Reflections on the Process of Looking at Stuttering Differently – Michael Boyle

About the Author:

Michael P. Boyle is a speech-language pathologist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Montclair State University where he directs the fluency disorders research laboratory, teaches graduate courses in fluency disorders, and mentors graduate students conducting stuttering research. He has authored many research articles and book chapters on stuttering. His main research interest is in documenting the stigma experienced by people who stutter, and developing assessment methods and intervention strategies to combat it. Dr. Boyle is the author of the Self-Stigma of Stuttering Scale (4S), which has been translated into several different languages. He continues to identify evidence-based stigma reduction strategies utilized internationally by researchers, speech-language pathologists, and advocates. Dr. Boyle received a B.A. in psychology from the University of Delaware in 2006. He received a M.S. in 2008 and a Ph.D. in 2012 in communication sciences and disorders at The Pennsylvania State University.

My perspectives in this paper are informed by my experiences as a speech-language pathologist, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, support group leader, and person who stutters. Therefore, I draw upon a range of sources, including clinical insights, research findings, and my own personal experiences, in making these observations and recommendations. Perhaps what I have to say rings true to some of you who read this, and may serve you well. The following are some reflections and recommendations about being resilient in the face of stuttering. Overall, my intent is to provide a potential road map for continued growth. What follows does not presume or argue that stuttering can be “overcome” in the sense of eliminating its physical symptoms. Rather, the aim is to emphasize the notion that it is possible to live well and communicate freely while continuing to stutter. 

An ongoing journey

In the fields of psychology and disability studies, there are models of adaptation suggesting that most people go through phases or stages in response to dealing with a chronic disability (Livneh & Antonak, 1997; Smart, 2001). Although specific names of the phases vary, in general, the process moves from initial shock, confusion, defensiveness, and depression toward tolerance and acceptance. Beyond acceptance, we sometimes see pride and transcendence as well. These phases are non-linear and there is overlap between stages. Some people skip certain phases, or revert to previous ones at different times. Not everyone ends up with the same outcome, or even has the same definition for what that ultimate desired outcome should be. While keeping in mind these variations between people’s journeys, I think this model of adaptation can be helpful if it is viewed as a general process.

Throughout the years, we have heard stories told by people who stutter that seem to illustrate this journey from more negative to more positive ways of dealing with stuttering. Many people who stutter come to accept their stuttering, some show pride in it as being a valuable part of their identity, and some transcend it to the extent that it just isn’t a major factor in their lives anymore (for examples of such stories, see Bradberry, 2016; Campbell et al., 2019; Hood, 2008; Reitzes & Reitzes, 2012; and St. Louis, 2001). In my own life I can certainly relate to starting off feeling different from other people because of my stuttering and that this difference was negative. I remember being frustrated and angry because of the way I spoke, and wanting to hide this aspect of myself from other people. As I got older, I began to tolerate stuttering more and more. Ultimately, I learned to accept it as a part of my identity, just like any other trait that I have. I now feel pride in my stuttering as an aspect of myself that has given me the life I have and made me the person I am. This shift in how I perceive my stuttering seems to be the result of facing many challenges and experiencing revelations that have helped me think about stuttering differently.

The pendulum does keep swinging although the swings aren’t as wide as before, and sometimes I find myself being more or less comfortable with stuttering depending on the circumstance. I now realize that this is natural, and that the endpoint is not constant. I doubt I’ll ever get to a point where I can just “stop” and feel that I have reached the top of the mountain and can stay there forever. This is an ongoing journey that requires continued resilience. Rather than looking at this as a problem, I view it as a necessary and valuable aspect of life. People who stutter can learn from the journeys of others to see that their own experience is not strange, but rather it is shared by many other people. With that realization, we see that we need not go on this journey alone.

Outside the comfort zone

Realizing that there are shared paths in the journey to live well with stuttering can be reassuring, but how can we make progress in accepting stuttering and integrating it as a part of ourselves? The answer is by experiencing challenges, and changing our attitudes and behaviors. Doing something that requires risk and uncertainty gets us out of our comfort zone, and this can be somewhat stressful. Staying safe and comfortable in terms of our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors leads to stagnation. It limits the quality of our lives. We have capacities that only manifest when we are challenged. We are forced to transform beyond what we currently are in order to handle them. Those situations in which we have challenged our beliefs and assumptions, or acted differently than we normally do, although uncomfortable, are those very situations where we grow the most and shape our identities. 

