also short-lived, as I grew in confidence. Today, there are no words/letters/sounds that continue to hold an emotional charge, or generate negative anticipatory thoughts.

      I’ve heard it said that “every cloud has a silver lining”. Well, in my case, that has certainly proved to be true. A lifetime of word substitution has equipped me with an extensive and varied vocabulary. Yet, for so many years, I only chose to call upon its services when I had occasion to write.

      Transferring my thoughts to paper was, generally, the only effective way in which I could meaningfully express myself. The written option allowed me to communicate exactly what I wanted to say. I could select the most suitable words without experiencing the usual emotions associated with stuttering.

      Past oral exchanges were frequently littered with words that I considered to be inferior, or (in some instances), inappropriate. My mind was constantly in turmoil as it frantically searched for synonyms to replace those words that I feared. I purposely succumbed to mediocrity and accepted second best – simply because of my desire not to be seen/heard stuttering.

      Today, having eliminated avoidances, I no longer differentiate between written and spoken occasions. The debilitating oral shackles have finally been removed and I can now pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary and say them without anticipatory fear. It is truly exhilarating!

      Haylee, I wish you every success with your studies and future career as a speech-language-pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  11. Hello Alan,

    I am a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student, and I am currently taking a fluency class. I enjoyed reading your story, and I found it very encouraging and inspiring. At one point, you say “personal development occurs when we venture beyond our existing comfort zones.” As a future SLP, I am curious about the therapist’s role in this development. Should children who stutter be pushed to venture beyond their comfort zone? Or do you feel that this needs to be a personal decision?

    • Hi Britney,

      Thank you for reading my paper and contributing feedback. I’m delighted that you were encouraged and inspired by its content.

      As a matter of interest, in a paper that I wrote for the ISAD Online Conference in 2003, I discussed (at considerable length) the benefits of expanding our comfort zones. I also listed numerous ways in which others might similarly tread unfamiliar paths.

      Here is the link:
      “STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives”
      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      That article subsequently formed the thrust of a keynote speech that I delivered to the World Congress for People Who Stutter, held in Western Australia the following year.

      You wrote (in response to my 2016 paper):

      “At one point, you say “personal development occurs when we venture beyond our existing comfort zones.” As a future SLP, I am curious about the therapist’s role in this development. Should children who stutter be pushed to venture beyond their comfort zone? Or do you feel that this needs to be a personal decision.”

      In order to formulate a meaningful response, I think I first need to express a few general views, before returning to the specific question of children.

      It is important to recognise that the principles relating to comfort zones DO NOT just apply to persons who stutter. In order for ANYONE to attain greater personal growth, and live a more fulfilling life, it is necessary for him/her to routinely step outside their safe areas. (You will gain a far better understanding of this if you read my 2003 paper).

      However, whether or not people choose to extend themselves is entirely a personal choice. Some PWS (for whatever reason) have no wish to change the status quo. Their decision has to be respected. As adults, we are all responsible for our individual passages through life. With children, the situation is somewhat different.

      Some of us are capable of taking larger steps than others. The length of our stride differs from person to person. There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”. Taking that first step is SO important.

      Every PWS is different. You will find that each requires a different approach. It will not be possible to deal with everyone in a uniform manner. You will need to build up a relationship and rapport with your client(s) before deciding upon the plan of action. What suits one may well be unsuitable for another.

      Everyone has different emotional baggage; life histories; family backgrounds; aspirations; levels of confidence and self-esteem. They will require attention in accordance with their individual circumstances and needs.

      Some may be easily influenced into expanding their comfort zones – others will need greater encouragement. Some will have greater fear in certain situations; others will stutter on certain words and sounds; while others will be covert and resist openness and self-acceptance.

      Some clients will be willing to practise voluntary/pseudo stuttering – others will be most reluctant to advertise the fact that they stutter.

      In my opinion, clients will only expand their comfort zones when they are ready – although they are more likely to do so with encouragement. I derived immense benefit from membership of a self-help organisation, where I enjoyed the group camaraderie and found support in abundance.

      I would respectfully suggest that you start clients off slowly, by setting them relatively easy and attainable targets. More difficult challenges can be introduced progressively. I found that each time I achieved something new, my confidence grew. With every success, I sought out something more daring. Of course there will be setbacks – but I chose to view such occurrences as stepping stones to future success (and NOT failures).

      Personally, I believe that expanding comfort zones should be an ongoing process in everyone’s lives, not just for PWS. There is a tendency to stagnate when we do the same things over and over and remain in familiar surroundings. We need change, particularly if our existing behaviours are not serving us well. I have often wondered why the principle of expanding our comfort zones does not form part of the school curriculum. I have (belatedly) realised that it is an important life skill – essential for personal growth and development. My life has become so much more enriched now that I am doing the things I previously considered lay outside my scope. I truly believe that virtually anything is possible, if you have the determination to expand.

      Expanding one’s comfort zones occurs when persons challenge themselves by moving into unfamiliar environments/surroundings. In the case of a PWS, it generally involves doing things that he/she would usually avoid. Irrespective of the nature of the therapy being offered by an SLP, PWS still need to face their fears in order to challenge the limiting beliefs they have developed in the lives.

      It is not uncommon for techniques etc to be successful in a controlled environment (eg the clinician’s office or a course setting). However, the fears still remain when the PWS returns into the outside world. Overcoming these engrained fears is generally a gradual process – it is unlikely to occur overnight.

      I think it is important that SLPs should explain to their clients why they are being asked to perform specific tasks. When I acquired an understanding that avoidance was fuelling my stutter, I introduced a zero-tolerance policy towards all such strategies. When I learned about the value of expanding my comfort zones, it motivated me to embark upon a lifestyle that routinely placed me in challenging situations.

      My limited experience of children who stutter tends to suggest that they may have difficulty in grasping the psychological aspects of stuttering. It occurred to me that, maybe, you could treat the comfort zone expansion as a game, or adventure. In the absence of their appreciation of the principles involved, I suspect that they would probably need considerable encouragement to tread (what they would view as being) more challenging paths. However, one advantage is that they would have accumulated far less emotional baggage than an adult PWS.

      Incidentally, you may wish to allow them to have sight of the following poem that I wrote for the 2004 ISAD Online Conference:

      “Changing the Words Around”
      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad7/papers/badmington7/badmington17.html

      It was beautifully illustrated by my friend, Christine Badgett-Richards, and is now listed an ASHA resource (as well as being used by SLPs in many parts of the world).

      One final point, some of the “fluent” SLPs who responded to my 2003 paper, confided that it encouraged them to confront similar issues in their own lives. I have also received a similar feedback from the many hundreds of community audiences with whom I have shared my story.

      Britney, I wish you every success with your current studies and future employment as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  12. Hello Alan,
    I am a graduate student who is currently taking the class, fluency. I found your paper to be so inspiring and makes me happy to know that it is never too late to change the way you live your life. This paper could apply to really anyone and not to just people who stutter. I find it so amazing that you confronted your fears and found who you really are. I have two questions though, What made you hide your stuttering most of your beginning life and what do you think could have helped you be open with your stuttering earlier in your life? Thank you for your time and for such a great paper.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to my paper. I very much appreciate your positive feedback and generous comments.

      You wrote:

      “This paper could apply to really anyone and not to just people who stutter.”

      So many others have expressed a similar opinion. Whenever I share my story with audiences, many of my listeners tell me that (having learned how I have overcome adversity) they are inspired/encouraged to deal with issues (totally unrelated to stuttering) that exist within their own lives. I find it so humbling.

