The Gift of a Stutter (Derek Mitchell)

mitchellAbout the author: Derek Mitchell is a 35 year old native of Atlanta Georgia in the United States.  He has had a stutter since the age of approximately 8 years old, but he’s not the only one in his family. His father, an interior designer, and his uncle, a developer for IBM, both had their struggles with a stutter.  Derek has also achieved a good measure of success in spite of, and in cases as a result of, having a stutter, including attaining an MBA in international business and a project management position with ABB.  However, Derek’s involvement with the National Stuttering Association and Toastmasters has had the most impact on his life, confidence and outlook on his struggles with stuttering.  Derek is now focused on building a career as an author and motivational speaker to use his experiences to inspire others to overcome fear and reach for their goals.

Introduction to paper and explanation of alignment with theme 

The title of my paper is The Gift of a Stutter.  Each component of the theme Stuttering Pride, Respect, Dignity and Recognition is required to see the gift of a stutter.

  • Pride: We must take pride in who we are including being a person who stutters.  Pride is a source of satisfaction. Finding satisfaction in your stutter and what it has given you is required to see the gift.
  • Respect: When you consider something a gift, you have respect for it.  To see stuttering as a gift is to respect the life it has helped you to create.  You can’t see the gift, respect yourself, respect your life and disrespect your stutter.
  • Dignity: A gift is carried and presented with dignity.  You must not allow the negative experiences of having a stutter to take away your dignity.  You must have dignity to see the gift.  When you feel the power of that dignity it will allow you to continue to see the gift and not lose sight of the benefits to your life
  • Recognition: The basic requirement to see a gift is recognition.  You must first recognize your stutter and not hide it or hide from it.   


The Gift of a Stutter

“Derek you spoke to us about your challenges, but you have a gift.  And I do mean that it is really a gift” said the evaluator of my last Toastmasters speech.  I had just given a humorous speech about my experience as a person who stutters (PWS). While I expected people to say that it was mildly funny, I didn’t expect for anyone to call my stutter a gift.  That comment and subsequent compliments from the evaluator as well as others who were in the meeting made me question, is my stutter actually a gift?

Having a stutter certainly has felt like a curse for most of my life and recently I’ve started to view it as necessary evil that has helped develop me into the person I am today.  But now I’ve begun to wonder if I will ever be able to get to the point where I can honestly say that my stutter is a gift and I’m grateful for it.

What would it take to view an aspect of your life that has caused constant struggle, frustration, fear and rejection as a gift?  It requires a complete overhaul of your mindset towards the source, in this case a stutter, of that struggle and a shift in your outlook on the struggle itself.  I have made an immense amount of progress towards unpacking the emotional and mental baggage I’ve accumulated since childhood, but I’m still not at the ultimate milestone that I’m aiming for.  That milestone is to one day think about my stutter and be able to say thank you for this gift.

While I haven’t reached this milestone yet, I do have an idea of how to get there.  The method is found in the word G.I.F.T. itself.  In order to see the gift of stuttering, you must see the:

  • Gratitude
  • Intent
  • Faith
  • Transference

I call it the G.I.F.T. mindset and the four components of this mindset are critical in order to see positivity in having a stutter or any other circumstance.   Whether you want to be able to recognize stuttering as the gift or the gifts of stuttering, your mindset will determine the possibility to see the gift in any capacity.


Gratitude for anything starts with recognizing its benefit.  I can say that my life, as it is, would not exist without my stutter.  I have grown so much as a person, not just as a result of having a stutter, but also because I recognized the growth it had already inspired, and the potential for more.  I want you to ask yourself, regardless of how much pain your stutter has caused in your life: what are the ways it has benefited you and pushed you to grow?  I’m sure you can find at least one benefit and one positive personal quality that your stutter has brought to you.

Gratitude starts with growth or at least the recognition of growth.  Once you began to see the growth that your stutter has inspired in your life, the gratitude can begin.  In my case, once I saw the growth I was able to start feeling gratitude that in turn caused me to see more existing and potential for growth.  Gratitude and growth go hand in hand. Understanding the necessity of both is essential to the G.I.F.T. mentality.  Also accepting the path, or the struggle, to these qualities is key to this process.

Nothing seems to develop and refine us as people quite like adversity.  It’s not what most people want to hear that in order to grow you must face challenges, but that just seems to be our nature as human beings.  Have you ever met a person who has had an easy life with very little friction?  I have met some very good people who fit this profile and I have noticed in many cases that something is missing.  There is a certain sobriety, compassion, empathy and clarity that is present in the perspective of the world with people who have endured some form of hardship.  When I assess my life there is no doubt that my experiences as a PWS have shaped my identity and growth into the person I am today.


Life without intent can seem meaningless and quite cruel.  I have found that overcoming and coming to grips with certain aspects of life requires seeing the intent in the things we experience.  I’ve seen people experience the same things in life and have polar opposite reactions.  Why is that?  It’s all about seeing the intent.  I think it explains how two PWS with the same severity can be living two very different lives.  One person hides away in their home afraid to show themselves to the world. Meanwhile, the other pursues their goals and lives life on their terms, despite the fear of judgment and rejection.  It’s the presence of intent for one person and absence of intent for another.

When I began to see intent is when my experience with, and view of my stutter, began to change.  Without that intent, having a stutter seems like a cruel joke that life is playing for the sheer amusement of it all.  That type of cynical mindset will keep you trapped by resentment, anger and fear, which will ultimately restrict what you can achieve with your life.  Reason and intent can be like rays of sunshine lighting a dark path illuminating. Not only the destination of the path, but also the place of origination.  Once everything behind and in front of you is illuminated, the intent of your struggle, which is to make you better, is made clear.

