If I Didn’t Stutter – James Hayden

About the Author:James Hayden is a 25 year old New Orleans resident, Saints fan, Survivor super fan, writer, and a person who stutters. James is the author of “Dear World, I Stutter” and has been previously published by The Stuttering Foundation and The Mighty.

Whenever I speak my mind about stuttering to a large group of people, some version of this question is bound to be asked: “If there was a magic to take away your stutter, would you take it?” My typical response is, “If you offer me the pill 100 times, 98 times I’m not taking the magic pill.”

Here are my reasons for not taking it:

I wouldn’t have some of my life experiences.
I wouldn’t be part of a great and inspiring community.
I wouldn’t be as emphatic and compassionate.
I would be missing out on some great life lessons.

I wouldn’t have discovered writing as a means of expressing myself.

I wouldn’t be as good of a listener as I am.

I wouldn’t be me.

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Comments

If I Didn’t Stutter – James Hayden — 110 Comments

  1. It’s funny how tough stuttering makes life growing up, in the end we end up becoming great people. I always enjoy reading your work, James.

    • Thanks, Daniele. I completely agree with you. I never thought stuttering could be a good thing, but now I can’t see my life without it.

  2. Hi James,
    I’m a graduate student studying fluency in class right now and I found this piece of yours very beautiful and inspiring! As clinicians in training, we are learning how important positive attitudes and views about stuttering are and I wanted to ask you if you ever struggled to view stuttering positively? If so, what changed your mindset and when did it change for the better, and what helped you to become confident? I could tell clients all day long to try to see stuttering in a positive light… but who am I to say that? I think hearing from people who actually value their stuttering is more inspiring and motivating for them. I appreciate your sharing!

    Thanks,
    Tricia

    • Hey Tricia,

      First off, thanks for your kind words about my piece. To answer your question, I viewed my stutter as a negative up until four years ago. During my late teens and early twenties, my stutter was the last thing I wanted to acknowledge or talk about. If someone did bring up my stutter, I responded with a less than positive answer.

      My view of my stutter and stuttering in general started to change when I went back to speech therapy at the age of twenty. During my time in speech therapy, I finally explored my thoughts and feelings about stuttering. By talking out my views on stuttering, I began to start accepting my stutter. I began to see my stutter not as a terrible thing that must be hidden at all times, but rather one of the many things that make me me.

      Since late 2015, I’ve been involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA). This organization has provided me opportunities to grow in acceptance and see my stutter in a positive light. These are: meeting monthly with other people who stutter, talking to SLP students about my stutter, talking to members of the community about stuttering, and given me a community of people who “get it.” These experiences have allowed me to grow into a more confident person, grow in acceptance, help me discover my passion for stuttering advocacy, and ultimately see my stutter as a positive.

      Seeing my stutter has a positive thing has taken many years of self-growth and acceptance. At times I don’t see my stutter in a positive light, but I wouldn’t change it.

    • To add to what James said, what massively changed my mindset was seeing other people that overtly stutter go on to live successful lives. The ‘Stuttering community’ and ‘British Stammering Association’ facebook groups massively helped me in this way, there are so many people on there that have go on to become teachers, lawyers, Heads of Departments etc. Seeing everyday people that stammer become successful made me believe that I could go on to be successful too

  3. First of all, Geaux Saints!!!

    Second, I really love your attitude you have towards your stutter and life. In what ways specifically have you seen it make a positive change on your life?

    • Hi Bethany,
      Thank you for your kind words. The biggest change is that by being more open, honest, and vulnerable about my stutter I am more open, honest, and vulnerable about everything in my life. In turn, my relationships with family and friends have grown stronger.

  4. Very true James about your identity. It is now use dwelling on the “what if” moments as they are unanswerable.

    • Absolutely. I’d rather not go down the “what if I didn’t stutter” rabbit-hole. As a result, I choose to be positive about my stutter and see it for the good it can bring.

  5. Hi James,

    I’m a big fan of your book. I first found out about your work when you were on the Stuttering is Cool podcast. Your book inspired me to incorporate certain bits of writing activities into the work I do, as a clinician, with people who stutter. I will frequently reference your book during therapy and, on more than one occasion, we’ve read chapters together during the session and spoke about it, in real-time. You’re doing a lot of good, man!

    You’re always so honest in your writing. And how about this honesty of “If you offer me the pill 100 times, 98 times I’m not taking the magic pill.”? Solid honesty! 98 times. I love that honesty. I think there’s real power in honesty. I can imagine myself reading this post with a client and engaging in a wonderful conversation about, “Why might you think he said 98 times and not 100 times.”

    A fan,
    Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

  6. Hi Erik,

    Your words have brought a massive smile to my face and joy to my heart. Hearing that my book is being used in speech therapy and has inspired you is one of the best compliments I have ever received.