      You then wrote:

      “I find it so amazing that you confronted your fears and found who you really are.”

      Our limiting beliefs (and narrow self-concept) can impede our lifestyle to such an extent that there are things we will not even attempt because we feel they lie outside our scope.

      Although our long-established beliefs may be deeply entrenched, it is important to understand that they are NOT set in stone. The realisation that I could reappraise (and adjust) my beliefs was hugely empowering and a cornerstone of the advances I have made during recent times.

      Many of us have difficulty letting go of the past. We cling onto our old self-image because we (and those around us) derive a sense of security from the familiar face that it presents. Self-concept is at the very core of our life experience – it can cause us to resist attempts to embrace change, even though it may be to our advantage to do so. The moment I relinquished my old self-image, I discovered incredible opportunities for growth.

      You then wrote:

      “What made you hide your stuttering most of your beginning life and what do you think could have helped you be open with your stuttering earlier in your life?”

      For so many years, I did everything possible to keep my communication struggles a secret. I guess that I simply wanted to protect myself from shame and embarrassment. But, of course, I didn’t always succeed. Despite the fact that I resorted to extensive avoidance strategies, my stutter invariably became more apparent/obvious on those occasions when I had to say words (or speak in situations) that I routinely chose to avoid.

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

      I also hoped that increased transparency would help me to lead a more authentic existence. You see, I finally wanted to be honest with myself and with my listeners.

      Greater openness about my life-long communication issues has proved invaluable in helping me overcome previous embarrassment. Revealing my ‘darkest secret’, to all and sundry, also accelerated the desensitization process. Had I known about these benefits at a younger age, I would have adopted such a strategy at a much earlier time in my life.

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

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Julia,

        Please accept my apologies for addressing you as “Julie” in my earlier response. 🙁

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  13. Hi Alan,
    Your story is so inspiring and passionate. I loved that you devised a plan of action and really took charge of your stutter rather than continue to let it take hold of you. I found your section entitled ‘Discovering Life’s Purpose’ so motivating that it can even be applied to more than stuttering. I did find myself wondering throughout the paper if this was truly a journey you took alone or if you found that anyone helped you along the way? I am a second year speech-language pathology graduate student looking for any advice or help that I can give people who stutter in my future practice. I would love to hear from people who stutter about what I can do to help them become as motivated and passionate as you. Thank you!

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for your positive response to my paper. I’m delighted that you found time to read it and provide feedback.

      You wrote:

      “I loved that you devised a plan of action and really took charge of your stutter rather than continue to let it take hold of you.”

      During the past 16 years, I have transformed my life to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult for me to accurately recount the mindset that once shaped my thoughts and life. However, I recall that I felt apprehensive when I first embarked upon my more expansive lifestyle but, as my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different. We don’t change anything by retaining the status quo. 🙂

      You then wrote:

      “I did find myself wondering throughout the paper if this was truly a journey you took alone or if you found that anyone helped you along the way?”

      It was only in 2000, when certain strategies became available to me (courtesy of a self-help programme), that I gained the confidence to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards all avoidances. I devised an extensive plan of action that routinely exposed me to risks, allowing me to expand my comfort zones in a wide range of challenging situations.

      I was able to embark upon (and continue with) this venture because my initial experiences (of using the strategies) were so successful. They created the expectation of further positive outcomes. I came to accept that I possessed the resources to deal with any blocks that might occur, as well as being able to say words that had always generated an emotional charge. I found myself in such a favourable position. This was so different from the past when my speech had always been such a lottery.

      Success followed success, creating an empowering mindset that enabled me to stop focusing on my speech and, instead, concentrate my efforts on the things that I wanted to achieve in life.

      I should mention that I have not used any physiological techniques/tools for many years. I liken it children learning to ride a bicycle. In the initial stages, they will enlist the aid of stabilizers – but when they have overcome their doubts and fears (and become more proficient), they detach them and ride unaided. That’s precisely what I’ve done.

      My purpose in recounting the above experiences is to illustrate just how quickly I progressed and then dispensed with controlled speech. I had pushed out my comfort zones to such an extent (and accumulated so many positive experiences) that I simply let go and had fun. 🙂

      When you believe that things are possible, they start to become reality. When we anticipate an outcome, we find that it generally tends to occur. I think that this is because (at an unconscious level) our resources are mobilized to make it happen.

      You concluded:

      “I am a second year speech-language pathology graduate student looking for any advice or help that I can give people who stutter in my future practice. I would love to hear from people who stutter about what I can do to help them become as motivated and passionate as you.”

      Over the years, I have enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of addressing SLP graduate students in many parts of the US. I genuinely believe that such interaction is to our mutual benefit.

      In addition to providing the students with an insight into what it is like to live with stuttering, I also draw their attention to the importance of recognising the uniqueness of their future clients. I emphasise the need to make good use of listening skills; earn the respect of each individual, and appreciate the difficulties associated with transferring speech gains and techniques from a safe therapy environment into the outside world.

      As I mentioned in an earlier reply, every PWS is unique. You will find that each requires a different approach. It will not be possible to deal with everyone in a uniform manner. You will need to build up a relationship and rapport with your client(s) before deciding upon the plan of action. What suits one may well be unsuitable for another.

      Everyone has different emotional baggage; life histories; aspirations; levels of confidence and self-esteem. They will require attention in accordance with their individual circumstances and needs.

      Some may be easily influenced into expanding their comfort zones – others will need greater encouragement. Some will have greater fear in certain situations; others will stutter on certain words and sounds; while others will be covert and resist openness and self-acceptance.

      And finally, it should be appreciated that not everyone who stutters wishes to adjust their lifestyle. Some PWS are accepting of their current position and have no desire to change. That is entirely their prerogative. Each of us is responsible for the paths that we choose to tread. The decisions we make are personal and, invariably, relevant to our own unique circumstances.

      I feel it also unwise to attempt to compare the progress of one individual with another. Neither should we cajole anyone into following another person’s example or journey. The approach that you devise should be with the mutual consent and agreement of your client(s).

      Julia, I wish you every success with your studies and future career as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  14. Hi Alan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am a first year graduate student taking a class about stuttering right now. It is awesome that you were able to step out of your comfort zone and make yourself a better you! Although I do not stutter, I can somewhat relate to that feeling in a different aspect of my life. You are definitely inspiring and I think many people who stutter are lucky to have someone like you to look up to. Did you feel like you had a lot of support through this process? I feel that having a great support system is very helpful in overcoming fears. If you didn’t have a support system, how did you go about staying strong through this process and not going back to your comfort zone? I look forward to hearing from you and I appreciate your story. Thank you!! -Lindsey

    • Hi Lindsey,

      It’s a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you, so much, for taking the time to comment upon my paper.

      You wrote:

      “It is awesome that you were able to step out of your comfort zone and make yourself a better you! Although I do not stutter, I can somewhat relate to that feeling in a different aspect of my life.”

      Thank you! It may interest you to note that I contributed a paper to the 2003 ISAD Online Conference that described, in detail, the principles of expanding our comfort zones. Here is the relevant link:

      “STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives”

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      I was heartened that several SLPs/SLP students subsequently confided that they intended to utilize the contents (contained in the paper) to overcome their tendency to hold back and avoid confronting challenges within their own lives.