Several people who are close to me have said I was born to be who I am and that God created me perfectly for the plan/purpose He has for my life.  Those words sparked a thought processes that eventually lead to a very comforting conclusion.  My PAIN has PURPOSE!

When you can give purpose to something it takes on an entirely new meaning.  That meaning can elevate and expand your experience beyond the impact to your life.  A friend once told me, “Derek your stutter might not even be about you”.  I took slight offense to that at first because I couldn’t understand how something that affected my so deeply wouldn’t be about me.  If not me, then who is all this about?  When I began to see the impact my experiences had on others, I saw a deeper level of intent as not only self-improvement, but also the improvement of others.  That deeper intent now fuels my purpose and passion to help others break through the barriers blocking their best version of themselves.


Faith is critical to seeing the gift of your stutter.  You must have faith in the intent of your stutter and the future it is leading you towards.  Seeing intent is one thing, but having faith in how that will play out in your future is necessary for it to have a positive impact.  Intent is limited in the fact that it doesn’t actually produce anything.  We live in a world full of intent that manifests nothing; consider all your intentions, the intentions of people you know and ask yourself what have those amounted to?  Despite seeing the intent of my stutter to make me better and ultimately have a positive impact on my life, I also needed faith that positivity would actually manifest in my life as a result of my stutter.  That faith bridges the gap between concept and reality.  Faith drives the action that brings the concept of intent into your reality.

Seeing the gift is not an abstract idea or ethereal experience. The gift needs to be very real and it’s the action that makes it tangible in your life.  Once I realized the intent of my stutter and had faith that everything that resulted from that intent would work in my best interest, I was able to act on it.   This faith allowed me to do things that I would previously have never given any consideration. I knew that no matter how uncomfortable or temporarily unpleasant a certain experience might be, the result would be worth it.  Now I can stand and speak in front of various sized audiences, risking the exposure of my stutter, because I now understand that it helped me to constantly drive fear out of, and claim more power over, my life.

The Alchemist is one of my favorite motivational books and when I reached this level of faith the book’s message became much clearer and more tangible.  The most widely quoted part of the book is, “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”  My newly found faith made this line come to life for me.  I realized that despite my perception of past experiences, the universe’s intent has been, and is conspiring to help me achieve my dreams.


The final step to realizing the G.I.F.T. mindset is paying it forward.  After you have achieved something for yourself it feels as if all your efforts have been properly rewarded and that you can go on to achieve even greater goals.  That’s a great space to be in. But when you understand how your victory can help others achieve a victory, it seems as if the world instantly expands.  When I realized how my personal victories were inspiring others, my vision and perception of the world expanded exponentially, because it became clear that how I live my life touches the lives of others.

This is the phase I’m currently in and the final key to my ascension to the G.I.F.T. mindset.  I use the word ascension because I believe that when I attain this mindset, it will result in a higher perspective on my life.  It will be a higher and clearer perspective on life in general as well as on my life as a PWS in particular.  When you can see things from a higher point of view, it’s harder to get absorbed in temporary situations, whether positive or negative.  The big picture is what’s ultimately important, and that picture is showing me that I can impact people with my life.  The higher your perspective goes, the clearer the gift becomes and what it means for yourself as well as the world around you.  One day I will be so confident that I will see the full scope of the gift, what it will produce in my life and what it will produce it the lives of others.  On that day I will be able to face my stutter and say thank you for everything.



Coelho, Paulo. (1993). The Alchemist. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

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The Gift of a Stutter (Derek Mitchell) — 80 Comments

  1. Hey Derek. Thanks so much for your paper. The topic you address, the Gift of Stuttering, is certainly very interesting and challenging. I hope that more and more people in our community (of PWS) can find out for ourselves what the gift of stuttering is for us.

    • Thanks Hanan. The gift of a stutter can certainly seem like an oxymoron but I believe it’s possible for all of us to get to that place with the right mindset. Last week I was talking to my aunt who hadn’t read the article yet and she told me it’s funny how I’m using the gift that we used to hate. I grinned and said you have no idea how right you are.

  2. Hi Derek – why am I not surprised at the great depth of your paper? Thank you for sharing the GIFT mindset with us. Many people who stutter are no where near acceptance yet and this perspective shift may help get them there. You’re a great writer and great at paying it forward as well. I’m so glad we’ve met and that I get to follow you on your journey. -Pam

    • Hey Pam. Thanks for your compliment and I’m glad we met too. I feel so blessed to have people like you to share this journey with. The GIFT mindset is a tough one. It took me 27 years to be able to write this but here I am and others can get there too. I hope this can be a start for some.

  3. Hello Derek,

    Thank you for this piece! I absolutely love your mindset as well as the GIFT concept! As a soon-to-be SLP, I would love to be able to give life and acceptance tools like this to my clients. This piece is truly inspiring. Did you create the acronym yourself after hearing your stuttering described as a gift?

    • Thanks for you comment. I really appreciate the compliment and I’m glad you enjoyed the paper. I hope you will be able to use this for your clients. The idea of the paper came from hearing my stutter described as a gift. I came up with the acronym after hours of thinking about what got me to this point my life and when I noticed a few of those fit the acronym I went with it. Good luck to you pursuing an SLP career!