I can think back to a period of time where I was trying to hide stuttering constantly. My focus was on trying to protect myself. I dreaded not being able to communicate, not being able to control myself the way I wanted to, and receiving disapproving reactions from others. Speech therapy throughout most of my life seemed to focus exclusively on eradicating stuttering and implementing strategies to make me more fluent. This approach just fanned the flames of my concealment and reinforced the notion that stuttering was undesirable, and should be avoided whenever possible. For me, and many other people who stutter, progress came from challenging the assumption that stuttering was bad and needed to be minimized at all costs. It also meant stuttering openly without avoidance. I made substantial changes in my mindset about stuttering only when I challenged my assumptions, got out of my comfort zone, and embraced stuttering. In essence, I did the exact opposite of everything I had ever tried to do, or thought I should do. This can be quite uncomfortable in the moment, but incredibly freeing in the long term. I can still remember two incidents that gave me tangible evidence that I had expanded my comfort zone substantially. One was when I told a listener to look at me in the eye when I was stuttering. The other was when I called someone back on the phone after being hung up on and admonishing them for hanging up on someone who stutters. 

Forgive yourself and others 

Stuttering can be a difficult thing to live with. Most people don’t understand it and they convey this misunderstanding to people who stutter. Ultimately, we can internalize those misconceptions. Growing up I seem to have had a lot of “black and white” thinking about stuttering. This belief could be summarized as: “fluency is good” and “stuttering is bad.” The natural extension of this was that: “success is fluency” and “failure is stuttering.” Early experiences in speech therapy seemed to perpetuate this way of thinking. After all, fluency was all that was focused on, and all I was reinforced for. I look back at my early life now and realize I was too hard on myself and that others often had expectations and goals for me that turned out to be inappropriate. If I stuttered noticeably, or lost control of my speech, I would think that I had failed. Since then my understanding has evolved considerably. Stuttering is a chronic, neurodevelopmental condition. I’m going to continue to stutter because, well, I stutter. That doesn’t mean I have no influence on how I communicate, but I realize that not everything can be controlled, and that’s okay.    

It is also important to be forgiving of yourself when you are “not okay” with your stuttering. As discussed earlier, the journey is non-linear and it is common for people to swing back and forth between feelings of acceptance and non-acceptance. Stuttering can be hard. If you avoid a situation, or catch yourself switching a word, remember to be forgiving of yourself in the knowledge that this is a challenging thing to live with. Being unrealistic in your expectations can also apply to thinking you should never avoid anything ever again, and instead be totally open about it in every situation. For most of us, this just isn’t a very realistic expectation. We are constantly navigating the demands of the external environment and our own internal states, and we get different results at different times. Be okay with this ambiguity and variability. It’s normal. Don’t let your idea of perfection in every situation get in the way of seeing progress overall and overshadow the good things. Also, forgive others for not understanding stuttering. Most people just don’t get it. Often, they don’t mean any harm, they are usually just ignorant. Specifically, they oversimplify it, have mistaken attributions for it, and act in ways that are often unhelpful. Take the opportunity to educate them about what stuttering is and how they can be helpful and respectful in the interaction. Hopefully they’ll do better next time, or for the next person who stutters.

Decide what it means

Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it. We don’t always control what happens to us in life. We can, however, play an active role in finding a positive meaning for anything that occurs. What does stuttering mean in our lives? I used to assume it was a major problem that needed to be eliminated or at least concealed to prevent my life from being negatively impacted. It felt like handling a crisis at times. But maybe without knowing it at the time, this thing called stuttering that I hated with so much intensity was actually providing me with the resistance I needed to help shape who I would become later in life. When I stopped asking questions like “Why did this have to happen to me?” or “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” and started asking different types of questions like, “What is valuable about this?”, What can I learn from it?”, and “How can I use my experiences to help other people?”, I began to find empowering meanings to my stuttering. They are there to be found if you look for them intentionally. Many people who stutter have found benefits to living with stuttering (Boyle et al., 2019). To me, this is the ultimate resilience: the knowledge that no matter what happens you can benefit from it if you consciously look for empowering meanings. If you had this belief, can you see how it could help you face any situation, regardless of how many times you had been knocked down? For me personally, this different view on stuttering led to me having a very fulfilling and meaningful career and life in general. Therefore, I am grateful for my stuttering and appreciate it for giving me the life I have. I can’t imagine it any other way. How can it be bad if it led me to where I am?