      You may also find it useful to peruse a few of my other past ISAD Conference papers that embrace associated aspects. The titles and links are listed below:

      “Letting go of my inhibitions to lead a more expansive life”

      http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2014/papers-presented-by/pws-speak-for-themselves/letting-go-of-my-inhibitions-to-lead-a-more-expansive-life/

      How avoiding avoidance transformed my stutter”

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

      You further wrote:

      “Did you feel like you had a lot of support through this process? I feel that having a great support system is very helpful in overcoming fears. If you didn’t have a support system, how did you go about staying strong through this process and not going back to your comfort zone?”

      I experienced a major breakthrough when (in 2000) I enlisted the aid of a self-help organisation. Within a relatively short period of acquiring some tools, I found that I was able to virtually eliminate the debilitating speech blocks that had plagued my oral communication for so many years.

      Additional techniques allowed me to tackle a host of words/letters/sounds that I had always previously avoided. Resisting time pressure (and introducing pauses) removed the inner turmoil that had, invariably, set my mind in a spin whenever I attempted to speak in challenging situations. Increased voice projection had the effect of counteracting my previous tendency to hold back – while clearer articulation and enunciation contributed to more eloquent speech.

      For the first time in my life, I found that I was enjoying the physical act of speaking in the company of others (albeit that my speech was controlled).

      Throughout that initial residential four day seminar, I seized every opportunity to utilize my new-found freedom and said exactly what I wanted to say. This involved engaging in one-to-one to conversations; contributing to small group discussions; and/or jumping to my feet and addressing everyone present (which comprised more than 100 PWS). I gained an immense amount of confidence which I was later able to transfer out onto the streets when approaching members of the public and undertaking public speaking.

      Over a period of four days, I had constantly demonstrated to myself (and others) that there was nothing organically wrong with my speech. There was no way that I was going to let go of the advances that I had enjoyed. I knew that in order to hold onto those gains, I would need to change my stuttering mindset. That was when I decided to embark upon a more expansive lifestyle in which I routinely created a wide array of speaking challenges.

      I also used subsequent seminars and support groups to gain further empowerment by seizing every opportunity to speak in front of others. This proved to be invaluable. However, I wasn’t satisfied with confining my newly-acquired speaking prowess to those safe, supportive environments. I wanted to sample the exhilaration (and freedom) at ALL times. 🙂

      But seminars and support groups can become huge comfort zones. As I have opined on many occasions, we are all different. Whilst some PWS may (for whatever reason) need continuing support, I sensed that (after a while) the time was right for ME to let go and fend for myself. I realised that there were implications of clinging to the inviting apron strings offered by that self-help organisation.

      My decision to let go of the available support was, I believe, an important milestone in my efforts to deal with my stuttering issues. Taking full responsibility for my life (and speaking), without reliance upon support, caused me to impose greater self-monitoring and discipline. It also strengthened my personal resolve, as well encouraging me to develop resources for independent survival.

      Lindsay, I wish you every success with your studies and subsequent career as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  15. Hello Alan,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and found what you had to say incredibly relatable not only for PWS but others as well. When you say that you decided to no longer avoid your stuttering, what struggles did you face with that internally? Also, when you decided to embrace your stutter and no longer avoid it, how did your close family and friends react? Were they happy, confused, accepting? Congratulations on your successes.
    -Diana Willner

    • Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your interest and feedback.

      You wrote:

      “When you say that you decided to no longer avoid your stuttering, what struggles did you face with that internally?”

      Although I had been using avoidance strategies for many years, it was only when I closely examined my behaviours that I realised just how widespread they had become. They had infiltrated so many different areas and involved considerable effort and energy. It was enlightening (and in some ways frightening) to discover the extent to which avoidance had crept insidiously into my life – influencing so many of my decisions.

      I immediately adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of avoidance. I vowed that I would never again substitute a word, nor shirk the challenge of any speaking situation.

      In common with many other persons who stutter (PWS), I found my name to be particularly challenging, so I only said it when it was absolutely essential.

      I addressed this issue by routinely introducing my name into everyday conversations. I didn’t wait until it was imperative (for me to say it) – I began uttering it at every opportunity, even when it may have appeared inappropriate. I would simply slip it into exchanges when there was little pressure, particularly in the company of friends and family.

      After a while, I found that my name presented fewer problems. Each time I said it, a heartening message was transmitted to my subconscious saying, “Hey, you’ve just said Alan Badmington”.

      Throughout my life, the same little voice had constantly reminded me that I could not say it – thus strengthening my self-limiting belief and contributing to future anticipatory fear. By reversing the adverse dialogue that I had been having with my inner critic, I eventually convinced myself that I could say that emotionally charged combination of words.

      Today, I simply pluck whatever words I wish from the extremities of my vocabulary and look forward to every speaking opportunity.

      You then posed the following question:

      “…when you decided to embrace your stutter and no longer avoid it, how did your close family and friends react? Were they happy, confused, accepting?”

      When (in 2000) I decided to adopt a policy of greater openness, as well as embarking upon a more expansive lifestyle, I spoke openly with my family and friends about what this would involve. I also took the opportunity of demonstrating my newly-acquired technique/tools (which, I utilised for a relatively short period). Although it was my assertive right to speak in whatever manner I chose, I wanted to acquaint them with developments.

      During my married life, there were occasions (albeit limited) when my wife assisted me by speaking on my behalf. If I was engaged in conversations with others, she instinctively knew when to contribute a word (or two) if she sensed that I was experiencing (or about to experience) difficulties.

      At the time, I welcomed those interventions because I did not appreciate the implications of avoidance. Over the years, she also arranged some appointments with my doctor/dentist etc and sometimes assisted with the ordering of meals in restaurants etc. It is extremely difficult for a spouse/partner/parent to stand by when a loved one is in trouble.

      When I adopted a zero-tolerance policy to avoidance, I thanked my wife for her past help, but stressed that I now needed to assume full responsibility for ALL my speaking situations.

      I felt it appropriate (and important) for me to apprise her (and others) of my wish to abandon avoidance strategies and challenge the status quo. I felt that I owed them an explanation as to why I would suddenly begin assuming roles that they may well have undertaken in the past. In the absence of an explanation, our loved ones may feel redundant, unwanted or even threatened when we `trespass’ into their previously accepted areas of responsibility (eg answering the telephone; making
      a theatre reservation etc).

      In effect, we are re-writing the rule book of the relationship(s) – we are
      adjusting practices that may have existed for many years. We are creating new ground. I have spoken to many PWS who have encountered issues in this area.

      One person incurred his wife’s displeasure when he began engaging in
      conversation with acquaintances at the end of the Sunday church service.
      Throughout their married life (due to his speech difficulties and lack of social skills), he had always remained in the background while she indulged in the weekly chit chat. Upon becoming more adventurous, he wanted to expand his comfort zones and join her. He no longer wished to be excluded.

      Another (a farmer) initially experienced opposition from his spouse when he attempted to usurp her established role of ordering the weekly animal food by telephone. Both of these `domestic conflicts’ were eventually resolved amicably.

      Meaningful communication is so essential in all walks of life. If we bring
      loved ones and friends into the equation – if we bring them on board – then they are more likely to express a desire to share (and assist) our journey. Conversely, if we choose to exclude them, we should not be surprised if they demonstrate a lack of interest, encouragement and support.

      It is important to recognise that when two people have been together for a while, they grow accustomed to (and comfortable with) each other’s mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, behaviours and general way of living. But for many PWS, becoming more assertive is an integral part of their path to expansion.