  4. Hi Derek!

    You have created a great topic for discussion from the details and stories provided in your paper. As a second year graduate student, I am only beginning to learn the complexity of stuttering and how it may affect a PWS. I believe in your GIFT mindset and think that it can also be applied to others who may be struggling with other personal insecurities. Have you thought about presenting this idea to a greater population than PWS? Your experience and passion for creating a change may truly inspire others to do the same. Thanks!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the paper and found inspiration in what I wrote.

      You read my mind. I’m actually planning to shoot a short video for my YouTube channel about GIFT for a larger audience. Typically I think about how my experience as a PWS can be relatable to others. I finished graduate school in 2012 and can relate to how a stutter can make that experience so much more difficult from first introductions to presentations. It will be tough but you can make it. Good luck to you!

  5. Derek,

    I enjoyed your paper and appreciated the approach you took with the topic. I think its so important to be “meta” about your personal stutter. There is great value in your model of how to go about overhauling the negative mindset. I think one of the aspects that I enjoyed so much was that the subjectivity of the model. Like you stated, everyone faces different adversities whether it be with their stutter or other things in their life. However, providing an avenue or a starting place for the overhaul can help initiate. As a future SLP, I think it would be helpful to present this GIFT model to a client when working on acceptance of their gift.

    Many thanks, Hannah Sons

    • Hey Hannah. Thanks for you comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the paper. It took me years to realize that it was my mindset that was holding me back and not my stutter. Once I understood that my life changed and now I want to share what I’ve learned. I really like to make my experience as a PWS relatable to others because I’ve found we all share the same fears even if for different reasons.

      You have a good point about providing a starting point. I’m all about making actionable plans and I may post something to Facebook to give some guidance. Thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Hi Derek,

    This is such a an inspiring paper and I really enjoyed reading about the GIFT mindset. I especially liked how you focused on the importance of faith, and finding the purpose of this experience. As a first year grad student studying SLP, I think this model would be really beneficial to incorporate into therapy. Would you have any advice for an SLP on approaching this mindset with a client who feels very negatively about their stutter?

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks for you comment and I’m glad you like the paper. For me faith was the start of it all. Without faith that my stutter had a purpose and come be useful in my life, it would still seem like a cruel joke to me. I think that showing compassion is a great start to helping your clients with their negative feelings. The best thing any SLP ever did for me is to acknowledge that having a stutter was difficult, not fair and that I was entitled to feel that way. No one had ever really said that to me and it opened the flood gates on a lot of repressed feelings. After that I was more open to the therapy because I felt she cared not only about my fluency but my experience as a PWS. Then she challenged me to accept that this is a fact of life and encourage me that I could do something good with it.

      If you’re dealing with an adult who has a lot of emotional issues to work out, I would suggest recommending they see a therapist. I was in and out of therapy for 4 years and it really helped. If you have any more questions look me up on Facebook and don’t hesitate to contact me.

  7. Hi Derek!

    Thanks for sharing the GIFT mindset. As a second year SLP graduate student, which component do you suggest to begin with for children who stutter? Thanks for sharing your thoughts for my future profession! 🙂

    • Hi Layne,

      I think gratitude is probably the easiest component for a child to understand. Even with all the difficulty I experienced as a kid, I was always aware how fortunate I was to have my family, health and others things we can take for granted. Things took a turn for the worst for me when I focused more on what I didn’t have than what I did have. I believe if you can keep their attention on things they are grateful for and excited about (family, friends, hobbies, etc.), it will help prevent them from feeling like something is missing or they are lacking something.

      Thanks for you comment and good luck with your SLP career!

  8. Hi Derek,

    First off, thank you for such an inspiring read! As a second year graduate student, I am curious to hear what aspect of the GIFT mindset that SLPs should focus more on? In other words, do you feel as if SLPs should focus on one aspect of the GIFT mindset or try utilizing it as a whole unit?

    • Hello and thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The GIFT mindset is something that I conceived of all thinking about what my stutter has taught over the last 27 years. It’s something I’m still working on myself, so with that being said I think focusing on all aspects of GIFT might be too much. I would definitely focus on gratitude. The biggest obstacle with stuttering in my opinion is the feeling that something is missing or a part of life is compromised, which can compromise the effectiveness of therapy. Focusing on gratitude for things outside of my speech made me receptive to therapy because it kept me from sinking into negativity. It helped me view therapy as an enhancement to one area of my life instead of correcting a flaw that could ruin my life. Seeing only your stutter while ignoring other positive aspects of life can be devastating; that’s why gratitude for non-speech related aspects of life is very important.

      I hope this helped.

  9. Dereck-Thank you for the great article and sharing the GIFT mindset. I like how you have infused FAITH, in the GIFT model. As a person of faith, I can say that it is difficult to accomplish anything without it.

    You’re a great writer; you have an awesome way of explaining your ideas. I cannot wait to read your 1st book once it’s out.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Faith is so important for me because it’s foundation of hope and without hope life can be really dark. I hope to have the book to you by the next spring, but I am working on it.

  10. Thank you for sharing! I really like the idea of a shift in thinking towards gratitude for stuttering and what makes you unique and special. I hope I can help foster this kind of thinking in my future career as an SLP. I really like how you present this is a lifelong process and not something that just happens overnight; it really does the complicated nature of stuttering justice. It’s not enough to suggest changing one’s thinking without emphasizing that fact that it will take time, effort, and awareness to make that shift.

    What kind of practices have you implemented in your own life to shift your thinking?