I hope that these observations on the process of seeing stuttering differently, including the importance of getting out of your comfort zone, being forgiving of yourself and others, and being a creator of meaning, are useful concepts to you. I’m sure that my own insights on these issues will continue to evolve over time, as the challenges and opportunities keep coming.

References:

Boyle, M. P., Beita-Ell, C., & Milewski, K. M. (2019). Finding the good in the challenge: Benefit finding among adults who stutter. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 4, 1316-1326. https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_PERS-SIG4-2019-0024

Bradberry, A. (Ed.). (2016). Reflections & wisdom: Looking back and thinking forward. National Stuttering Association.

Campbell, P., Constantino, C., & Simpson, S. (Eds.). Stammering pride and prejudice: Difference not defect. J&R Press.

Hood, S. B. (2008). Advice to those who stutter (2nd ed.). The Stuttering Foundation of America.

Livneh, H., & Antonak, R. F. (1997). Psychosocial adaptation to chronic illness and disability. Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Reitzes, P., & Reitzes, D. (Eds). (2012). Stuttering: Inspiring stories and professional wisdom. Stutter Talk, Inc.

Smart, J. (2001). Disability, society, and the individual. Aspen Publishing, Inc.

St. Louis, K. O. (Ed.). (2001). Living with stuttering: Stories, basics, resources, and hope. Populore Publishing. 



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Comments

Reflections on the Process of Looking at Stuttering Differently – Michael Boyle — 54 Comments

  1. Hi Michael. Great paper—honest, personal, and genuine. I was particularly taken by the comment “it is common for people to swing back and forth between feelings of acceptance and non-acceptance.” I just completed a workbook that is basically a journey from frustration to acceptance, then had a long discussion with the publisher re “What comes after acceptance?” Sometimes it’s relapse in the sense that shame or embarrassment creep back into the inner monologue. Acceptance is always a good goal, but it’s not really a finish line.

    • Hi Dale. Thanks for your comments. Yes, I’m finding acceptance useful to think about it as a fluid situation, not necessarily set in stone, and it may vary depending on how we feel in any given moment and our external circumstances. Maybe there is no “end goal” that is consistent for everyone all of the time.

  2. Thank you for sharing!

    I like the phrase “nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it”, absolutely TRUE! it depends on us, how we see it and if we are going to take advantage of it 🙂

    Regards from Peru

  3. Hi, Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your journey as a person who stutters! I find your opinions on changing how we think about stuttering very empowering and uplifting. I recently listened to the episode of Stuttertalk podcast (ep.667) on which you were a guest, and I’ve loved hearing your perspective on how to shift the way people think about and the language we use around stuttering. I also thought it was very helpful that you provided your own experience having previously tried to hide your stutter, and how your relationship to it has strengthened and now you see it as a valuable part of your life. I think many will benefit from this perspective to know that living with stuttering requires ongoing work and reflection, it is not something that is directly “overcome” as you said.

    Best,
    Athena Kavounas

    • Hi Athena, Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you found the information useful and relevant to you.

  4. Dr. Boyle, thank you for sharing your personal experience with stuttering and helping others understand the ongoing journey that does not necessarily have to revolve around “overcoming” the stutter, but rather embracing and allowing oneself to communicate freely. This is such a powerful message that, as a future speech-language pathologist, I will make sure to carry with me!

    • Glad to hear it! It’s all about communication and not being held back because of stuttering, rather than focusing all attention on reducing physical symptoms.

  5. Dr. Boyle,
    I thought you made an excellent point in acknowledging that there is no finish line when it comes to being comfortable with stuttering. The swinging pendulum analogy was great. This is a really important concept for clinicians to keep in mind during treatment. Once a person has reached a certain level of acceptance of stuttering, that does not mean that life will always be easy from that point on. There will still be days when the challenges of stuttering feel overwhelming. By acknowledging and accepting this, it is easier to learn from the challenges and continue moving forward. Thank you!
    Lauren

    • Yes, absolutely Lauren. I think it can certainly help regarding expectations for therapy.