    For me, honesty is the always the best policy. By being honest with my experiences with stuttering, I hope to change how people view stuttering and inspire the types of conversations you have with your clients.

    James

  7. Thank for sharing, James. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and your honesty about the 98%. I think I feel the same way, although I do not wish on anyone the experience of growing up and living with stuttering.

    Many of us are extremely fortunate to have found organizations like the NSA. I only found it age age 47, but still. There are many, many more PWS who live without getting help to understand stuttering, and without the ability to go down the Acceptance path. We should be aware of these folks in our community, and continue to support them.

    I was not aware of your book, so now I will buy it.

    Thanks a lot
    Hanan

    • Hey Hanan,

      First off, thank you for buying a copy of my book. I hope you enjoy it.

      I agree with your statement about not wishing stuttering on anyone. One of my biggest hopes is that my future kids don’t stutter. I hope for this not because stuttering is a bad thing, but rather I don’t want them to grow though all the negative things stuttering brings along.

      I’m lucky to find the NSA at a somewhat young age (23), but I agree that we need to support and meet all PWS wherever they are in their journey with stuttering.

      James

  8. Hi James-
    Thanks so much for your post! And, for your honesty! I’m a clinician who works primarily with people who stutter and I am excited to share this post with them. I think sometimes people think that accepting their stuttering means that they have to like it all the time….which is not true. You can accept stuttering as part of you and have days in which you wish you could make it disappear…both!!! I just ordered your book – can’t wait to share it with my clients as well!
    Thanks,
    ~Jaime

    • Hi Jaime,

      First off, thank you for buying a copy of my book. I hope you enjoy it.

      I agree with you that acceptance and wishing I didn’t stutter can co-exist. For me, acceptance means “At times I want to change the situation, but I can’t. Instead, I’m going to see the best in this situation and not see the worst in it.” However, there are rare days where I see and experience the bad parts of stuttering and want to wish it away. Since I can’t, I choose to see the good in it.

      James

  9. Hi James,
    First off, what a wonderful piece! I love your positive attitude! I read in one of your previous comments that you viewed your stutter as a negative up until four years ago. This was when you started to explore your thoughts and feelings about stuttering. As a current graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, I am learning the importance of integrating counseling with speech therapy. Would you say when you were younger speech therapy focused solely on fluency rather than thoughts, feelings, and acceptance towards stuttering?

  10. Hi CMH,

    Thank you for your kind words abouy my article. During my first stint in speech therapy (ages 5-12), the main focus was fluency. There were times when I talked about whatever was annoying me at the time, but for the most part our goal was fluency. When I went back to speech therapy the second time (ages 20-22) I learned and re-learned techniques to improve fluency. However, the majority of the time was spent working on my goals (talking on the phone without a script, public speaking, ordering at a restaurant) and talking through my thoughts on stuttering. By focusing on my goals and my thoughts on stuttering, I grew in accepting my stutter.

    James

  11. James,
    It is so amazing to read about your amazing outlook on your stutter. This was such an inspiring post and it is so great to hear about how your stutter has shaped your life. I was just reading one of your previous answers about how your speech therapy mostly focused on fluency when you were younger. Do you think your outlook on your stuttering would be different now had your speech therapy focused more on the emotional/counseling aspect of stuttering when you were younger? Thank you for sharing your story with us, and again, your outlook on your stutter is inspiring and you presented it so well!

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. From my younger perspective, speech therapy was a means to becoming fluent and being like all of the other kids at school. As a result, I never thought about the emotions that come along with stuttering. I did experience a period of fluency, but that ended my during my senior year of high school. It was only until my stutter returned that I gave consideration to the emotions that come with stuttering, but didn’t openly talk about those emotions until three years after my stutter returned. I think if I did talk out the emotions of stuttering when I was younger, I may have better handled my stutter returning.

      James

  12. Hi James,

    I am a graduate student in the field of speech language pathology. I found your post and thought it was so great and inspiring to hear. My hope as a future speech pathologist is that all of my clients who stutter would have such a positive outlook. I can’t begin to imagine, but I am sure this has been a lifelong process with good days and bad days. I was wondering if you could give any advice or share any information that helped you see your stuttering as such an asset that would be beneficial for me to include in therapy with a person who stutters.

    Thanks,
    Mary Catherine

    • Hi Mary Catherine,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. As you mentioned, seeing my stutter as a positive has been a lifelong process filled with numerous highs and lows.

      One piece of advice that instantly comes to mind is in your title of speech therapist is the word “therapist.” For your clients, regardless of why you are seeing them, you maybe their person to talk to. Be there for them. Listen to them and allow them to explore their feelings, regardless of the topic. That did a world of good for me when I was in speech therapy in college.

      Another big piece of advice is to conform your plan to your client and not your client to your plan. Allow them to set their goals and work with those goals. I was able to set my goals during my second stint in speech therapy and it helped alot. By being able to see the progress I made in accomplishing those goals over the course of two years, I started to see my stutter not as a terrible thing, but rather one of the many things that make me me.