    • Thank you for your comment. I made sure to set realistic expectations with adopting a new mindset because it definitely took time for to see the gift in my stutter. I definitely didn’t want people to think I got here overnight and get discouraged after facing setbacks.

      The first thing I did when decided to finally confront my stutter is see a therapist to start unpacking all of the negative emotions and baggage I had accumulated for so many years. I saw the therapist on and off for about three years before I felt like I was ready to move forward. Like didn’t stand still during that time I made some significant progress in life but not directly aimed at my stutter, but help me build the confident to take the next step of directly dealing with my stutter. Victories in other areas of life can translate to being better equipped to handle the adversity that comes with having a stutter.

      Joining Toastmasters was the next step that made the most impact. The reason why is because after resolving a lot past issues, I could focus on creating a new story for myself. We all have stories that play in our head that dictate how we life and my old story needed to be replaced. Taking action that directly contradicted that old story (like speaking in Toastmasters every week) allowed me create a new more powerful one that overshadowed the old. With a story in my head I had a different outlook on life which caused me to live mine much differently. My new story also created some new more beneficial beliefs as well.

      In a nutshell, I dealt with the past and took action that directly contradicted the past to create a new future for myself.

  11. Hello Derek,

    I am a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student, and I am currently taking a fluency class. In our class discussions, we have discussed the emotional aspects of stuttering for both the child and family. I found your paper to be very inspiring, and I often thought that the G.I.F.T mindset could be very beneficial for parents. As a future SLP, do you have any suggestions for embracing this mindset and helping children and families see stuttering as a gift?

    • Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you found the article inspiring. I’m so glad that you’re discussing the emotional aspects of stuttering because when I was growing up that was part was often ignored and is the hardest to address. The best thing any SLP ever did for me is to validate my feelings about my stutter. The best SLP I ever worked with is the only to tell what you have to go through sucks, it’s not fair and you’re entitled to your feelings about it. That helped me so much because it helped me to stop fighting with my emotions and be able to receive the fluency techniques. I think acknowledging your clients feelings, giving them permission to feel that way and then moving forward by recognizing then developing gratitude for things outside their speech is a great start. I think focusing of other areas of GIFT might be too much a child, but addressing the Intent, Faith and Transference with the parents might be possible.

  12. Hi Derek,

    I really enjoyed reading your paper! It was so inspiring and I thought the G.I.F.T. mindset was such a great way to view stuttering. Thank you for sharing! I am an SLP graduate student and am currently taking a Fluency class. As a future SLP I would love to embrace and implement this mindset into therapy for client’s who stutter. In doing so, what do you suggest would be the best way to go about it so that I could help the child/client and/or parents/caregivers view stuttering as a gift?


    • Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for the comment. The GIFT mindset takes time and insight to develop so the key is to not overwhelm the client with too much too soon. I think the focus for a child should be gratitude for things outside their speech. The most harmful thing for me as child was thinking that because of stutter something was missing or my life was inadequate as a result. You could focus on things the child does well or things that are going well in their lives so they don’t feel like this one thing has to define them. I believe older clients and parents will be able to also handle you trying to focus them on finding the intent of their stutter or their child’s stutter and what good is bring out of their lives.

  13. Hello Mr. Mitchell,
    As a future speech pathologist I hope to be able to help PWS especially children to accept that they are a little different and to advocate for themselves. Your words are inspiring on so many levels. I have known hardship at times in my life and always I can look back and see why I needed that hardship in my life. I love the book the Alchemist and have often thought about the very quote you used. We are our own best resources for acceptance and success in this life, if we would just learn to recognize it. Thanks for sharing! Truly inspiring!

    • Hello Jeana,

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Hardship can definitely be a great teacher even if it’s uncomfortable. The Alchemist really helped put some hardships in perspective and realize my internal resources, like you said.

  14. Hi Derek,
    First of all, we want to thank you so much for sharing such an inspirational and personal message with all of us. It is obvious that as human beings, we all have particular insecurities that follow us throughout life. As you explain to us in your message, it requires a great amount of work and dedication to transform one’s negative views about themselves into positive ones. Therefore, we really enjoyed how your message focuses on the key steps in this journey and the experiences you have personally had along the way. We also found your statement regarding the presence of a greater purpose to be very significant, as it is a powerful concept but one that is sometimes challenging for individuals facing adversity to fully trust in. We believe your message is one that is relevant and beneficial for all those facing personal hardships who are working towards the discovery of a more positive outlook and greater self-confidence. As speech-language pathology graduate students, we find this G.I.F.T. mindset to be a particularly influential tool, as we often work with individuals who struggle with acceptance and appreciation of their particular characteristics, conditions, and/or disorders. Therefore, we really appreciate you walking us through this process and providing your personal views and experiences of each component. We feel that your advice and insight will help us in our own careers, as we help to guide our patients through their journey of finding acceptance and gratitude for the challenges they face.

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found value and inspiration in the article. I always like to see my experiences help others.

  15. Hi Derek,
    Thank you so much for sharing! Your message is very inspiring, not only for people who stutter but for anyone who is facing a challenge! I am currently a first year graduate student and I am working with a group of individuals who stutter. We have currently been talking about trying to recognize communication successes outside of therapy instead of only communication failures. It has been hard for some of the group members to recognize their successes and see the gift of stuttering. I cannot wait to share your paper and idea of the G.I.F.T. mindset with the group! Do you have any suggestion on practices or ideas that my group could implement in their life’s to help them start viewing stuttering as a gift?