  6. Michael, what a great paper. My favorite line is, “We have capacities that only manifest when we are challenged.” I find that to be true! Stepping out of our comfort zones isn’t easy, so we can take small steps. I’m thinking of my friend Reuben Schuff and his catch phrase, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and what psychologist Aisling Curtin writes about “connecting with a big enough ‘why’ to justify feeling discomfort regularly.” I could not agree more that “the journey is non-linear and it is common for people to swing back and forth between feelings of acceptance and non-acceptance.” Again, true for me, and my students! Best,

    Rob Dellinger

    • Hi Rob, thanks very much for your feedback. I’m glad it resonated with you. I think that having the expectation that it isn’t necessarily easy or linear is important to set appropriate expectations and let people know they aren’t strange for having those feelings.

  7. Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences. I recently read the book “Out With It” for my fluency class and your experience reminded me of hers. She also felt frustration, shame, anger, and embarrassment as a child who stutters. But as she got older, she began to not only accept her stutter but embrace it. She also began to view stuttering as part of her identity. From reading the book, it also seems that this shift in perspective came from many challenging experiences that forced her to reflect. I found this paper to be so genuine and so informative. I really loved your statement about meaning and how we are responsible for giving anything meaning. I totally agree, life is what you make it and perspective is key. Thank you for your empowering words!

    Best,
    Karissa O’Cain

    • Thanks for your feedback Karissa. Yes, it is certainly true that many people who stutter share similar journeys and although none are totally identical there are many common threads across different people. This can be seen in books, chapters, or papers written by people who stutters. There are many examples of this in this conference!

  8. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your journey with stuttering! Something that really stood out to me in your paper was when you were discussing how everyone’s journey with stuttering is different and not everyone ends up with the same outcome. Stuttering impacts each individual differently and I think it is so important that people are aware of this. You also brought up a great point about forgiving others. Most people do not truly understand stuttering and have misconceptions about it. These misconceptions can sometimes come across in a negative way to a PWS even though it was not intentional. This is when forgiveness comes into play. Instead of internalizing their misunderstandings, educate them. Teach them about what stuttering is and how they can be more respectful and aware in future conversations. While this is easier said than done, it is something that an SLP can help a client work towards doing.As a future speech-language pathologist, it is important for me to help teach each of my clients who stutter how to self-advocate for themselves and help others understand what stuttering is.

    The concepts you discussed in this paper are so very important. Explaining each concept with a personal experience really helped me understand and think about how I can apply what you said to a client I am currently working with in my internship. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story!

    Best,
    Mandie Hill

    • Hi Mandie, I appreciate your feedback. I’m happy you found this reflection meaningful and potentially useful to you in your clinical practice. Best of luck with your internship.

  9. Hello Michael,

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on stuttering and resiliency. When you first mentioned the process of accepting your stutter and moving from a place of shock and anxiety to one of tolerance, I thought that closely resembled the grieving process. Coming to terms with a stutter is not always linear, and as someone who does not stutter, it is difficult for me to fully understand that process. However, I appreciated what you had to say about how stuttering is different for everyone. Just because someone accepts stuttering as a huge part of their identity on most days doesn’t mean that the same person doesn’t have days where they fear certain situations or environments because of their stutter. I think you brought up an important point at the end of this paper: perspective. Whether we are a person who stutters or not, we can all use perspective shifts from time to time to remind us that we are more in control of situations than we think we are. Thank you for sharing.

    Best,
    Alexa Abadee

  10. Michael,

    What a beautiful paper! You really gave some amazing insight! As a graduate student who is practicing to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, I sincerely appreciated how you reflected about your time in therapy as a person who stutters. It saddens me that at that time you felt like stuttering made you a failure, but brings me great joy that you now have adopted such a wonderful perspective and are promoting more positivity within this part of the field. I couldn’t agree more that this world can treat unfamiliar things pretty harshly, and we unfortunetly have the tendency to accept these things that our projected upon us and believe them. I love your approach on forgiveness. Stuttering can be viewed in a very negative light if we allow it to be casted that way. It is simply about how you choose to perceive the challenges you face. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and I will certainly be promoting this way of thinking as a future SLP!