      However, this is an area in which conflict can occur. Some partners may wish to retain the status quo. They fell in love with us as we were THEN, and may feel threatened by the new person that evolves. If one partner has assumed a more dominant role, then it can certainly come as a shock to the system when the other partner suddenly acquires a more outgoing personality and spends time chatting on the telephone or Skype. 🙂

      In my case, I initially spent many hours on the Internet, as well as travelling to different parts of the world to fulfil speaking engagements. Consequently, my wife was deprived of my companionship for considerable periods.

      I feel it is extremely beneficial (if not essential) that we include our loved ones in our journey – otherwise our challenges are likely to be far more demanding. We need all the support we can get, particularly at home.

      My wife has always been so supportive and accompanied me to every support group (probably in excess of 150) that I attended between 2000 and 2005. She was always at my side.

      Successful relationships involve openness and meaningful communication between both parties. When circumstances change, there is likely to be a need for adjustment/compromise.

      Diana, I wish you every success with your current studies and future career as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  16. Alan,
    I have to start off by saying you are so inspiring to me! I loved your following comment, “Progress is achieved when we are willing to expose ourselves to uncertainty by treading the paths that generate fear.”
    Although I am not a person who stutters I have another substantial setback that keeps me from being the person I want to be. And this motivational article really has awakened me!
    You are truly inspiring thank you for sharing with us your journey of bravery turned into greatness!

    Best Regards,
    Brooke McBride

    • Hi Brooke,

      Thank you, so much, for your generous comments.

      You wrote:

      “Although I am not a person who stutters I have another substantial setback that keeps me from being the person I want to be. And this motivational article really has awakened me!”

      I’m delighted that you found my paper of value. So many people (totally unrelated to stuttering) who attend my talks tell me that (after hearing how I have overcome my adversity) they are encouraged to address issues that exist within their own lives.

      This afternoon, I had the pleasure of sharing my story with a large group of ladies here in the UK. After completing my presentation, I made a point of chatting with everyone (either individually, or in small groups) whilst sampling the refreshments on offer. 🙂

      Whilst mingling in this manner, I was approached by one member who revealed that she suffers from panic attacks and resorts to avoidance strategies as a coping mechanism. She confided that, prior to attending the event, she had made the decision to withdraw from a specific activity due to her state of anxiety. However, having heard me speak, she confided that she intended to reverse that decision and confront her fears. I find such occurrences incredibly humbling.

      Brooke – your interest and contribution are most appreciated.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  17. Hi Sarah, Lindsey, Diana and Brooke,

    Please accept my apologies for the slight delay in responding to your posts. I will rectify the situation very shortly.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  18. Hi Allen,

    I want to start by saying thank you so much for being so vulnerable and transparent! Joining this conference started off as an assignment for my graduate level fluency class but it has become so much more. I have loved reading about all the individual stories including struggles and success that people have had to share. Your article struck home with me! I believe that everything has a purpose and everyone has a purpose. That quote that you inserted “There are two great days in a person’s life- the day we are born and the day we find out why” is so powerful. You have braced your life and found a purpose in what was handed to you. I don’t know what your religious beliefs are but you wrote about so much faith and that is something that I think is so important. I am inspired by how far you have come rather than letting your struggles hold you back. In my life I have come to share so many of your perspectives but it has taken so long getting there. Things that we think are the worst thing to every happen to us may be the exact reason why we were born. I wanted to ask you specifically about your journey getting to where you are today. Who encouraged you and motivated you? As an inspiring SLP I believe that I play a large role in a client’s recovery because I get to be a motivator and an encourager for them when others may not. What kinds of things were said to you that you remember to this day that encouraged you to keep going and to keep trying?

    You are an inspiration and it was an honor to read your paper,
    -Robin

    • Hi Robin,

      Thank you for choosing to read (and comment upon) my paper. I very much appreciate your generous feedback.

      You wrote:

      “I have loved reading about all the individual stories including struggles and success that people have had to share. Your article struck home with me! I believe that everything has a purpose and everyone has a purpose.”

      As I mentioned in a response to an earlier enquiry, reading/learning about the lives of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. It can also alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware – in relation to therapies, techniques and the opportunities to experience our true potential when we are prepared to expose ourselves to uncertainty and change.

      As a result, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives (not just in relation to stuttering). We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, as well as discovering that there are exciting and fulfilling paths that we may choose to tread.

      Incidentally, someone from within the stuttering community has very kindly assembled most of my past ISAD conference papers (since 2002), poems and miscellaneous other writings into a free online book. If you are interested in reading about other aspects of my eventful journey, here is the link:

      “No Longer Lost for Words: From Stuttering to Public Speaking and Beyond”

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

      You further wrote:

      “That quote that you inserted “There are two great days in a person’s life- the day we are born and the day we find out why” is so powerful. You have braced your life and found a purpose in what was handed to you. I don’t know what your religious beliefs are but you wrote about so much faith and that is something that I think is so important. I am inspired by how far you have come rather than letting your struggles hold you back. In my life I have come to share so many of your perspectives but it has taken so long getting there. Things that we think are the worst thing to every happen to us may be the exact reason why we were born.”

      We cannot choose the cards that we are dealt in life, but we can certainly bring a considerable influence to bear upon the manner in which we play our hand. That is the approach that my parents encouraged me to adopt from a very early age. In the earlier part of my life, I didn’t always succeed in what I attempted but I was extremely proud of the expansive lifestyle that I enjoyed (in spite of my communication issues).

      Unfortunately, my mother and father passed away before I made the major breakthrough in 2000. Sadly, they never heard me speak with complete ease, nor witnessed me employ the diverse oratory skills that I regularly demonstrate when fulfilling my many public speaking engagements.

      You continued:

      “I wanted to ask you specifically about your journey getting to where you are today. Who encouraged you and motivated you? As an inspiring SLP I believe that I play a large role in a client’s recovery because I get to be a motivator and an encourager for them when others may not. What kinds of things were said to you that you remember to this day that encouraged you to keep going and to keep trying?”

      My whole life changed in 2000 when my wife suggested that I might enlist the aid of a self-help organisation. She knew that I was not living my life to the full – I was not realising my true potential. Over the years, I had experienced degrees of fluency in a controlled environment – only to have them cruelly snatched away when I returned into the outside world. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never be able to deal effectively with my stuttering issues

      Despite my scepticism, I agreed to attend a self-help workshop where I witnessed another PWS speaking about how he had successfully embraced public speaking. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that would subsequently change the course of my life. I now had evidence of what could be achieved. The rest is history – as they say. 🙂

      You may read more about this life-transforming episode in the following paper that I contributed to the 2011 ISAD Online Conference:

      “Sporting Milestone Helps To Set My Stutter On Right Track”
      https://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad15/papers/turning15/badmington15.html

      Once I began to challenge my self-limiting beliefs, and experience the thrill of venturing into uncharted waters, I never looked back. I didn’t really need any additional motivation. In the beginning, I took advantage of the excellent support network that was available within the self-help organisation but I later chose to relinquish those apron strings. I did this in order that I might strengthen my personal resolve and develop resources for independent survival.

      Robin, I wish you every success with your current studies and future employment as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  19. Hey Allen,
    I enjoyed reading your story very much. I am currently in a CSD class and really love hearing different individuals stories with their speech disorder. My question is what was your favorite/ most helpful workshop you attended? Hope all goes well with you!
    Isabelle Branstrom

    • Hi Isabelle,

      I’m delighted that you took time to read my paper and provide feedback.