    • Hi Abby,

      I’m so glad you asked this question. I host a support group for the NSA and I’m planning some social events for my group to create some positive communication experiences. I got this idea from a TED event that I attended this month and it was great. I was there from 9am to 6pm and not one time did anyone give me strange looks, interrupt me or finish my sentences. Not all social events will be this positive but it made me realize that if I expose myself and group members to more positive social experiences it can help turn the focus from communication failure to communication successes and enjoyment. I don’t mean fluency when I say success. I stuttered all day at the TED event and it was still positive because I wasn’t focused on fluency but enjoying the company of the people I was with. If possible I would say to try an arrange some social outings so your clients will have a greater number of positive communication experiences to reflect on.

      Thank you for reading and I really hope the GIFT mindset in an asset to your work with your clients.

  16. Hi Derek,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. The G.I.F.T. model is such an uplifting message to many Speech Language Pathologist’s and our clients. I’m a second year graduate student studying Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech Language Pathology). How can I as a future SLP relate my humbleness of service to them and help them relate to the G.I.F.T model?

    • Thanks for reading and also for the comment. Speaking from my own experience the best thing any SLP ever did is to acknowledge and validate my feelings about my stutter. That showed me that she wasn’t only interested in fluency techniques but how I was dealing with the experience of having a stutter. It really meant a lot to me. That acknowledgement of the emotional aspect can help clear the path for a better adoption of the fluency methods by addressing the underlying anxiety that can render any technique useless. My SLP also let me know that I wouldn’t be fluent 100% and that I didn’t need to be. That took a lot of pressure off of me and reassured me that there is really nothing wrong with having a stutter, but that fluency was just a requirement to function in certain situations.

      I would also encourage focusing the conversations you have with you clients on positive things outside of their speech. I believe this will help to fight the feeling that having a stutter means something is missing or a deficiency is there by developing the view speech is just one area of life and it doesn’t define a person.

      • That is great advice! I appreciate you being honest and replying so quickly. I hope to use this advice in the near future.

        Thank you,

  17. Hi Derek,

    I am also a graduate student studying to be a Speech-Language Pathologist. It is great to see your positive outlook on stuttering and amazing that you are sharing it with others! I saw in the info about you before the paper that your father and your uncle also struggled with stuttering. I am curious if they share your positive outlook on being a person who stutters? What was their attitude towards their stutter and yours while you were growing up, and has it changed at all now that you are sharing your positive perspective with others?

    Thank you,


    • Hi Michele,

      My father and uncle did well despite having a stutter. My uncle was a big shot at IBM and he was able to manage his speech so well that I didn’t even know he had one until my dad told me after he died. My father was an entrepreneur for almost 40 years and built his business by word of mouth, so he did a lot of networking and verbal communicating to accomplish that. However, my father didn’t really talk to me about my stutter very much growing up. I always had good grades and behavior so he thought I was fine with my stutter, but I was not. I actually confronted my father about this a few years ago and we have been able to have open conversations about our personal battles with stuttering. That was a major step in my development process. He is very proud now that I’ve taken my stutter and using it to help others.

  18. Hi Derek,
    Thank you for sharing your positive message. I think that your G.I.F.T. motto is a wonderful way of looking at stuttering and can be applied to other aspects of life. I am a second year graduate student. When did you begin to change your perception of stuttering to a positive one. I saw that you mentioned you struggled with your feelings on stuttering and someone addressing that is was difficult helped you change your feelings of your stutter. I am glad someone acknowledge your feelings and thoughts. I would like to provide that affirmation and support to my future clients. Congratulations on the upcoming youtube video. I will be looking forward to it.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      My view of stuttering started to change during graduate school when I received compliments on my presentation skills. I had always thought that having a stutter automatically meant that I wasn’t good at presenting information or public speaking. That experience began to show me how my stutter had sharpened my communication skills and other skills. The change really took full effect when I joined Toastmasters and realized that by confronting my fear and making a commitment to self-improvement could inspire others.

      I’m glad to hear that you plan to provide that emotional support to your clients, it can really make all the difference. Also, I started my YouTube channel a few months ago. You can access my videos from my blog. Leave a comment and let know what you think.

  19. Hi Derek,
    I find your whole mindset about your struggles to be admirable not only for PWS but for individuals in general. Having a positive mindset about struggles and difficulties in your life can certainly change the way that they impact you. I was wondering if you feel that addressing these concepts in a specific order or in a tailored-to-the-client manner works better? Congrats on your achievements and good luck with your future endeavors.
    -Diana Willner

    • Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your kind words. I really want my experience to touch as many different types of people as possible because despite the source of our struggles, we all have similar experiences as human beings. My experience of developing the GIFT mindset happening the order in which I outlined. Now it’s possible it may occur in a different order for certain people, but I think focusing on gratitude is great start for everyone. It might be very difficult to develop this mindset from anyone other point of view than gratitude.

  20. Hi Derek,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story- I loved reading it! I think it’s great that you view your stuttering as a gift, and that your evaluator first pointed that out to you, changing your view for the better. I’m a first year graduate student and in my fluency class we have discussed different stories from PWS. I especially love that this year’s ISAD theme is taking pride in your stutter and who you are as a stutterer. I think that promotes a wonderful outlook on stuttering, and how you can and should choose to be who you are. Plus, we have been learning how embracing your stutter more than likely improves the emotional aspects of the PWS and allows your to be more relaxed, open and accepting of yourself. And thus therefore in-turn decreases the physical stuttering aspects. So I’m glad to hear of your stuttering pride! I loved your story so much, I thought about how others should have the privilege of hearing it– have you presented at ASHA or would you be interested in presenting?