    Best,
    Jordan McCoy

  11. Dr. Boyle,
    I am a communication sciences and disorders graduate student, and I am currently taking a course on Fluency. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your past experiences with stuttering, how you overcame negative self-perceptions, and your advice on how to play an active role in finding a positive light to your stutter. One topic in your paper that I found quite interesting was when you discussed previous experiences that you had while attending speech therapy. You noted that the strategies that speech-language pathologists used aimed to diminish your stutter, which increased your negative thoughts towards it. You then stated that openly stuttering rather than avoiding it allowed you to gain a more positive mindset and ultimately embrace your stutter.
    I wanted to ask, when I graduate my CSD program and work with individuals who stutter, how can I break the mold of being an average speech-language pathologist? Often times I have observed the “easy onset” and “talking slowly” strategy. However, like you noted in your paper, these strategies are more geared towards hiding and diminishing a stutter rather than acknowledging and accepting it. If you have any words of advice, I am very receptive to them!
    Kind regards,
    Sofia Marianc

    • Hi Sofia. My advice would be to keep doing what you are doing now – trying to learn more about stuttering and expanding your perspective. You (and every clinician) needs the humility to know that there is a lot to learn, and to go deeper than what is noticeable on the surface. The posts in this conference certainly help with this, along with other books and writings from people who stutter, podcasts, conferences for people who stutter, etc. If you really seek to understand the nature of stuttering, and therefore understand the problem, you’ll be on your way to being able to conduct assessments and interventions that take into account these more nuanced issues.

  12. Dear Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your genuine and honest experience with stuttering. It is inspiring and motivating that your once frustration and anger evolved to perceiving your stutter as who you are today. That being said, I appreciate how you note that it is a journey that has its ups and downs. However, it is important to have resilience to face new challenges and how one learns and reacts to those new experiences in life. There are two specific things that I absolutely love and relate to in your paper. First, I love that you say that taking risks can be stressful but help us grow and shape who we are. I grew up not taking risks and remaining in my comfort zone. Risks scared every part of me. Within the last two years, I have realized how important it is for me to go outside of my comfort zone and take risks, even if they are small. I have learned more from taking risks then staying inside my comfort zone. The risks have challenged my beliefs and thoughts as well as changing who I am. In addition, I love how you express “nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it.” I think often it is easier to think negatively about a situation or blame things on situations rather than think positively or think critically about the situation. I think that switching the focus of our questions to being more empowerful will have a completely different impact on our lives. I will take this not only into consideration for my own life, but also into the future as I enter my career as a SLP. Thank you so much for all your insights and thoughts that I will continue to carry with me.

    Kind Regards,

    Bailey Deason

  13. Hi Michael!

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with all of us. I find as a future clinician it is so important to hear personal stories rather than learning everything from a textbook. I appreciate you being upfront and honest, saying that you did experience the negative feelings and your journey is never-ending, it is on-going! I found your advice of challenging your opinions and views very helpful. Not only is that good advice for future clients who stutter, but also good life advice! We live lives that are very routine-based and egotistical, it is so important to change your view or outlook every once in a while. Lastly, I enjoyed your piece on forgiving yourself. This is such great feedback to give to future clients. It is so important to remind them to forgive themselves for stuttering; it happened, accept it, and move on! There is no reason to dwell on it.

    Thank you again for sharing your personal story!
    Lauryn Mellberg

  14. I found this incredibly insightful. As a future SLP, when I read that your experience with speech therapy was primarily focused on “eradicating stuttering and implementing strategies”, I can see how that reinforces the notion that stuttering is undesirable. From this, I gathered that acceptance is an important step for a PWS and it is even more important to focus on the emotional aspect of stuttering than to simply teach fluency strategies. I hope to highlight the positives of stuttering in my future sessions in hopes of encouraging acceptance in my future clients. Thank you for sharing your personal experience!

  15. Hello Michael,

    Thank you for this wonderful and immensely useful paper. Every word here has wisdom that I can benefit from.

    The following statement is so important for me, and perhaps other PWS, to integrate into our lives: “People who stutter can learn from the journeys of others to see that their own experience is not strange, but rather it is shared by many other people. With that realization, we see that we need not go on this journey alone.”.

    With that, I have found that we need to sometimes encourage PWS who are new to the Journey to try to let go of comparing themselves (their stutter) to that of others.

    Also profound, and worth emphasising for me, is that “Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it”.

    Thank you.
    Hanan

    • Thanks Hanan, I appreciate your feedback and the work you are doing for this conference and for people who stutter in general.

  16. It’s a little disappointing to hear about so many people who have had bad experiences with their speech-language pathologists. I hope the next generation of SLPs will be able to empower people who stutter as you have suggested. I like how you mentioned that learning to accept stuttering isn’t a linear process. It’s okay not to love your stuttering all the time. I think that’s something I’ll definitely remember to tell future clients. Also, it’s unfortunate that people who stutter have to educate so many people on stuttering, but hopefully it will make it easier for the next generation.