      You wrote: “My question is what was your favorite/ most helpful workshop you attended?”

      Oh dear! That’s a difficult question because I have participated in so many different activities. 🙂

      Undoubtedly, public speaking has had the greatest impact – equipping me immense confidence, as well as opening so many doors on three different continents. After a lifetime of dreading the role, it is now one of my most pleasurable experiences. I find it simply exhilarating to connect with an audience – the larger the better. 🙂

      However, on reflection, I consider that EVERY workshop, seminar, course, class, session and challenge (to which I was exposed) contributed (in some way) to the fact that I was finally able to successfully resolve my life-long communication issues. I have come to view each as an important piece in my personal stuttering jigsaw puzzle. When I assembled the components that were relevant to me – everything fell into place.

      By adopting a holistic approach, and addressing various different aspects of my life, I found that my speech improved as a bi-product.

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

      Kindest regards

      Alan

      • Hi Isabelle,

        I’ve just noticed a typo in my recent response. Paragraph 4 should have read:

        “Undoubtedly, public speaking has had the greatest impact – equipping me with immense confidence, as well as opening so many doors on three different continents. After a lifetime of dreading the role, it is now one of my most pleasurable experiences. I find it simply exhilarating to connect with an audience – the larger the better. 🙂 ”

        Kindest regards

        Alan

  20. Hello Alan,

    I greatly enjoyed your article and your personal story. I was wondering how long it took from when you made your plan of action until you were comfortable speaking in public.

    • Hi Michael,

      Please accept my profuse apologies for the inordinate delay in responding to your post. For some reason, your comments were printed out-of-sequence, so I was totally unaware of your contribution (and question) until a few minutes ago. (It was posted on October 20, yet preceded comments submitted on October 2). 🙂

      You wrote:

      “I was wondering how long it took from when you made your plan of action until you were comfortable speaking in public.”

      In 2000, I decided to enlist the aid of a self-help organisation and attended one of their residential workshops. On the penultimate day, we all attended a session that has come to be known as the `Harrison Workshops’. It lasted for about two hours, during which everyone participated in group exercises based upon the public speaking disciplines contained in John Harrison’s book “Redefining Stuttering”.

      The workshop (which comprised in excess of 100 clients), was split into groups (each of 5/6 persons) scattered at various points around a large conference room. The room was awash with noise and movement, as one person from each group was required (in turn) to demonstrate the specific exercise allocated to that group. (For example -`Adding music to the voice’, `Speaking up’ (voice projection), `Letting your feelings show’, `Claiming your space’ etc).

      In effect, more than 20 persons were speaking simultaneously – it was absolutely frenetic. 🙂

      The purpose of the session was to encourage individuals to let go and
      exaggerate. When we allow this to happen, we reveal things about ourselves that we didn’t even know existed. By acting `out-of-character’, we uncover talents/attributes/skills that we may not have previously witnessed or utilized. They have lain dormant throughout our life – shackled and silenced by our self-limiting beliefs and narrow self-image.

      When the session drew to a close, the air was buzzing with excitement. I felt so energized and fulfilled, knowing that I had achieved things that I always believed lay outside my scope. During the preceding two hours, I had effectively become a different person – showing myself to the world in an entirely different light (and enjoying the way in which it was reacting to me).

      I knew my life would never be the same. I had released the
      `genie from the lamp’; I had tasted the accompanying freedom and I wanted more. 🙂

      But we don’t change our behaviours and self-concept by doing something in isolation. I knew that I had to challenge myself over and over until I become confident and comfortable in undertaking those new roles.

      The first time I discarded my inhibitions, I discovered some interesting things about myself. For example, I learned that it was OK for me to speak assertively – with emotion and increased volume. It was also acceptable to introduce pauses into my speech and `clown around’ in front of an audience.

      Although it initially felt `strange’, I soon found that I was enjoying the experience. When we expand our comfort zones, it is inevitable that we will feel uneasy. It’s confirmation that we are stepping outside our familiar areas.

      Over the years, I have participated in numerous such workshops on several different continents – demonstrating (by personal example) to others just what can be achieved. They are SUCH fun events.

      I’ve also transferred the fun element to other activities I have undertaken – acting classes, ballroom dancing, singing workshops and public speaking, as well introducing it into my everyday living. Today, such outgoing behaviour is readily accommodated within my enlarged self-image. I no longer hold back in any areas of my life.

      When I made the decision to lead a more expansive lifestyle, I joined three public speaking clubs under the umbrella of the Association of Speakers Clubs (which has its origins in Toastmasters International). I attended six meetings every four weeks –necessitating me travelling a total of 350 miles. 🙂

      The experience that I gained from regularly undertaking prepared and impromptu speeches gave me immense confidence. I began viewing myself in a more positive light and came to accept that I could successfully fulfil roles that I had previously believed lay outside my scope. Within a relatively short period of time, I felt completely at ease in front of an audience. Very soon, I entered public speaking contests (in competition with “fluent” speakers and began walking away with the silverware. 🙂

      It may not be generally appreciated that the benefits of attending an organisation such as Toastmasters (or the ASC) are wide-ranging. It’s NOT exclusively about the public speaking. Members are also afforded opportunities to chair meetings; participate in debates; and generally “think on their feet”. I found that I was able to transfer the gains and confidence (that I acquired at ASC meetings) into the outside world – thus aiding my recovery. I know that many other PWS have had similar positive experiences.

      Another important point is that regular interaction with other members allowed me to enhance my social and interpersonal skills.

      My aim has not simply been to deal with my speech issues. I wished to become self-actualized – to be doing the things that I always wanted to do. I think I’ve travelled a long way along the road to self-actualization. I’ve encountered (and overcome) many hurdles along the way, as well as passing many significant milestones. Although I feel that I’m pretty close to my destination, the real pleasure has been the experience of that eventful journey.

      Michael, I am most grateful to you for reading my paper and providing feedback. Thank you!

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  21. Hi Alan,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. It truly was a pleasure to read. I was especially pleased to read that members of your audience who were unfamiliar with stuttering prior to your speech asked questions to clarify and wanted to know how to properly react to someone who is stuttering. It seems as though people who are unfamiliar with stuttering feel uncomfortable when interacting with a PWS. They may try to finish the person’s sentence or guess what they are trying to say without allowing them to finish. I think it is so wonderful that your audience took the time to educate themselves and try to better understand the perspective of a PWS. How wonderful for you to be able to change the way people view stuttering! Though there are so many intriguing things I would love to pull from your paper and discuss, I will limit myself to one question. Are all your speeches geared towards educating and informing people about stuttering, or have you branched into other areas of your own personal interest? I’m curious about whether the audience asks questions about stuttering because it relates directly to your topic or if it is a result of a first time interaction with a PWS who is clearly so confident in himself, so they feel comfortable asking you questions. Public speaking is a great fear for many people, even those who do not stutter. For you to not only overcome that, but thoroughly enjoy doing it, is quite the feat. You truly are an inspiration and I would love to be an audience member for one of your talks one day. Thanks again for your candor.
    Best,
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for choosing to read my paper. I very much appreciate you taking the time to contribute to the discussion.

      You wrote:

      “I was especially pleased to read that members of your audience who were unfamiliar with stuttering prior to your speech asked questions to clarify and wanted to know how to properly react to someone who is stuttering. It seems as though people who are unfamiliar with stuttering feel uncomfortable when interacting with a PWS. They may try to finish the person’s sentence or guess what they are trying to say without allowing them to finish. I think it is so wonderful that your audience took the time to educate themselves and try to better understand the perspective of a PWS.”

