How my Stammer became my Success (Abed Ahmed)

About the Author:Β My name is Abed Ahmed and I’m a 23 year old secondary school maths teacher who stammers!

Stammering since the age of 4 has been a challenge in various stages of my life and the transition from primary to secondary school was not an easy move. The fact that there were many pupils in secondary school was a daunting concept; because it meant that I was more likely to be bullied about my stammer. I was often teased about my stammer which at times made me feel angry towards myself and that somehow I was at fault. My parents used to tell me to calm down and speak slowly but they never seemed to quite understand. Why would they? Not many people are aware of what a stammer is.

My journey through secondary school was not as difficult as other individuals who stammer have reported. I was lucky enough to have a supportive network of friends, coupled with the quality of confidence I gained whilst studying GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Drama at school, which I believe is an integral trait to have when it comes to your stammer. Fast forward to the age of 18 (when one naturally becomes more conscious about appearance and self-aware) whilst I was at sixth form, I finally decided to seek help from the NHS (National Health Service) regarding my stammer. After signing up, I gave up waiting for a call until they got back to me almost a year later. I received a phone call for my first therapy session and in retrospect, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was the first time in 18 years that I was finally able to open up to someone about my stammer. Not once did my friends, family or school ask me about it, nor did I ever bring the topic up, solely out of embarrassment. Therapy helped me realise that, the quicker you accept your stammer, the quicker you can move on. And that’s exactly what I did. I stopped caring.

Three years later, I completed my degree and became a secondary school maths teacher back at the school I attended as a young student. Teaching is a profession that requires you to speak 99% of the time. I was told by an ex-teacher that I wouldn’t be able to become a teacher because of my stammer and I believed it. However, I persevered and ensured I would overcome any obstacle; motivation which was reared by self-confidence, a quality which sadly not everyone possesses, especially at the younger pinnacle stages of life.

As a teacher, I decided to set up my own Stammer Support Sessions at my school. I worked with groups of stammering pupils aged between 11 and 16, focusing on improving their confidence and helping them to achieve a greater degree of fluency in their speech. I was able to assist in their development by conducting a variety of sessions; drama and theatrical role play, interview practice and tips, advice on how to approach people, and overall, by acting as a general supporting figure to give students a voice and empathise with their struggles. These hourly sessions were run once every fortnight since September 2016. I believe I was a role model to these pupils as I, myself, have a stammer and thus can relate on how difficult it can be dealing with stammering on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately I piloted these sessions because I aim to give all pupils a voice; it is integral that all students of all abilities have a positive mind-set and the confidence that is needed to achieve their goals despite having a stammer. The impact of such sessions on their personal development and confidence has been colossal. Pupils have flourished in character as a result of these sessions and it has been a gratifying experience, particularly as I myself, can relate to their struggles. As a pupil, I felt isolated and nervous as I was not given the support I needed throughout the vital years of development. These pupils now have access to means of support at an outstanding establishment.

So, what next?

I am going to be leading on more projects in the upcoming academic year at my school. I want to raise more awareness amongst the staff in school and want to help pupils further their confidence in speech and language. I will be doing this by publishing a stammering awareness video which I have created with my pupils. This video will be shown to the staff at my school and will be published publicly for the wider world. I aim to develop these projects into something substantial, so if you wish to collaborate, please get in contact with me.

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Comments

How my Stammer became my Success (Abed Ahmed) — 31 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! I am a graduate student in Speech Language Pathology and in my experience working with people who stutter, many of them have described their stutter as being a source of strength and motivation to go above and beyond in other aspects of their life. In my program, we focus on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach to stuttering intervention. I love when you said, “Therapy helped me realise that, the quicker you accept your stammer, the quicker you can move on.” This is exactly what ACT is all about! Keep up the good work and best of luck to you in all your endeavors!

    • Yes! ACT sounds amazing! Would love to learn more about it too 😊 do you have an email or Twitter so I can message you? If you have a Twitter, please follow me on @stammer_teacher

      Thanks!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your story, as it is so uplifting. It is great to hear an instance where someone created something positive out of something that was initially a struggle. I find it incredible that building confidence can potentially make a huge a difference for those who stutter. I admire the efforts you have put forth to be a role model and support system for kids who stutter.

    • Thank you for your kind words Emily! I’m glad you enjoyed reading the article. I think building confidence is the most crucial thing when it comes to accepting/overcoming your stammer

  3. Thank you for sharing your insights and story. I liked you were able to cognitively reframe your struggles to a positive outlook. And giving children a chance to change their outlook on their stuttering. Look forward to reading more about your adventure/journey.

    always
    Michael

  4. Your story is inspirational to me as a Speech Language Pathology student who may work with people who stammer in the future. I believe that because of your history with stammering and how it influenced your life, you have a much deeper understanding of what the students are going through. Many times finding someone that truly understands what you are going through is the biggest emotional breakthrough someone can have. Once that breakthrough has been achieved, inevitably success tends to follow. I applaud you on your efforts and determination to bring success to your students.