      A final thing is tell them about any stuttering support groups in the area and offer to go with them. For me, getting involved in those groups was a major key in me accepting my stutter. However, it took three years for me to go to one. If they are not ready to go to a meeting that is OK. They will go when they are ready.

      James

  13. Hi James, like many others who have posted, I’m a graduate student in speech-language pathology and I’m currently studying fluency. I found your statements to be really succinct and powerful. My main question is: did you have a specific “aha” moment when you realized that without your stuttering you wouldn’t be who you are today? Or do you just realize and appreciate that your unique personal experiences have created the person you are today? Either way, I think your attitude and outlook is incredibly mature and admirable, and I think your opinions and experiences could go a long way in helping other PWS gain comfort with themselves. I look forward to your response!

    – Joseph

    • Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I never had an “aha” moment. Rather, through personal growth, learning to accept my stutter, allowing myself to openly talk about stuttering, and getting involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA) I began to see my stutter as positive and one of the many things that make me me.

      James

  14. Wow. I love your post. So simple yet so powerful. As a speech-language pathology graduate student, we talk a lot about what “successful” therapy is. The most important thing that I believe to be “success” is self-acceptance. Your outlook probably inspires many PWS to accept themselves. Have you seen “The King’s Speech?” At the end of the movie, the King (who stutters) says something along the lines of “I had to stutter a little so they still knew it was me.” Your post reminded me of that scene- that without having a stutter you really wouldn’t be the same person you are today. I love your outlook on life in general and I think anybody could use an outlook like yours!
    Thank you for sharing and I hope to be able to read some of your writing in the future.

  15. Hi,

    Thank you for your kind words about my article. I have seen “The King’s Speech”, but it’s been a few years since I last saw it.

    As far as defining “successful therapy “, I think it depends on how the client defines “success”. Although I still stutter, I consider my time in speech therapy a success. It’s successful because I no longer need a script when I make a phone call. I consider it a success because I am open about my stutter. I consider it a success because I accept my stutter. I consider it a success because I am more confident in my stutter and ultimately more confident in myself. Five years ago, I would not be able to type these sentences and mean it nor would I have done something like this. To me, that is my definition of success.

    James

  16. Hi James! I really enjoyed this article and how you elaborated on your experiences with stuttering in such an enlightening way.
    I am a second year speech pathology graduate student and I had a couple of questions for you as well! After reading through the comments as well, was there a moment or time that your mindset shifted from feelings of negativity about your stuttering to positive feelings? How do you feel that those feelings can be fostered in young people with stuttering? Was there anything that you feel could have helped you feel positivity toward your stuttering earlier than you did? I really enjoyed this piece, it made me think a lot about how I can possibly help future clients as well!

    • Hi Riley,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article.

      My mindset began to shift around four years ago, but I truly didn’t see my stutter as a plus until late 2015/early 2016. My involvement in the National Stuttering Association (NSA) was instrumental in my shift in mindset.

      In my opinion, the feelings of positivity can be fostered in young people in three ways: tell them about the NSA and other stuttering support groups, introduce them to positive role models within the stuttering community, and allow them to talk about how they feel about stuttering. Had I known about the NSA earlier in life and knew I wasn’t the only person in the world who stutters, I think I would have viewed my stutter as a plus at a younger age. I didn’t know about the NSA until I was 20 and didn’t go to my first meeting until I was 22. It was at my that first NSA meeting that I met another person who stuttered. By my teenage years, I knew I wasn’t the only person who stuttered; however, until that point I thought I was the only person in the world who stuttered.

      James

      James

  17. James,
    Your words are very powerful, and really help emphasize how our life experiences shape who we are as a person. I, like many other posters, am a graduate student in speech-language pathology. That you are able to know that you would not have a lot of positive qualities you have without your stutter, is impressive. Most people don’t have that kind of introspective view at 25! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Hi April,

      Thank you for kind words about my article. It took many years and a lot of personal growth for me to reach this perspective.

      James

  18. Hi James, this was very inspiring to read.

    Can you share an accomplishment you’ve had with your stuttering? And any advice that you can give a child who has not come to accept their stutter? Perhaps advice for the child’s parents?

    Thank you, Monica

    • Hi Monica,

      I’m going to answer your first question in two parts. In speech therapy, I was told to celebrate the small victories/accomplishments of stuttering.
      Some of my small accomplishments are: talking on the phone without a script, ordering through a drive-thru, maintaining eye contact with someone while I stutter, being willing to talk into a microphone, among many others.
      Some of my big accomplishments are: openly talking about my stutter with family, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers; I’m a more genuine person because I have accepted my stutter; I’ve presented to numerous SLP classes about my stutter; I now write about my experiences with stuttering on various blog sites and even wrote a book about my journey with stuttering.
      None of the above would have happened five years ago.