    • Thank you for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it. The emotional aspect was really make or break for me. It really determined how well I adapted the fluency techniques and how I dealt with those times when my speech is rough despite what techniques I’m using. I think that’s the real battleground for a PWS. I have not presented at ASHA, but I would definitely be interested. I have had the privilege of presenting at the NSA for the last two years.

      • I know I would love to see you present; I have never been to an NSA conference but I definitely want to in the future. Thanks again, it was so great speaking with you!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on your stutter. I think that it’s really interesting to take this mindset and to see your stutter in a positive light and to go after what you want in life. It’s also interesting to hear how you have been shaped in your life because of your stutter and how ultimately you can one day thank your stutter for where you are in life.

  22. Hello Derek,
    Thank you so much for your inspiring words on the subject of stuttering. I am an undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders major, and the story of your GIFT reiterates exactly why I entered the field. I was wondering, what advice would you give someone pursuing the field of treating those with this disorder? Obviously to keep a “GIFT” mindset, but how could a clinician better the treatment experiences of those we help treat?
    Thank you so much,

    • Hi Olivia,

      I really appreciate people like you who choose this field of work. You are going to impact people’s lives for sure. The best thing my favorite SLP ever did is to connect with me emotionally. It made me feel much more comfortable with her and the therapy. I think that type of connection could make you very effective with your clients. The other powerful thing she did was to validate my feeling about my stutter which I always struggled with. I used to feel guilty about having such negative feelings about my stutter because after all I’m not missing any limbs. She told me it was ok to have those feelings about my stutter and that was a major breakthrough for me.

  23. Hello Derek,
    I am a first year graduate student studying to become an SLP. Thank you for sharing your story and your ideas! I am confident that your words will effect many more than you realize in a very positive way. If a Person Who Stutters recognizes the fact that they stutter, and they want to move towards a G.I.F.T. mentality but are having a hard time viewing stuttering as a benefit, what is the best piece of advice you would give to bridge that mental gap and take the next step? Thank you! – Bethany

    • Hi Bethany,

      Thanks for your comment. I think the first step is to address the feeling that so many PWS have that because they stutter something is missing from their lives and their capability to function in life is compromised. Focusing on other positive attributes or areas of life that have nothing to do with speech is a good way to do that. PWS can focus solely on the stutter to the extent that we miss other great things about ourselves and our lives. Once the focus is not so much on the stutter, it will not look as large and overwhelming. Then that clears the path to start seeing the positive outcomes in a person’s character and life resulting from having a stutter.

  24. Hello Derek,

    Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts! I am a first year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology field. In my fluency course we have talked a lot about internal views and feelings a PWS has. Many of the feelings that our class comes up with are the frustration, fear, and rejection that you mentioned. We have discussed how changing a PWS viewpoint can really help them gain confidence and I think your idea of seeing stuttering as a gift can really aid in that! I really enjoyed that you even broke down the journey to seeing stuttering as a gift into steps that spell out the word. My favorite step is “Faith” because I most certainly agree that is what drives intent and gives a person a purpose and goal. Thank you again for such an incredible paper!


    • Thank you for your kind words Robert. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it relevant to your course work.

  25. This was such an inspiring story to read. One sentence that I kept rereading was, “Once everything behind and in front of you is illuminated, the intent of your struggle, which is to make you better, is made clear.” There is such a powerful message behind those words that I believe everyone needs to realize. Your positive mindset is encouraging for PWS as well as all individuals. Thank you for sharing your story and good luck to you in all of your future endeavors.

    • Thank you for reading and your nice comments. The key to that statement is not giving up until have that higher perspective and insight into your journey.

  26. Hi Derek,

    What an inspiring story, thank you for sharing! I am so inspired after having read your thoughts and your responses to others’ comments. I continue to ponder your question, “What would it take to view an aspect of your life that has caused constant struggle, frustration, fear and rejection as a gift?” I have never fully considered this before, and I think it is an important question for everyone to ponder in their life, not only PWS.

    Another statement of yours that especially touched me was, “Nothing seems to develop and refine us as people quite like adversity.” This is something I need to remember in my life, and I am grateful for your thoughts. As an SLP graduate student, I am going to save your G.I.F.T. mindset to pass along to potential PWS who I may work with in my future career.

    Thank you again!
    Natalie Asay

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for your comment and compliments on the article. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I hope you find it useful in your work.

  27. Hello Derek,
    I am a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. Your paper was so amazing and touched me in so many ways. I don’t know where you stand on your religious beliefs but let me tell you that your paper is a testimony to anyone who has ever struggled with anything in their life. You are so right that everything is for a purpose and that the experiences in our lives are for a reason and in the end will make us better people. I am amazed how you can talk about it with such ease and confidence that this is all for a purpose. I share this same mind set but it has taken me a long time to get here. When I was 14 my father shot me in the hand with a 4-10 shot gun on accident and it was the worst thing to every happen to me but through finding Jesus and being around people who encouraged me and supported me I was able to share this perspective. I wanted to ask you about your personal experience getting to where you are at. How long did it take? What types of things did people do and say to get you to have a better outlook or did you get there on your own? I feel like knowing how others help is valuable information because we can use those same sort of things in our sessions with our clients to help them develop a more positive outlook.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience

    • Hi Robin,

      Thank you so much for reading and your encouraging words. I really struggled with God for so much of my life because I couldn’t understand why I had to have a stutter while I watching others sail through life with very little obstacles. That changed when I was able to see the struggles that others have in life that I didn’t and understood the qualities that I possess that others don’t. I stopped being envious of other people’s path and began to value my own. I’ve had a stutter since I was 8 and at the age of 35 I was just able to identify the GIFT mindset. It has been a long journey for me and I hope to streamline that process for others. Friends, family and even words from strangers have always been a source of encouragement. Ultimately it had to be me who drove the progress and took the action that got me here. I didn’t move the ship on my own, but I was definitely steering it.