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

      15 years ago, I decided to do something about it. I felt strongly that it was time I accepted greater responsibility for acquainting other people with what it is like to be a person who stutters. Who better to explain the implications than those of us who have experienced (or are experiencing) such issues? As someone who had stuttered since early childhood (sometimes severely), I reasoned that I was suitably qualified to contribute to the cause. 🙂

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

      Those who do not feel ready to explore the uncharted waters alone may gain confidence if accompanied a relative, a friend, a member of the speech-language profession – or maybe another person who stutters?

      In addition to addressing community groups, I have spoken about stuttering on TV/radio and in everyday life situations. I have also generated articles in newspapers/magazines and delivered presentations at events staged by the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and several national stuttering organisations.

      In addition, being invited to address student SLPs (at several American universities) has been particularly heartening. Interaction with the speech-language profession is to our mutual benefit. It is my understanding that most establishments now incorporate these sessions as an integral part of their training programmes. Persons who stutter need to make their voices heard.

      It is unreasonable to expect national stuttering bodies to assume sole responsibility for apprising others of the issues faced by PWS. We, too, can play a hugely important part in educating the public.

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

      You enquired:

      “Are all your speeches geared towards educating and informing people about stuttering, or have you branched into other areas of your own personal interest? I’m curious about whether the audience asks questions about stuttering because it relates directly to your topic or if it is a result of a first time interaction with a PWS who is clearly so confident in himself, so they feel comfortable asking you questions.”

      In the beginning, I spoke exclusively about stuttering but, as time progressed, I have found it necessary to create additional talks to accommodate the numerous follow-up requests that I receive from the respective organisations. Over the years, I have developed an extensive repertoire that embraces subjects totally unrelated to stuttering. All have one thing in common – they contain a sizeable ingredient of humour. 🙂

      As a matter of interest, I have also shared my life story with stroke victims, as well as those affected by cancer, brain damage, Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss. I find such interaction both humbling and rewarding – I never fail to be moved by the courage that they display. Meeting such individuals has caused me to view my own stuttering (and life, in general) in an entirely different perspective.

      I’ve recently been approached with a view to talking to patients at a hospice for persons with life-limiting or terminal illnesses The purpose of the exercise is to enhance the patients’ existence and make it a positive experience. That promises to be an incredible challenge!

      Public speaking is now an enjoyable and integral part of my life. I have discovered that connecting with an audience must surely be one of life’s most pleasurable experiences. 🙂

      You further wrote:

      “Public speaking is a great fear for many people, even those who do not stutter. For you to not only overcome that, but thoroughly enjoy doing it, is quite the feat.”

      I feel it would be extremely useful for PWS to understand that fear of public speaking is NOT the sole prerogative of persons who stutter.

      Several years ago, I hosted a charity concert, which involved introducing a wide variety of different musical acts during the course of an evening. As the event drew to a close, the President of the organising body (an outwardly confident and fluent individual) pleaded with me to give the concluding vote of thanks on her behalf. She was petrified of speaking before the 200-300 audience. How ironic, bearing in mind my lifetime history of stuttering. 🙂

      In advance of every public speaking engagement, I furnish the organisers with some biographical details in order to facilitate my formal introduction. The typed notice is generally read out by the Chair (or President) immediately prior to the commencement of my talk.

      Whilst most are content to make the announcement, some do everything possible to “wriggle out” of undertaking that task. Despite the fact that they hold the principal office in the respective organization (generally for one year), several have openly admitted that they lack confidence (and feel uncomfortable) when they are exposed to the public gaze. They strongly dislike being the centre of attention. I should add that all are “fluent” speakers.

      You concluded:

      “I would love to be an audience member for one of your talks one day.”

      I, too, hope that our paths will cross on some future occasion. In the event of that occurring, please make yourself known to me. 🙂

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  22. Hi Alan,

    I really enjoyed reading your personal story and journey with stuttering. I have a friend that acquired a stutter after a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan a few years back. He went to the VA to see if he could receive some type of speech therapy. They prescribed him medication and sent him away. He is often “embarrassed” and “ashamed” (in his own words) and mainly uses avoidance strategies. I am going to forward your story to him to show him that it’s never too late. Thank you for your story and if you have any recommendations, please let me know!

    -Amy

    • Hi Amy,

      I am delighted that you enjoyed my paper. Thank you, so much, for providing feedback.

      It’s heartening to learn of your interest in your friend’s well-being. It must have been devastating for him to have sustained such injuries.

      As you will appreciate, I’m not qualified to offer professional advice. However, please feel free to share my paper with him, despite the fact that our life histories appear to be widely contrasting. There may also be other papers in this year’s ISAD Online Conference (and past conferences) that he might find of value.

      Has he considered joining one (or more) of the international stuttering related groups? I derived considerable benefit from membership of such forums.

      Reading/learning about the lives of other PWS can provide an interesting insight into how they deal (or have dealt) with their respective difficulties, as well as offering reciprocal inspiration. They can also alert us to possibilities of which we were previously unaware – in relation to therapies, techniques and the opportunities to experience our true potential when we are prepared to expose ourselves to uncertainty and change.

      As a result, many of us now possess a far greater understanding of the issues that shape our lives. We are also better informed about how we (and others) react to the diverse challenges that confront us, as well as discovering that there are exciting and fulfilling paths that we may choose to tread. But, perhaps, most importantly, we know that we need never again experience the isolation of walking alone.

      Since embarking upon a more expansive lifestyle, I have written numerous articles/poems about my experiences. They describe, in considerable detail, the diverse paths that I have trodden (and aspects that I have addressed) whilst successfully coming to terms with my lifelong communication issues.

      Someone from within the stuttering community has very kindly assembled the majority of the items into a free online book. If you are interested, here is the relevant link:

      “No Longer Lost for Words: From Stuttering to Public Speaking and Beyond”

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

      The following paper is not included and will need to be accessed separately:

      “Letting go of my inhibitions to lead a more expansive life”

      http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2014/papers-presented-by/pws-speak-for-themselves/letting-go-of-my-inhibitions-to-lead-a-more-expansive-life/

      And, finally, has your friend considered seeking further professional advice?

      Amy, I wish you both every success.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  23. Hi Alan,
    To put it simply, your writing was amazing. Your words were so inspiring. I am currently a graduate student studying speech pathology. I love the field that I am in.

    I enjoyed the story you shared that truly explained how we are never too old to do something we love or to achieve our dream. I think this mindset is important to have in all aspects of life. I wish everyone could see that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

    Also, I enjoyed the part where you explained the person who inspired you. It is important to remember that you never know how much of an impact you can make on a persons life. I feel that with this writing you will have had the same inspiration and positive influence on many people.

    Your writing was beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
    Haley

    • Hi Haley,

      I was truly moved by your generous response to my paper. It was so kind of you to write in such a vein.

      You wrote:

      “To put it simply, your writing was amazing. Your words were so inspiring.”

      Thank you! My struggles with the spoken word encouraged me to cultivate useful writing skills. In many instances, transferring my thoughts to paper was the only effective way in which I could meaningfully express myself. The written option allowed me to communicate exactly what I wanted to say. I could select words without the usual anticipatory fear associated with stuttering.

      My past oral exchanges were littered with words that I considered to be inferior or, in some cases, totally inappropriate. I succumbed to mediocrity simply because I did not want the listener to see/hear me stutter.