      My main advice to kids is, “Just remember one thing: you always were, always are, and always will be more than your stutter. You may not be able to see that now, but in time you will. Trust me.”

      My pieces of advice to parents are:
      See your child as your child and not your child who stutters.
      Let your child dictate when and how y’all talk about his/her stutter.
      When your child wants to talk about his/her stutter don’t be afraid to go there with them.

      James

  19. Hey James,

    Wow, I love this. Short, simple, direct, and honest. I love that you have “spoke your mind.” I sure have heard a lot about you. Hope we wind up meeting in person.

    Pam

    • Hi Pam,

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my article. We have met in passing at this past NSA conference. If we didn’t, we will be sure to meet in Ft. Lauderdale.

      James

  20. James, I appreciate that you wrote this piece to help me gain insight of how you feel. I am an graduate student in Speech Language Pathology and am newly learning about the world of stuttering. What are the kinds of experiences that you have had that have been impacted by your stuttering? Thank you!

    • Hi,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I’ll answer your question in terms of negative and positive experiences.

      Negative:
      Being picked on as a child because of my stutter
      Being accused of lying because I stutter
      A lack of self-confidence and a lot of self-doubt while growing up
      As a child, I thought I was the only person in the world who stuttered.
      Avoiding the phone for years
      Not participating in class discussions
      Not contributing to group discussions with friends
      Always wondering if a potential romantic partner could see past the fact I stutter
      Getting what I can say instead of what I want
      And the list goes on

      Positive Experiences:
      A better sense of self
      Getting what I want and not what I can say
      Talking on the phone without a script
      I’m a more genuine person
      I do public speaking opportunities whenever possible
      My relationships with family and friends are stronger
      Stuttering advocacy is now a passion of mine
      I discovered the joys of writing
      Self-confidence
      And the list goes on

      It took many five years of self growth and two years of speech to be able to make that second list

      James

  21. Hi James, thanks for you inspiring perspective. I also liked reading your replies to the other comments. It sounds like the NSA and being open about stuttering is a big part of your journey. A friend and I recently started a NSA chapter but are struggling to get people to attend. We know there’s a big need, but are unsure of how to help people break the ice. What helped you feel comfortable at meetings? Or do you have any advice for someone who is feeling nervous about opening up about their stutter?

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. Getting involved with the NSA was key in helping me become open about talking about my stutter and further accepting my stutter.

      What helped me was become comfortable at the meetings was being around people who are like me and get what it means to stutter. Before then, I had never met another person who stuttered. I remember at my first NSA meeting we went around and said our highs and lows of the month involving stuttering. I volunteered to read the closing words and it was the first time where I was surrounded by people (outside of the therapy room) who didn’t care that I stuttered. As a result, I wasn’t thinking about what my audience was thinking about as I read those words. Once I finished reading the closing words I told the group, “That was my high foe the month.”

      My advice to someone who is nervous is “To open up in your own time and in your own way. If that means attending an NSA meeting, but not saying a word then great! If it means talking to a close family member or friend, then that is great too. I’ve learned that I care more about my stutter than my family and friends.”

      As a fellow NSA chapter leader, I’m going through the same issues. What I’ve done to attract more people is: be more active on our social media accounts, I placed an ad in my local paper, reach out to local universities and speech clinics, reach out to those who haven’t been to a meeting in a few months, and put up flyers in local coffee shops.

      James

  22. Hi James,
    Although your post is short, it is quite powerful. I am a graduate student taking an advanced fluency course and the University of Minnesota Duluth. We have had people who stutter come talk to our class and it is always interesting to learn new things about stuttering and the person’s perspective. Recently, one of our speakers said that if there was a button to push to stop stuttering, she would push it without hesitation. There is obvious differences in the way you view stuttering and the way she views stuttering, both of which are appropriate. For an adult who stutters, what is your advice to get that person to accept their stutter? What were the best therapy techniques you use to bring about fluent speech?
    Thanks

    • Hi,

      Than you for your kind words about my article. The only advice I have is, “Acceptance, however you define that word, will occur at your own rate and on your own time.” There is no easy way for someone to accept his/her stutter. What worked for me may not work for someone else and vice versa.

      I tend to stutter my way through all of my blocks/repetitions without using my techniques. When I do use my techniques, I tend to use easy-onset. I find it works best for me.

      James

  23. Hello James,
    Thank you for sharing your personal experience with stuttering. It is not often that I encounter such a positive attitude and reflection on someone who stutters. I am currently a graduate student studying to become a speech pathologist and found this read very inspiring. What is something that you wish SLPs or other individuals knew about people who stutter?
    Ana

    • Hi Ana,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. The biggest thing I want everyone to know is that stuttering is not who I am, but rather one of the many things that make me me.