      I’m sorry about what happened to your hand as a kid. I’m interested to know how that injury has shaped your life.

      • Derek,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response to my comment! Your question about how my injury has shaped my life is a hard one for me. For a long time I held on to anger and bitterness, not able to understand why something like this would happen to me. But through therapy and lots of prayer and a good bit of accepting myself I have been able to come out with the perspective that it is for a reason and is now part of who I am. Even though it is coming on 10 years since the accident it still impacts me to this day. I was in physical therapy for multiple years and still to this day I don’t have total movement of my hand. I believe that everyone in life has different battles and that doesn’t make any one person’s battles harder than another. For me this was my biggest battle but I had guidance to overcome. I want to be an SLP to help others with their battles and to encourage them. I want to provide hope in those who can’t understand why they have to face the battles. This experience has made me a better person and has given me direction in my life.

        Thank you again for responding

  28. Derek,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences as a PWS! Your point of view was incredibly refreshing and uplifting. You were able to turn your negatives into positives, your lows into highs… and that is something that we think everyone, whether you stutter or not, could benefit from! As graduate students in speech-language pathology, it is important for us to encourage our clients who stutter to overcome the negative attitudes and beliefs that often develop. We think that your “G.I.F.T” approach and mindset would be wonderful tool to use in addressing negative emotions, fear, anxiety, etc., in speech therapy. We especially like where you mention paying it forward. Every time a PWS speaks, they have an opportunity to raise awareness, teach, and inspire others who stutter to do the same.

    While you mention the four components of the G.I.F.T of stuttering, what would you say has been the biggest gift that having a stutter has provided you?

    Thanks again for sharing your “GIFT” with us!
    Amanda Bowlds, Danielle Beaudette, Kelsey Boring

    • Hey guys,

      Thanks for reading and for your encouraging comments. I really hope the approach is useful in your work. The biggest gifts that my stutter has provided is a constant challenge and the ability to impact others. I’ve often used the metaphor of self-sharpening knife to describe my stutter. I have an internal mechanism that is designed to give me a daily challenge and struggle. Without that I would probably be living a very complacent life, but because of that constant challenge I’m in a state of perpetual growth and development. I also get to use that experience to encourage others, with or without a stutter, to do the same.

  29. Hi Derek – Your perspective of stuttering as a gift and the way you broke it down into G.I.F.T. is inspirational and moving. You have such a great outlook and positive energy. I am an SLP student currently writing a research paper about the negative emotions people who stutter have and this was a refreshing perspective to think about. This message is uplifting to not only people who stutter, but to anyone who has struggled with anything in their life. Having a positive mindset can really change the hardships people can face. Thank you for sharing – I really enjoyed reading this!

    • Thank you for your comments. I think you have a great topic to research and I hope you are able to translate that research into your work. The negative emotions can be a road block to using fluency techniques and in my case can affect the impact of speech therapy.

      Good luck with your work.

  30. Hi Derek,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper, and I thought it offered great insight into the emotional side of stuttering. I am a graduate student, and we are learning about the emotional aspects related to stuttering. You explained how you gave a humorous speech about your experience as a person who stutters. Was the first time you considered your stuttering as a gift after the evaluator mentioned it or had you thought about this before?
    Thank you!

    • Hey Sarah,

      Over the past few years I began to see the full scope of the how my stutter has shaped me and my life for the better. However, it wasn’t until the evaluator called it a gift that I had thought of my stutter in that way. Once she said that it triggered a lot of thought about the broader impact of my stutter not just for me, but also people around me.

  31. Derek,

    I really enjoyed your paper. It was a very inspiring outlook! You share a very positive message to those who stutter. I think the G.I.F.T. acronym can be applied to many types of challenges people may face in their lives. My favorite part was reading about living life with intent. As someone who does not stutter, I was still able to relate this to my own life. When I can see the intent, I have so much more motivation to pursue my goals, even if I fear judgment. As a future SLP, I hope to use this positive outlook to help future clients who have negative associations to their stutter.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • I’m glad that you were able to find inspiration in the article as person who doesn’t stutter. I often stress to PWS that others share our fears, even if for different reasons. I love to see people with different challenges able to relate their experiences.

  32. Hello Derek,

    I truly enjoyed reading your paper and I thank you for sharing your experience. I am a graduate student at Western Carolina University studying Communication Sciences and Disorders, and your paper fit perfectly with one of the classes I am taking. The class is “Fluency and Voice Disorders”, but more importantly we talk about the importance of staying positive. One theme I saw throughout your paper that hit home to me was that everyone has a story. Everyone has a background that has shaped who they are today and I love that you see only the positives aspects of being a person who stutters. Thanks again for sharing and I hope more individuals will see that positive light in life!