    Thanks for writing this!

    -Kimi

  17. Hi Dr. Boyle,
    This article was so interesting and insightful to read through. Thank you for sharing your stuttering journey and being so candid about the acceptance process through experiencing challenges and altering the emotional and physical responses that follow. I hope that as an SLP when I encounter clients who stutter, I can guide them through their journeys and remind them that stuttering is okay. I agree that it is important to remind people who stutter to acknowledge and forgive ebbs in their confidence. Also, I really admire that you said you are “grateful for your stuttering.” Your outlook on life and its meaning are truly inspirational. I like that you touched on the importance of consciously seeking empowering meanings in situations to prevail with strength and knowledge.
    Best,
    Lorena Zarotsky

  18. Hello Dr. Boyle,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this paper and sharing your experiences with us. I really appreciate how genuine and honest you are with your experiences as a person who stutters. In particular, the way your explained viewing your stutter as a pendulum and highlighted to take in the highs and the lows of the journey was really insightful. I completely agree with your ending thoughts that “nothing in life has meaning except the meaning we give it”. This quote is really empowering and emphasizes that we are in charge of and have power over our own thoughts and feelings. The more papers I read from this year’s conference, the more I realize the importance of acceptance, education, and resiliency. As a future SLP, I think it is more important to teach these traits with greater importance than the traditional fluency strategies that are typically thought of in stuttering therapy. Thank you for sharing this insight with us!

    • Yes, absolutely there are a lot of common threads in the papers. These are a very valuable resources in understanding the experience of stuttering.

  19. Michael,

    This was an amazing piece of literature that I am extremely grateful I read! I have family who stutters and this has changed how I see their stuttering. From a very young age my family has treated their stuttering like a disability that hinders their fluent communication, but after reading your paper I now realize it is just a part of how they communicate. It is not overwhelmingly positive or negative for them and shouldn’t be treated that way. As you said, it’s ok to not love your stutter all the time.

    When you mentioned the point of getting out of your comfort zone, I immediately thought of my sister. She was terrified to try out for our school’s fall play because she was scared she would be laughed at or just not cast because of her stutter. She took a leap of faith and was rewarded. Now she has a new passion for theatre and it is helping her gain resilience. Your story hit home and I will take with me you wonderful teachings to hopefully apply to other situations. To show understanding and patience with people different from me.

    It warms my heart to know you have found fulfillment and happiness. I hope you continue to share!

    Thank you!
    ~Allison Luyster

  20. Hi Allison, I’m glad to hear that some of this resonated with experiences and relationships that you have in your own life.

  21. Hi Dr. Boyle,
    I appreciate how you wrote about your own journey with stuttering for the public to read! Being able to acknowledge that “The pendulum does keep swinging although the swings aren’t as wide as before,” is definitely a statement to keep in mind for anyone else that might stutter who reads this article to reinforce the idea that stuttering does not just magically disappear with the help of therapy. I agree with how you believe that to accept stuttering you need to venture outside your comfort zone, because overcoming that initial fear of branching outwards can be such a boost to a person’s self- confidence, because it is never really as bad as someone makes it out to be in their head. Finally, I liked how you gave examples regarding how to find empowering meanings to stuttering, because helping a person who stutters with some initial examples goes a long way towards getting them to begin to create their own definitions and examples in order to grow their confidence as well.
    Thanks,
    Chris Truong

  22. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for taking time to provide the reader’s with insight on how to look at stuttering differently. While reading your paper, I was reminded about a book I recently read “Out With It” by Katherine Prescott. In her journey to accepting herself as a person who stutters she seemed to have experienced all of the phases of adaptation that you mentioned early on in your paper. It takes time and patience to move throughout each stage with the hope of reaching acceptance. You stated it perfectly, “it’s an ongoing journey” where sometimes one may find themselves feeling completely comfortable and other times when the situation may make one feel less comfortable. I feel as if your paper is a great way for a soon to be SLP like myself to target overall fluency therapy. It is important that the therapist reminds the individual that stuttering is an ongoing journey and that it takes stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to push within accepting stuttering as a whole. In addition, it is important to remind your clients that they should forgive themselves and others for any misunderstanding that may have been associated with people who stutter. Hopefully in the end we would be able to help our clients in figuring out what stuttering means within their life.