      Advice to SLPs:
      Conform your plan and goals to your client. Do not conform your client to your plan and goals.
      Therapist is in your job title of speech therapist. There will be days where your client just needs to vent about whatever is on his/her mind. Be that pair of ears for them.
      Not every client sees stuttering the same way.
      Every stutter is different.

      General Public:
      DO NOT FINISH OUR SENTENCES
      Please keep eye contact with us
      Do not say, “Slow down,” “Take a deep breath,” “There is nothing to be nervous about,” etc. I know you mean well, but it only makes things worse.
      We are just like you, except it may take us a few extra seconds to say what we want to say.

      James

  24. James,
    Thank you so much for sharing these words. I am an SLP graduate student and it is so nice to hear that a PWS wouldn’t change the fact that they have a stutter. What age do you think you felt okay or grateful for the experiences you’ve had with your stutter being a part of your life? Are there any specific moments you’re thankful to have experienced emotions stemming from your stutter so that you could relate to someone else with or without a stutter?

    Thanks so much,
    Sam

    • Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I think grateful is an interesting word choice, but it works. I became grateful only a year or two ago.

      There are many moments that stem from my stutter that help me relate to others.
      A few moments are:

      I never finish someone’s sentences because I know how much it aggravates me.
      I see people for who they are and not what they look or sound like. I want people to see me for me and hear my voice and not my stutter.
      I listen to what people say and not how they say it. I know the message is more important than the delivery.

      James

  25. James,

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I admire how you did not focus on how having a stutter inhibits you, but how it has led you to many positive realizations and ways to express yourself in ways other than talking. I admire your confidence and motivation to be a part of all of these wonderful communities. Do you believe that writing has allowed you to know yourself on a deeper level?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Natalie

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. What a great question. The short answer is yes.

      Up until a year and and half ago, I only wrote academic papers and the occasional thank you note. When I first article about my journey with stuttering I thought it would be a one time thing because writing wasn’t an interest of mine. However, I continued to write and found it extremely cathartic. Writing has not only allowed me to explore my thoughts and ideas on stuttering, but it has allowed me to explore my thoughts, emotions, and ideas on a variety of other events that have taken place in my life. Some of these emotions have been pent up for years and to have those emotions on paper has been wonderful for me. I like to think I’m a better person because I have allowed myself to explore my thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and ideas on a variety of topics and events that have occurred in my life.

      James

  26. Hi James,
    I really like how with such a short and simple piece it still has such a strong impactful meaning. I saw in the previous comments that you listed the positive and negatives of having a stutter. I felt like it was very interesting and inspiring how you were able to take those negatives and build so many positives out of them. Is there any advice you would give to your younger self knowing what you do now?

    • Hi Cassandra

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I actually wrote an open letter to my younger self. You can read the entire letter on my Mighty profile, but the biggest piece of advice is the below quote:

      “Just remember one thing: You always were, always are and always will be so much more than your stutter. I know you may not see that now, but in time you will. Trust me.”

      James

  27. James,
    I am an undergraduate student studying speech language pathology. In my current class, we are learning about what stuttering is and how it effects individuals. Your writing really shows that you are comfortable with yourself and how stuttering has shaped your life. My question for you is: how long did it take for you to be able to accept your stutter? I know it varies for every individual, some not being able to whatsoever. I find it quite inspiring that you are so confident in yourself. Is there any advice you would like to offer readers?

    Thanks,
    Leigha

    • Hi Leigha,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I didn’t really accept my stutter until two-three years ago. For the first 22 years of my life, stuttering was the elephant in the room and I was ok with that. It took me going back to speech therapy and getting involved with the NSA for me to be where I am today in terms of acceptance.

      My advice is “You will accept it, however you define “acceptance”, on your own terms and in your own time.”

      James

  28. Hi James,
    I must first start off by commending your bravery in such an incredible post. As many other readers stated, to be so young with such an amazing and positive outlook on your life as a person who stutters is simply incredible. When I began reading your post, in all honesty I was taken back by the statement that you wouldn’t take it “98 times”, but as I read your reasoning, it was truly amazing to see how you haven’t let stuttering define you a a person, but you have had experience that shaped your life that many others will never have because of stuttering. You are an amazing individual who could really make an impact in the world for individuals who stutter, as well as for others who don’t stutter to have a better insight to living with stuttering. After reading your post and some of the comments, I was interested to find out as a future SLP, what were some of the most impactful and/or memorable times you had during therapy? What were some things that you wish other SLPs knew that could better benefit individuals who stutter?

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and thoughts with us.
    Callie

    • Hi Callie,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article.