  33. Hello Derek,
    I loved reading your paper and seeing your faithfulness and insight you have about your stutter. I feel like most people who look at their struggle s (being anything) and say “ok I will deal with it”, but you don’t. You have the mindset to be grateful with your circumstances. As you mentioned, you are working towards this goal. As a future SLP I want to walk in the schools of who I am working with. I don’t want to coach them through it but be beside them. What are some ways you have been helped to achieve your goals of G.I.F.T by others?

    thank you!
    Katie Shively

    • Hi Katie,

      Thanks for your kind words. Other people have been instrumental in my progress. I’m standing and thriving on the kindness of a lot people. I do get down at certain times when my stutter or life in general is especially frustrating and having people encourage me, reinforce my purpose, remind me of my potential, feed me, tell me how I’ve inspired them or just let me know that having a stutter isn’t the end of the world.

  34. Hi Derek,
    I am currently in my first year of graduate school studying speech pathology. I found your story to be inspirational and thoughtful. I enjoyed reading your perspective. A positive mindset can be so powerful. I will remember your outlook on G.I.F.T. as I continue into my professional career.

    Thank you for sharing your story! I really enjoyed reading it!

    • Hi Haley,

      Thanks for reading and for the nice comment. I’m glad you found this relevant and useful for your work.

  35. Hi Derek,
    I am also a first year graduate student studying speech language pathology. Thank you so much for sharing you GIFT mindset to this conference- it truly is a unique yet inspiring mindset. During what point in your life did you think of this mindset? I’m so curious to understand what circumstances lead you to dream of this mindset.
    Thanks again for sharing your story!

    • Hi Heather,

      Thanks for your comment! I’ve been developing this mindset for years as I continued to push my personal boundaries and work to overcome my stutter. It really took shape when I realized that I won’t overcome my stutter but I could conquer the fear caused by my stutter. I didn’t give a name until recently after that evaluation of my Toastmasters speech.

  36. Hi Derek,
    I am currently a second-year graduate student studying speech-language pathology; I was very moved at your viewpoint of your stutter. Your idea of the G.I.F.T. mindset in any circumstance resonated with me in the struggles that I face. I am challenged to change my perspective of my circumstances and see them as an opportunity for growth and seeing the possible intent for my current and past experiences. How has the G.I.F.T. mindset resonated with other individuals who stutter? How were others able to help you in bridging between intent and faith in your stutter?

    Thank you for your time and for being so transparent in telling your story!


    • Hi Mackenzie,

      The people who have given feedback have been encouraged, but I do know that depending on someone’s current place on their journey this mindset can hard to identify with. It may take some a little time to fully process it and that’s fine. Each person will absorb in their own time just as I did.

      The external perspective of other people was so valuable to bridge that gap. There are so many things about ourselves and our journey that we just can’t see. Having friends and family to see those aspects that were hidden from was very important. It seems like some people around me were able to see my path before I could, that encouragements from friends helped me to see the intent and build my faith.

  37. Hi Derek,
    I enjoyed your paper and also appreciated the clear message of GIFT that you present. You seem to have done a significant amount of inquiry work in your own life and your current mindset is impressive and inspirational. The Alchemist is also one of my favorite books and I appreciated the inclusion of that quote. At the end of your paper, you explain that you are currently in the “Transference” step of GIFT and that you are currently working on. Just yesterday I was speaking to my uncle-in-law about how something so little can have an exponential effect on someone else’s life – he gave an example of taking his nephew ice skating one time and now that nephew plays professional hockey. I am curious if you have some specifics of how you are transferring your outlook of being a person who stutters with others? What has been your favorite moment of inspiring others?
    Thank you for the wonderful paper!

    • Hi Liz,

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. One of the gifts of my stutter is my writing ability and that is the main thing that I use to transfer my gift to others. Writing about my experiences has given me the opportunity to impact others and I’m currently working on a book to chronicle how my journey in Toastmasters has impacted my life. My favorite moment probably happened this week. I went to visit an old co-worker and while I was there I ran into one of the people who interviewed for that job. He told me that something I said 7 years ago in the interview always stuck with him and he proceeded to quote me verbatim. I couldn’t believe that what I said that long ago in an interview could impact someone so much. That moment taught me that my words have power and with it comes a responsibility to use them wisely.

  38. Hi Derek,

    This is a wonderful piece of writing that really speaks to me, and is something that I can truly relate to. I am not a person who stutters, but I have Cerebral Palsy (CP), and I see my CP exactly how you are striving to see your stutter. I strive to look at each of these components that you mention every day, and pass my mindset onto others. In fact, just like yourself, I have chosen a future career path of speech pathology as a way to reach out to others with differences, and help them find the beauty in them. Sometimes the biggest trials and tribulations in our lives are the grandest gifts when we slow down and look at the big picture. While I do see my CP as a gift overall, I still have my tough days and think that my life would be so much better without it. Please keep in mind that this mindset is a process that is always fluctuating, and that does not make you a hypocrite. I think you are well on your way to achieving your ultimate goal of acknowledging your stutter as a true gift!

    Thank you for this paper. It truely spoke to me, and I hope that you find my story as a source of encouragement along your own journey of realizing your gift.

    Jessica Lindsay

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your story with me. I’m glad to hear that you have this perspective of your CP. It does inspire me to know that others are going through the same struggles even if the source is different. I have those same fluctuations and that’s just a part of being human. I have learned to be especially patient and forgiving with myself during this process. I see you are doing the same.

  39. Derek,

    I certainly view my stutter as a gift. One thing it’s given me is an opportunity to become friends with you?. Looking forward to our ISAD get together today.

    • Awww thanks Elizabeth, my friend. 🙂 I seriously wouldn’t trade my stutter for you and the rest of the stamily. It’s amazing how something that isolates you can also bring the most awesomest people ever into your life.