    • Thank you for such kind words Becky! I still remember when I met a year 8 boy who stammers and he told one of his teachers that he hasn’t met anyone the stammers! His teacher told me and I went to find him to speak to him and he was shocked to meet me!!

  5. Your story is truly an inspiration of how perspective can change someone’s life. While I find it heartbreaking that an educator tried to diminish your dream of becoming a teacher because of a stammer, I am thrilled to hear that you pushed through and followed your heart. Like you said, a positive outlook can change the way one thinks about themselves, and in that time you realize that your stammer is a part of you, but it certainly does not define you. I am happy that you had such a positive experience with your speech therapy, and as a graduate student myself I look forward to helping people find the positives! Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others to keep following their dreams!

    • Hey madischantz, thank you for your kind words! It really does mean a lot to me and my pupils! I really hope that educator was just having a bad day and he really did seem like he was fed up of his job so lets hope he really didn’t mean it. I really hope you enjoy the rest of your studies and whatever you do in the future! If you ever want to come to any of my sessions, feel free!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story! You are truly an inspiration. I think it is great that you have learned how to overcome you stammer and not let it take over your life. I am glad you had such a positive experience with speech therapy. I am studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, and I hope that I am able to make the kind of positive impact on the lives of my future clients as you have had on the pupils you work with. You are such a great role model and your story has the ability to change the lives of not only of people who stutter, but anyone. I am glad that you did not let your stammer stop you from achieving your goal of becoming a teacher! I also love that you are raising awareness for stammering among your co-workers. I believe that openly talking about stuttering and raising awareness is one of the best things we can do to affect change.

    • Hi Margot, it’s my pleasure sharing my story and my pupil’s stories! I think all therapists make a difference! Just you listening is you helping to make a huge difference. You’re absolutely correct, talking about it more just makes it all seem okay!

  7. I really enjoyed learning more about your students’ lives, including their struggles and plans for the future. I was also glad to see that you included yourself in the video because that shows you support your students and are willing to share your own story alongside them. The younger generations are the future and so you are doing a good job in helping them develop a positive outlook on life so that they may help themselves and others. I was so inspired by their stories and how stuttering affected them differently, yet they still smiled brightly and exuded hope and prosperity. You are all an inspiration to people who stutter and to anyone in general who has a goal they want to accomplish. I am a graduate student and I will keep your stories in mind when things get challenging. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Hey Canadina, your comment really moved me and I will definitely show my pupils these comments. Yes, stammering affects us all in different ways, some more than others, I think as long as we all have someone to talk to, then things will certainly get better. I really hope you enjoy the rest of your studies and glad that you will always remember my story when things get challenging and thank you for reading my story! πŸ™‚

  8. Abed,

    Wow! Your story and video were truly inspirational. It’s remarkable that you have become a role model for younger children who stutter and are able to share your story to help them preserver through any obstacle they may encounter. What you are doing is so important and I am in awe of your work. Teaching them interviewing tips and tricks as well as how to approach people is so significant.
    I am a graduate student at Appalachian State University studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist and am also a person who stutters. Much of your story resonates with me, especially when you discuss your early schooling experiences. As I do not have much practice in the therapy setting with children who stutter, I was hoping you could guide me in ways to become an effective ally to them? Thank you for sharing your story!

    Eliza

    • Hey Eliza, your response was lovely and really meant a lot to me! I am so glad you find the story and video inspirational! The kids inspire me! Teaching them important skills now will hopefully make life easier for them when they grow older. I am in awe that my story is reaching people in North Carolina. I really hope you enjoy the rest of your studies and I respect you for doing a job that helps others! I think you personally will be AN AMAZING therapist as you said, you’re a stammerer too! You’re already an expert in my eyes and can relate to young stammerers better than non-stammering therapists! Biggest advice is, be understanding and I think you will ace that due to your own experiences! If you need any other advice, you can follow me on twitter @stammer_teacher

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. It is amazing to hear about how individuals such as yourself struggled almost their whole lives and can grow up to be a successful individual like yourself. I am a graduate student studying Speech Language Pathology and I am currently taking a Disorders of Fluency class. I just have a questionf for you. I notice you said you started going to therapy once you were a teenager and not once did anyone ever recommend it earlier in life, but did you receive speech and language therapy at any point? Also, the students in your stuttering group in the school you teach in, do any of them receive speech and language therapy?
    Thanks!