      So, ironically, my writing skills and vocabulary have been influenced and enhanced considerably by the experiences that I encountered during my life – particularly the extensive and habitual word substitution to which I once resorted. Although my vocal struggles created considerable anguish over the years, I acknowledge that I have cause to be grateful to my stutter for ensuring that I am now never lost for words. 🙂

      You then wrote:

      “I enjoyed the part where you explained the person who inspired you. It is important to remember that you never know how much of an impact you can make on a person’s life. I feel that with this writing you will have had the same inspiration and positive influence on many people.”

      My chance encounter with the PWS who had successfully embraced public speaking was so fortuitous. He opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have imagined. In effect, he became my role model, providing me with evidence of what could be achieved. I developed a burning desire to follow in his footsteps and live a more expansive lifestyle. The rest is history, as they say. 🙂

      If we retain the status quo, then nothing different is ever likely to happen. Our future will simply be a re-run of the past. The realization that I could reappraise (and adjust) my limiting beliefs was hugely empowering and a cornerstone of the advances that I have made during recent times.

      However, it should be clearly understood that not everyone who stutters has a desire to change. That is their prerogative – their views must be respected.

      And finally, you may find the following poem of interest. Often attributed to the poet and thinker, Leo Buscaglia, there are also claims that the real author of this inspirational verse is Janet Rand:

      “ RISKS

      To laugh is to risk appearing the fool,
      To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
      To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
      To expose your feelings is to risk showing your true self.
      To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
      To love is to risk not being loved in return,
      To live is to risk dying,
      To hope is to risk despair,
      To try is to risk failure

      But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
      The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing.
      He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.
      Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom.
      Only the person who risks is truly free.”

      Haley, thank you, once again for the positive sentiments you expressed. I wish you every success with your current studies and future career as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  24. Hey Alan,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and one theme that I feel in love with, was the positivity. As a graduate student studying Communication Sciences and Disorders, I am enrolled in Fluency and Voice Disorders, and that class focuses on intervention techniques, but most importantly positivity that needs to be shed to clients in order for them to succeed. Positivity in general during intervention, but just like yourself, pointing out what clients can do and grow from their strengths, instead of focusing on what they think they cannot do. Another aspect that correlates back to what I am learning is how to push clients past their comfort zones. I realize that there is a fine line in doing this because you do not want to push so much that they lose confidence, but at the same time it is needed to achieve success. How, do you think, SLPs should determine what is too much or too little pushing of clients? Also, how have you encouraged PWS to look at the positives in their lives? Again, thanks for sharing your story, and like you said, I hope other individuals will be encouraged by your story to succeed!

    -Amber

    • Hi Amber,

      I very much appreciate you reading my paper and providing feedback.

      You wrote:

      “I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and one theme that I fell in love with, was the positivity.”

      The successes that I enjoyed created the expectation of further positive outcomes – thus giving me the confidence to continue with my more expansive lifestyle. As time progressed, I sensed (and acquired evidence) that my previously restrictive self-image was losing its influence.

      Instead of my inner critic attempting to persuade me from undertaking certain tasks, my self-talk became far more encouraging and supportive. The voice in my head (that had always warned me about the implications of addressing an audience, for example) began to express the view that it was possible for me to challenge myself in that manner.

      You then wrote:

      “Another aspect that correlates back to what I am learning is how to push clients past their comfort zones. I realize that there is a fine line in doing this because you do not want to push so much that they lose confidence, but at the same time it is needed to achieve success. How, do you think, SLPs should determine what is too much or too little pushing of clients?”

      In my opinion, clients will only expand their comfort zones when they are ready – although they are more likely to do so with encouragement. I derived immense benefit from membership of a self-help organisation, where I enjoyed the group camaraderie and found support in abundance.

      I would respectfully suggest that you start clients off slowly, by setting them relatively easy and attainable targets. More difficult challenges can be introduced progressively. I found that each time I achieved something new, my confidence grew. With every success, I sought out something more daring. Of course there will be setbacks – but I chose to view such occurrences as stepping stones to future success (and NOT failures).

      Personally, I believe that expanding comfort zones should be an ongoing process in everyone’s lives, not just for PWS. There is a tendency to stagnate when we do the same things over and over and remain in familiar surroundings. We need change, particularly if our existing behaviours are not serving us well. I have often wondered why the principle of expanding our comfort zones does not form part of the school curriculum. I have (belatedly) realised that it is an important life skill – essential for personal growth and development.

      My life has become so much more enriched now that I am doing the things I previously considered lay outside my scope. I truly believe that virtually anything is possible, if you have the determination to expand.

      Expanding one’s comfort zones occurs when persons challenge themselves by moving into unfamiliar environments/surroundings. In the case of a PWS, it generally involves doing things that he/she would usually avoid. Irrespective of the nature of the therapy being suggested by an SLP, PWS still need to face their fears in order to challenge the limiting beliefs they have developed in the lives.

      It is not uncommon for techniques etc to be successful in a controlled environment (eg the clinician’s office or a course setting). However, the fears still remain when the PWS returns into the outside world. Overcoming these engrained fears is generally a gradual process – it is unlikely to occur overnight.

      I think it is important that SLPs should explain to their clients why they are being asked to perform specific tasks. When I acquired an understanding that avoidance was fuelling my stutter, I introduced a zero-tolerance policy towards all such strategies. When I learned about the value of expanding my comfort zones, it motivated me to embark upon a lifestyle that routinely placed me in challenging situations.

      You may wish to check out the following paper that I contributed to the 2003 ISAD Online Conference. It outlines (in considerable detail) the many and varied paths that I trod when venturing outside my own safe areas.

      “STEP OUTSIDE: Why expanding comfort zones can improve our stuttering and lead to more fulfilling lives”
      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/badmington6.html

      I was heartened that several SLPs/SLP students subsequently wrote to me to confide that they intended to utilize the contents/principles (contained in the paper) to overcome their tendency to hold back and avoid confronting challenges within their own lives.

      You then wrote:

      “…how have you encouraged PWS to look at the positives in their lives?”

      The thoughts that occupy our minds prior to engaging in a speaking situation are hugely significant. What we believe about ourselves, as well as the manner in which we perceive the environment that we are entering (or the persons with whom we are due to come into contact) will, undoubtedly, influence our approach and expectations. In addition, it will almost certainly have a considerable impact upon the outcome. If we anticipate a negative scenario, we prepare ourselves for that eventuality. But when we believe that things are possible, they are more likely to occur.

      If things didn’t go according to plan, I found it helpful to focus on the positive, rather than dwell upon the negative.

      For example, if I struggled when ordering a cappuccino, I gave prominence to the fact that I had purposely chosen to challenge myself by saying a word commencing with the ‘dreaded’ letter “C”.

      If I experienced difficulty when reserving a theatre ticket, I took heart from the fact that I had chosen to order by telephone, rather than taking the easier option of booking online.

      If I stumbled while purchasing petrol (gas), I focused on the fact that I had deliberately chosen to pay (in person) at the filling station kiosk, as opposed to using my debit card at the pump. To add to the challenge, I also commenced a practice of selecting a pump with a number that held an emotional charge (namely one which I would generally avoid). 🙂

      During the past 16 years, I have never failed to find a positive (however small) in every speaking situation, regardless of the outcome. It’s simply a question of looking for it and reframing the circumstances. But, let me quickly stress that it’s not a case of denial. I accepted that the struggles had occurred but recognised the futility of dwelling upon those memories. I knew that every time I re-thought such a thought, I fuelled my fears.