      To answer your first question, the most impactful moments where the ones when I saw myself accomplishing a goal I set for myself. These moments included: talking to classes about my journey with stuttering and growing in confidence as a
      public speaker; calling random businesses and doing it without a script, I am now better at talking on the phone because of those calls; practicing a presentation and only stuttering a few times instead of stuttering on every word of the presentation; and talking out my thoughts on stuttering. Although it wasn’t a goal at the time, those conversations helped me start to accept and grow in confidence in my stutter.

      To answer your second question:

      Every person who stutters is different and sees his/her stutter differently.
      Allow your client to set his/her goals
      Conform your plan to your client and not your client to your plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
      Therapist is in the title of speech therapist. There will be days where your client just needs to vent about whatever is on his/her mind. Be that pair listening pair of ears. It may just be what they need that day.

      James

  29. Hi James! I would like to ask you if you feel as though you didn’t have a stutter you would still express yourself through writing as you do now?

    • Hi Meghan,

      Good question. The short answer is no. I started writing early last year because I was at a job I didn’t like and I had no idea what my next step was. By getting involved with the NSA and talking to SLP students, I realized I enjoyed talking about stuttering. I decided to write and publish my journey with stuttering just to see what would happen and what opportunities, if any, it would bring.

      James

  30. Hello James,

    I am a graduate student studying speech and language pathology, and I am currently taking an advanced fluency course at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I think what you wrote in very inspirational and powerful! I am currently doing an internship at an elementary school and I am working with a few students who stutter. Do you have any words of wisdom that I could share with them so that they may see stuttering from a new perspective?

    Thank you!
    Mary

    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article.

      A few things I would tell them:

      Your stutter does not define you, but rather you define it. Stuttering is no big deal if you make it no big deal.

      Your family and true friends do not care that you stutter. They care about you and your ideas.

      You always were, always are, and always will be so much more than your stutter. You may not see that now, but in time you will.

      I wrote an open letter to my younger self, last year. It is on my The Mighty profile. I know it will be a great resource to you and your students.

      James

  31. James,

    I am an undergraduate SLP student and reading your piece is very inspiring. Your writing shows people that stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of, it makes you who you are. Your confidence really jumps off of the page. With that being said, I have to ask the question, how long did it take for you to have such confidence? Have you always accepted your stutter or did it take a while?

    Thank you so much for sharing,
    Casey

    • Hi Casey,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I reached this level of confidence and acceptance a year or two ago. Up until I was 20, stuttering was my embarrassing friend from home that I did not want to acknowledge nor talk about. It took me going back to speech therapy at the age of 20 before I could start to accept and have confidence in my stutter. I am where I am today because of my two years in speech therapy and my involvement in the NSA. It took me meeting other people who stutter and allowing myself to talk about my stutter with family,friends, and strangers to get to where I am today.

      James

  32. James,
    I am currently a Speech Language Pathology and Audiology undergraduate student. I found it very interesting that you mentioned a lot of meaningful positives to having a stutter, which I think is very inspirational. Is there any times that you struggle to keep this positive outlook on life?

    • Hi Megan,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. It is hard to keep my positive outlook on stuttering during the times I would take the magic pill. In life. I try to keep a positive outlook by trying to find the good in any situation. If I can’t find it, then I try to be the good. I try, but don’t always succeed at that.

      James

  33. Hi there James! I too, am a graduate student currently studying fluency, but I want to share that I am also someone who had a significant speech and swallowing disorder for the first 33 years of my life. Your post made me self-reflect on my own experiences. Your post was so humble and courageous and wise. I am left to wonder if I was offered a magic pill if I would be willing to take it and erase all the pain caused by my speech impediment growing up. I also realize I would have missed out on all of the empathy and desire to pursue my masters in Speech Language Pathology to help people. You gave me something to truly ponder and I admire your bravery and your cheerful outlook on your life. Very mature thoughts for someone quite young. I wish you the best.
    Virginia

  34. Hi James! I enjoyed reading what you wrote and I think it is a beautiful piece! I am also a graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology and am currently taking a stuttering course. I like how you incorporated the idea of a magic pill to take away the stutter, and your response to that question is inspiring. As a future SLP, I want to be able to provide the best care for my clients, and I would love to know if there is any advice that you could give for other people who stutter? What could be important for clinicians working with people who stutter to keep in mind throughout therapy and interactions with people who stutter?
    Again, thank you for writing such a beautiful piece!
    Megan

    • Hi Megan,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article.

      For people who stutter:
      You are not alone.
      Your stutter does not define you as a person.
      Stutter proudly. Your voice and ideas deserve to be heard.
      You always were, always are, and always will be so much more than your stutter.

      For clinicians:
      What works for one client may not work for another client.
      Conform your plan to your client, not your client to your plan
      Therapist in is in the title “speech therapist”. There may be days where your client needs to vent about stuttering or whatever is on their mind. Be that pair of ears for them.