    • Hey jsperanza , thank you for reading my story! I did not receive any therapy until I self referred myself at the age of 18/19. I wish I was referred when i was younger but no one ever spoke to me about it! and Yes, my school have an external speech and language therapist who comes in once a week to help the pupils! πŸ™‚

  10. Your story was absolutely amazing! I am a graduate student in Speech Language Pathology. Before, I never really thought much about specializing in fluency. However, with everything that I have read and continue to learn about, I can start to see how this might be a path I travel down. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hey tbates13, thanks for reading my story! I am so glad that you may possibly go down the route of helping stammerers. We need people like you! I genuinely hope and wish all the best for your future as a therapist! πŸ™‚

  11. Thank you so much for telling your story! I feel like a lot of people who stutter, who had friends, can relate to you not discussing your stutter with them. I also loved your outlook on accepting your stutter and not caring about what other people think about you. It sounds like you are already implementing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach to your sessions with the kids at school. This is a great approach focusing on accepting your stutter. I was recently a student SLP at an intensive clinic that used ACT approach and saw amazing transformation of acceptance! It was suggested to read the book β€œThe Happiness Trap”, which I think you would really enjoy! You should look into it!

    • Hi Kayla, thanks for reading my story! Yes, i definitely agree with ACT and believe that’s the way forward!! I also respect that you’re in a professional that helps and change lives. I will certainly look into that book! Do you know any that maybe children friendly? (for my stammering superstar pupils).

  12. Thank you for sharing your story with us! As a first year graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, I have had limited experience with stuttering thus far in my career. While I have attended classes with individuals who stutter, I was never truly aware of the effects it has on the person and their lifestyle. I believe we all can learn from those who stutter and gain insight into their daily lives. The fact that educators discouraged you from chasing your dreams breaks my heart into pieces. We need to build up all students, especially those who are lacking the confidence needed to be successful. I have no doubt you are touching the lives of all you meet!

    • Hi Ashley, it was my pleasure sharing mine and my pupil’s stories! Yes, there’s definitely more to stammering that other may not see, so many mental thoughts and anxiety contribute to stammering. It was sad when I heard an educator tell me that I couldn’t do it, maybe they were having a bad day? They did seem like they were fed up of the job so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. I hope you enjoy the rest of your studies and seriously, i respect those who go into professions that help and change lives! Good luck πŸ™‚

  13. I really enjoyed reading your personal story and watching the awareness video you posted as well. I think it’s awesome that you overcame the fears you may have had associated with your stammer and followed your dream to become a teacher. I would imagine that being in a profession in which you have to speak in front of others so frequently could be intimidating at times! Furthermore, your dedication to others who stammer and helping bring awareness the cause in schools is amazing! I think that the more people learn about it and understand it, the less the public will feel uncomfortable around stammering and hopefully that can be a step into society making people who stammer not feel so intimidated by their speech. I am currently a first-year graduate student in a speech-language pathology program and I know that the first time I was truly introduced to the topic of stammering was when I had my undergraduate fluency course. I hope it becomes a topic that more people are introduced to earlier in their lives!

    • I’m glad you loved it! It was daunting at first speaking in front of 30 kids but you get used to it and I absolutely love it! Wouldn’t do any other job 😊 I totally agree that if we all educate at least one person about stammering then we will hopefully one day have a world that understand shuttering πŸ˜‰

  14. Thank you for sharing your story!! I am sure you are such an inspiration to the children who have attended your Stammer Support Sessions. I am a future SLP and have attended several discussions in which persons who stammer say that they wish they had met someone else who stammered when they were in primary and secondary school.
    Your video was very wonderful! It is so important to educate others on stammering. I think educating others will really make an impact on stammering stigmas.

    • You’ve chosen a lovely career Sam. You will make a difference in someone’s life. They will be lucky to have you! Life in my school years would have been better if I met a stammerer! I wish I knew one. You’re correct, educating people about stammering will only help the world to understand stammering 😊 as you’re a future SLP, you should join twitter and there is a massive NETWORK of SLPs and people who are interested in speech and language 😊

  15. Hi Abed,

    Your story was very inspirational. I was surprised to hear that you did not receive help for your stammering until you were 18. How do you think your childhood would have been different if you received those services earlier?

    I also enjoyed hearing that you accomplished your goals, even when others doubted you. My best friend has a hearing loss and was told by multiple teachers that she would never make it to college because of her disability. She is currently a graduate student. It pains me to hear that there are teachers out there that will tell a child they cannot reach their dreams. I hope that your advocacy will continue to change the lives of your students, but also educate others in the process.

    Thank you for your story.

    Julia

    • Hi Julia, thank you for reading my story 😊 I always did think how I was never supported. Maybe I was just a really nice kid so teachers never had to speak to me much! If I did get therapy from a young age, I do wonder how things would have planned out hmm. I genuinely do not know. Thankfully I was a very confident and positive person so I just dealt with everyone on my own. Also, so happy for your friend. Just shows, we can all accomplish anything! And maybe that teacher who said that was haven’t a bad day, who knows but I didn’t let it get to me and just knew I had to do what I had to do to become a teacher and thankfully I did! I hope to educate the world one day about stammering 😁😁

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