    -Rochelle Draper

  23. Dr. Boyle,
    Thank you so much for sharing your perspectives and experiences with stuttering. I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to acknowledge that therapy is not meant to “overcome” stuttering but learning to embrace it. I read somewhere that it is not how you say the message but what you say is important. Your insight is very helpful to me as an SLP in the sense that I have a better idea of how I can help manage expectations in therapy, acknowledging the client’s frustrations but communicating this is an ongoing journey.

  24. Hi Dr. Boyle,
    I learned so much from reading your paper! As a graduate student in speech language pathology, I am currently taking a fluency class where we learn about the importance of addressing the emotional side of stuttering in therapy in order to create a safe environment in helping clients address their negative thoughts about their own stutter. My professor has taught me the positive effects and transformation in their attitudes as they become more open and accepting of their own stutter. However, I never thought about the fact that it is normal for a person who stutters to follow and even ebb and flow along a general series of phases in reaching that acceptance stage. It reminds me how even in general we all have struggles we have better days on accepting our ongoing issues in life and other days where we feel worse about our individual situations. It really helps me as a graduate student better understand the process of how accepting one’s stutter may be like, and the realities of reaching acceptance. I also enjoyed your statement in forgiving others who do not understand stuttering because of their ignorance and instead taking that opportunity to educate them rather than judge them or let them stay ignorant. I feel like even now stuttering is still quite misunderstood in society, so taking the chance to educate someone who appears to be well-meaning when ignorant is a great way in spreading awareness and education. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, I will definitely remember and these stages of acceptance into my practice as a future SLP!
    -Kristine

  25. Hello Dr. Boyle,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, knowledge, and insight. This was so valuable to read. One of the things that really resonated with me was your use of a pendulum to describe our feelings and reactions. The ongoing journey of coping and acceptance is characterized by intentionally changing once radical, intense feelings/reactions to more manageable and grounded ones. When our pendulums swing too wide, we have trouble getting ourselves back to center. Everyone experiences this. As a future SLP, your insights are so valuable in helping me better understand my future clients/students/etc. It’s important to recognize and understand where a person is at with their stuttering and where we need to help them get. Having read about your experiences, I understand more what trials and tribulations a PWS may be navigating and the types of emotional and cognitive reactions they may be experiencing in the process. Thank you for the insight!

  26. Hi Michael,
    My name is Melissa Francis and I am a graduate student at Chapman University studying communication sciences and disorders. I really enjoyed you sharing your own personal experience outlook and experience with stuttering. I also think it is important that you acknowledge how hard the journey is to get to a point of full acceptance and positivity in terms of stuttering. Forgiveness is crucial part in life as a whole but it is important to note that when you are not okay with stuttering. Overall I loved your outlook on stuttering and life as a whole, I personally do not stutter but learned how important outlook is and the steps needed to take to get to where you want to be.
    All the best,
    Melissa Francis

  27. Michael,

    I appreciate your perspective on living with stuttering. You describe so well the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone when you are up for it, but being forgiving when you aren’t up for a challenge. Understanding that life is a journey, and that the notion of ‘arriving’ (whatever ones idea of an end point might be) is not a very useful concept, seems to be a key factor. You shared ideas that are useful for readers who stutter and for those of us who do not.

    Regards,

    Lynne Shields

  28. Hi Dr. Boyle,

    I thought you made an excellent point with the swinging pendulum analogy. I couldn’t agree more that we need to acknolwedge that stuttering isn’t going to end as there is no cure for stuttering. I think this is super beneficial for clinician’s to understand. Just because a person accepts their stuttering it doesnt mean that life will be extra easy, it is always changing as life is always changing and so some days stuttering may be significantly more overwhelming than on other days. that does not mean that life will always be easy from that point on. There will still be days when the challenges of stuttering feel overwhelming. but coming to terms with stuttering and have a positive outlook is very important.

    best, Michelle

  29. Dr. Boyle, thank you for sharing! I love this approach that you have taken on stuttering. Something that stood out to me was consciously deciding to mean. As you mentioned, so many things are beyond our control, but we do have the choice of how to think and react. I agree that this is the ultimate resilience. I think that this ability to take on anything, knowing that you can handle it is so valuable and empowering. As a future SLP, I think it is essential to empower people who stutter and promote this positive way of viewing stuttering.
    Thanks again!
    -Charlotte Hata