      For interacting with PWS:
      DO NOT FINISH OUR SENTENCES
      Maintain eye contact while we stutter
      Do not say: “slow down,” “take a deep breath,” “take your time,” “there is nothing to be excited about,” etc. We know you mean well, but those phrases do not help and rather make our stutter worse.

      James

  35. Thank you for your post, James. I loved how simple, yet powerful your words are. I read in the comments that it is only in the past four years since returning to speech therapy that your outlook on your stuttering has changed. I’m curious – how did your most recent SLP go about counseling you and allowing you to adopt this as part of your identity? I can imagine it must have been a difficult and messy process to let go of all those years of negative thoughts and feelings.

    • Hi,

      Thank your for your kind words about my article.

      As you mentioned, it was a messy and ugly process to let go of those negative thoughts and feelings. At my college clinic, I had a new speech therapist every semester. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but that’s what it was. What helped me see this perceived negative as a positive was being in an environment where I could do what was best for me. I knew my speech therapists cared about what was best for me and thus created an environment where I could talk about whatever I needed to.

      The environment led to the conversations and the fact I was talking to someone who I didn’t know previously allowed me to truly open up. That’s because for years I put on a mask of being ok with my stutter when in reality the face behind the mask wasn’t ok with it. Since I had prior connection to them, I could take the mask off and be me and truly speak my mind about stuttering.

      James

  36. James,

    Thank you for posting such a simple, yet inspiring post. I love the positive outlook you have. I’m curious, have you always had such a positive attitude about your stutter or has it progressively grown with time? What has helped you gain such a positive outlook? family support? Speech therapy? Counseling? Support groups? Or did you gain the confidence yourself? I would love to learn the steps you have taken so I can educate my clients in my future practice with ways to help them gain a more positive outlook, like you have demonstrated. Thanks in advance!

    -Jerilyn Garrett

    • Hi Jerilyn,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. To answer your question, it was a mixture of all of the above. I went back to speech therapy during my junior year of college, but for the previous two years my parents would occasionally mention that I should see what, if any, resources my college had to offer in terms of speech therapy. I ignored those suggestions for the better part of two years. I only sought out speech therapy when my uncle mentioned I should see if my college had any resources available. That was the moment I knew I needed to go see if any resources were available. My college did and I started speech therapy in the fall.

      Speech therapy was a mixture of speech therapy and counseling. I learned and re-learned techniques to reduce my stutter, but more importantly I was given the platform to talk about my thoughts on stuttering and accomplish my goals (public speaking, talking on the phone, ordering via a drive thru, etc.). By doing all of those things over a two year course, I grew in self-confidence. In my first semester, I did my best to make sure no one knew I was in speech therapy and by my final semester I told people and really didn’t care if someone knew.

      Once I graduated college, I got involved with the NSA and that was a game changer. I grew more in self confidence and acceptance of my stutter. NSA has given me opportunities to meet other people who stutter, talk to groups I never would have talked to, and grow as a person.

      By being more self confident and accepting, I now willingly talk about stuttering with family, friends, and strangers. Five years ago, stuttering was my favorite topic to avoid and now it is my favorite topic to talk about.

      As you can see, it took years for me to get to where I am. This process worked for me, but I there is no magic solution. Everyone will get to a positive outlook in their own way and on their own time.

      James

  37. Hello James,

    I’m glad to see that you embrace stuttering! I enjoyed reading about the positive experiences you have been able to obtain because of stuttering. I particularly like the ending of your post: “I wouldn’t be me.” Stuttering is part of your identity and without it, it wouldn’t be you anymore. Keep embracing it and continue having this positive outlook on life.

    Respectfully,

    Maria Figueroa.

  38. James, as I am not a person who stutters, I will never understand how it feels to be asked about taking the “magical pill.” However, I greatly respect your choice of almost never wanting to take this imaginary medication. You should most certainly take pride in who you are realize that your stutter does not define you. I can imagine, though, that it has not always been easy living with a stutter. What was the turning point for you? When did you develop this sense of pride in your stuttering?
    -Thanks!

    • Hi Reece,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. There is not one specific moment that I consider my “turning point”, but rather a few years of speech therapy and self growth. That period of growth led me to see my stutter has a part of me that should be seen and talked about proudly and not something I should hide from.

      My “iStutter” pin defines my journey. I received it in November 2015 at my second support group meeting. I swore to myself I would never wear that pin because I was fine with identifying as a PWS to family and friends, but not to strangers. In May 2016, I wore that same pin proudly during National Stuttering Awareness Week. I wear that same pin every NSAW and will proudly wear it tomorrow on International Stuttering Awareness Day.

      James

  39. James,
    Thank you for this inspiring post. Although short, it is very powerful. It is so beautiful that you found pride in your situation, and you serve as an inspiration for so many people. What was the point/instance in your life where you discovered to embrace your stutter instead of seeing it as a negative aspect of your everyday life?