      By accentuating the positive (and discounting the negative), my recollections (and impact) of the latter decreased. That strategy was appropriate to MY personal circumstances at that time in my life. It enabled me to successfully achieve the specific goals that I had set myself. But, of course, every PWS is unique. What works for one may not be suitable for another.

      Amber, I wish you every success with your studies and future employment as an SLP.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  25. Hello Alan,
    I found your story to be beautiful and inspiring. I whole heartedly agree that no one can be too old to make changes, especially if those changes result in improved quality of life and as you said, “a more authentic existence”. I am a big believer in the idea that thoughts breed emotions. As such, positive feelings toward one’s self and their surroundings yield positive emotion. This positivity in turn, has the potential to open so many possibilities as you have demonstrated. However, it is not always as easy as it sounds. It takes courage and determination, two qualities you have demonstrated in your story. As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, I learned in my Fluency class that a negative self-view and self-doubt can worsen stuttering, or more specifically, the tension behind stuttering. From reading some of the stories shared by people who stutter, it would appear that this does in fact make a difference for many. I am so glad that you were able to dispute that limiting self-view and took action to stop your stutter, not from happening, but from holding you back. I think you are an excellent role model not only to PWS, but to anyone letting fears or challenges dictate their life’s choices.
    Thank you and best wishes,
    Marissa

    • Hi Marissa,

      It was kind of you to write in such a positive and generous vein. Your comments were greatly appreciated.

      You wrote:

      “… I am a big believer in the idea that thoughts breed emotions. As such, positive feelings toward one’s self and their surroundings yield positive emotion. This positivity in turn, has the potential to open so many possibilities as you have demonstrated.”

      You further wrote:

      “As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, I learned in my Fluency class that a negative self-view and self-doubt can worsen stuttering, or more specifically, the tension behind stuttering. From reading some of the stories shared by people who stutter, it would appear that this does in fact make a difference for many.”

      The thoughts that occupy our minds prior to engaging in a speaking situation are hugely significant. What we believe about ourselves, as well as the manner in which we perceive the environment that we are entering (or the persons with whom we are due to come into contact) will, undoubtedly, influence our approach and expectations. In addition, it will almost certainly have a considerable impact upon the outcome.

      Our minds are extremely responsive to the thoughts we generate within. This inner conversation is a constant feature of life and usually takes place outside our conscious awareness. Negative chatter is the foundation upon which self-doubts are built and can be hugely detrimental to one’s confidence.

      When I learned about the harmful effects of negative self-talk, I decided to monitor how I spoke to myself. If I detected that I was saying something potentially damaging, I immediately amended the wording. Intervening in this manner has proved to be so effective. As my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different. We don’t change anything by retaining the status quo.

      In order to address such unhelpful behaviour, we first need to CONSCIOUSLY focus upon our self-talk. When we observe what we say, it enables us to identify the adverse comments that we are transmitting. Only then can we reframe (and defuse) the destructive messages that we are conveying.

      Many people fail to appreciate that we do not need to retain the thoughts that are swirling around in our heads. If they are unhelpful, or inappropriate, why hold onto them? Re-running negative images and thoughts only serves to strengthen our fears and self-doubt – while also fuelling anxiety. When we harbour unwanted thoughts it is because we (and we alone) choose to do so. Learned behaviours can be unlearned.

      The principal message I’m attempting to convey is that our thoughts, effectively, run our lives. When they are positive and empowering, they correspondingly shape our actions and behaviours. But when they are negative and disempowering, they can be so detrimental. Unless we take charge of our thoughts, they will invariably take charge of us.

      For so many years, negative thoughts impacted immensely upon my behaviours and speech. Today, I have progressed to a place where the memories of negative past experiences cease to have any influence upon how I behave and speak. They have been superseded by the numerous (and continuing) positive experiences to which I have been exposed during the past 16 years. – thereby creating a supremely confident and empowering mindset.

      Marissa, thank you, once again, for your interest. I wish you every success with your current studies and future career as a speech-language pathologist.

      Kindest regards

      Alan

  26. Mr. Badmington,

    Thank you for sharing! I think many people begin putting restrictions on themselves and the lives they want to lead at a very early age, both for PWS and people without stutter. Your phrasing of “self-imposed boundaries” comes to mind. Often we think that if we were not groomed for something in grade school, such as playing an instrument, learning a certain subject, or even public speaking, then the “ship will sail” without us. I often ask myself, “Why?” when my inner voice begins to tell me I’m too old for something or it’s too difficult of a task. Consciously changing one’s mindset is essential to “being the person we’ve always wanted to be.” Well put. 🙂

  27. Hi Jonalee,

    I’m delighted that you chose to read my paper and grateful for your relevant comments.

    Incidentally, please feel free to address me as “Alan” – “Mr Badmington” makes me feel quite old. 🙂

    Many of us hold beliefs that are based upon inaccurate or irrational information. Even though they may not be true – because we accept them as authentic, they have a direct bearing upon the way in which we think and behave. Our screening process filters out information that is inconsistent with our innermost beliefs.

    What we believe about ourselves shapes the way in which we view the world. It influences our educational and employment paths; it determines our relationships and social interaction. But, most importantly, when we believe that we cannot do something, then it’s almost certain that we will not do (or even attempt) it.

    If, for example, we tell ourselves that we cannot speak in front of an audience, it helps us to behave in a way that supports that statement. We may decline invitations/opportunities or (when avoidance is not an option) become so stressed that our performance is adversely affected, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    If we believe that we will encounter difficulties while ordering a beer (or meal), then we may allow others to make the purchase on our behalf. If we convince ourselves that we will struggle to say a particular word, we will probably substitute it with another. If we think of ourselves as inept in a particular area, and continuously reinforce that view with negative language, we will act out that viewpoint and substantiate our belief.

    Our minds are extremely responsive to the thoughts that we generate within. This inner conversation is a constant feature of life and usually takes place outside our conscious awareness. Negative chatter is the foundation upon which self-doubts are built and can be hugely detrimental to one’s confidence.

    When I learned about the harmful effects of negative self-talk, I decided to monitor how I spoke to myself. If I detected that I was saying something potentially damaging, I immediately amended the wording. Intervening in this manner has proved to be so effective. As my past behaviours were not serving me well, I knew that I had to do something different.

    We perform at a level that is consistent with our beliefs and not our potential. Once I began to challenge my self-limiting beliefs, and experience the thrill of venturing into uncharted waters, I never looked back.

    Jonealee, thank you for taking the time to participate in the threaded discussion. Your interest is very much appreciated. I wish you every success with your own journey through life.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  28. FINAL COMMENT

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

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

    As I will not have Internet access during the next few days, I very much regret that this will be my FINAL post in 2016. Please note that I will NOT be able to respond to anyone who contributes after this comment.

    Thank you, once again.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  29. Mr. Badmington, I love your idea of making the expansion of one’s comfort zone into a game. I think that it would make working on expanding a child’s horizons much more fun and even a little comforting.

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words. I am a middle-aged person myself setting out on my own adventure in expanding my comfort zone. It is reassuring to hear from a fellow adventurer who has succeeded and come back to tell the tale. I love that you have used your own story to inspire and inform.

    Sincerely,
    Julie Spencer

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you for your post – of which I have only belatedly become aware. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

      I’m heartened that you found my paper of interest and delighted that you have also chosen to follow an expansive path through life.

      I wish you every success with your journey.

      Kindest regards

      Alan