    • Hi Morgan,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I learned to embrace and accept my stutter over a five year period. Those five years included going back to speech therapy and a lot of growth in self-confidence and self-acceptance. It’s an ongoing journey, but one I’m glad to be on.

      James

  40. Hi James,
    I absolutely adore your positive outlook on stuttering. Also it’s really awesome that you’ve found writing as a way to express yourself and I’m glad you did because I really enjoyed reading your work. I was wondering if there was a particular moment that you can remember where you decided to view stuttering as positive or have you always had such a positive outlook?

    • Hi Shelby,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article and for supporting my other work. I’m glad to hear you enjoy my other articles. To answer your question, I did not always have a positive outlook on stuttering. For most of my life, stuttering was something I ignored and did not talk about. It took going back to speech therapy, five years ago, and years of growing in self confidence and self acceptance to see my stutter as a positive.

      James

  41. Hey James,
    Thank you for sharing your story and outlook on your stuttering. I really enjoyed reading it and understanding your mindset on your stuttering. As a speech pathology student I love hearing what people think of their stutter or how they handle certain situations. Keep the positive attitude because it radiates onto others.
    -Jenna

  42. Hi James,
    I really appreciate your positive outlook on stuttering! When I read this article, I could really tell that this a constant battle for you everyday, just like it is for everyone else that stutters! I think you’re amazing, and I loved reading your submission. I love the fact that it’s short but definitely gets the point across, I think you did a great job with it, and you should definitely write more about your journey with stuttering! I would like to ask you though, why wouldn’t you take the pill 98 times instead of 100 times?

    • Hi Logan,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I’ve been writing about my stutter for a year and a half now. You can find my other work on my blog (https://stutteredblog.wordpress.com/), my The Mighty profile (https://themighty.com/u/james-hayden/) and/or my book “Dear World, I Stutter.”

      I would not take the pill the 98 times because, to paraphrase the film “The Way We Talk”: “Saying I do not want to stutter is like saying I do not like a part of who I am. I like who I am.”

      James

  43. Hi James, I am studying speech pathology and I just wanted to let you know that this is the positivity that so many people need. Thank you for sharing this because someone out there needed to hear this
    Thank you!
    Jenna

  44. Hi James,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I haven’t known many people who stutter and I actually have never thought to ask this question. It is a very interesting question though and I am very impressed by your response and hope many more people feel the same way that you do! Do you think you’ve always felt this way or has your response changed as you have grown up?

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Natalie W

  45. Hi James
    I just would like to say that I never heard something I agree with so much. Its like if you take away something that makes YOU the person you have grown up to be what is really the point and what’s does that do for you.

    • Hi Nastajia,

      Thank you for my kind words about my article. To paraphrase the film “The Way We Talk”: “Saying I do not want to stutter is like saying I do not like a part of who I am. I like who I am.

      James

  46. Hi James,
    First I would like to say I loved the simplicity but meaning behind this piece. As a student just starting on the Speech Pathology path I believe that this is an important lesson for us to learn. We cannot always get rid of clients speech disorders, however, helping them to realize lessons such as the ones you stated. Is there anything you would tell children that stutter to help them understand that it is okay?
    Thank you,
    JoHanna

    • Hi JoHanna,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. My advice would be:

      You are not alone
      Your stutter does not define you
      You always were, always are, and always will be so much more than your stutter. You may not see this now, but in time you will. Trust me.

      James

  47. Hey James,
    I loved this! I think this is a great way of looking at your stutter. Why get caught up on the “what if’s” of life when you can love yourself the way you are. There’s no way of changing how you are so you might as well make the best of it and be thankful for what it has given you, rather than be angry for what it has taken away.

  48. Hello James,
    I am a second year student majoring in Speech Therapy and I very much enjoyed reading this. It is a reminder that even though people may struggle with their stutter they may not struggle with knowing who they are as a person and would not change their experiences even if they could.
    Thank you for reminding me of this so when I get to enter my field I will be able to ‘help’ someone and not try to ‘fix’ someone.

    • Hi Kati,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. You have the right mindset as a future SLP. We just need help making our speech better, we do not need to be fixed. From my perspective, my stutter is not a “problem” that needs to be “fixed”. Rather it is an unique fact about myself and one of the many things that make me me.

      James

  49. Hello! I really enjoyed reading your post. I love your positive outlook, and how you also said that you would only deny it 98 times. We all of those days where we want to change something about ourselves. I am so happy that you would only take the pill those two times though. Everyone in the world is different, and your stutter is something that has shaped the unique and special person that you have come. If everyone was perfect, the world would be boring!

    • Hi Brooke,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I agree. If we were all identical, life wouldn’t be as interesting as it is.

      James

  50. Hello James,
    I found this article to be such an eye opener and inspiring. I think people get so caught up in wishing they could change something about themselves instead of embracing and loving who they are. This is a great reminder to look on the bright side things.
    Caitlyn