Being the Person I Needed When I was Younger – James Hayden

James Hayden

About the Author:

James Hayden is an HLA technologist, writer, and a person who stutters from the New Orleans area. James is the author of Dear World, I Stutter: A Series of Open Letters from a Person Who Stutters. His work has been published by The Mighty, The Stuttering Foundation, Stamma, Yahoo, and MSN. James has also appeared on several podcasts, presented at the National Stuttering Association conference, the Australian Speak Easy Association Virtual Conference, and was a speaker at TEDxOchsner 2019. He also serves as the chapter leader for the New Orleans chapter for the National Stuttering Association.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m sure that’s a question most of us were asked at some point during our childhood. Like most kids, I had unrealistic expectations about what the future would hold for me.  Five-year-old me wanted to be a Power Ranger, specifically the green one. They were my heroes for how they saved Earth from evil such as: Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, Divatox, Astronema, and many others.   Once I realized that was unattainable, my answer went from meteorologist to pharmacist to forensic scientist.  Now that I’m 28, and considered a grown up, my response to that question is, “The person I needed when I was younger.” You might be wondering, “Who is that person?”  “How do you do that, James?” “Why do you do put your biggest vulnerability out there?” Well, allow me to explain. 

Growing up, I did not know another person who stutters (PWS). As a result, there was a time when I thought I was the only PWS on earth. Over time, I learned that wasn’t the case; however, I did not meet another PWS until I was 22 years old. The only “role model” I had in my life was Porky Pig and let’s be real Porky’s not a role model for a PWS, especially young PWS. Due to the lack of PWS in my life and poor representation in the media, I didn’t have anyone to share my insecurities with about stuttering.  I had no one to tell me that it will be ok and that I am not alone in this journey, but rather one of seventy million people in this world who stutter. I didn’t know that a person who stuttered could be successful, however you define success. I didn’t have any one that truly “got it”. In short, I didn’t have any one or any representation who showed me or told me, “It’s ok to stutter.” Ultimately, that’s the person I’m trying to be. Someone who uses their voice and platform to tell others, especially young PWS, “It’s ok to stutter.”

Now that we know who I’m trying to be, let’s talk about how I try to be that person. Up until a few years ago, I did everything in my power to not be the person I needed.  Stuttering was that embarrassing friend that neither myself nor anyone else acknowledged. If I did talk about it, then I did it with a voice full of shame and embarrassment. If someone else acknowledged it, then I told them off. Over the past few years, I’ve become comfortable with my voice and now I use it at all the time. I use my social media platforms to promote stuttering awareness. I use the written word to share my experiences as a PWS in order to give others an honest account of what stuttering is. I will talk about stuttering anywhere and anytime with anyone in hopes that it removes any stigmas and taboos associated with stuttering. I go on podcasts to talk about my journey to show others they are not alone. My voice is now full of pride and confidence when I talk about stuttering. That’s a sentence I couldn’t write a few years ago.   

Ultimately, my why is simple: I want my voice to be part of the dialogue that changes how we view stuttering.  Putting my biggest vulnerability out there is difficult and at times uncomfortable; yet, it’s well worth it. I put my vulnerability out there to show 10-year-old James and other young PWS that it’s ok to stutter. I do it to show them that stuttering should not and will not hold them back from doing incredible things in their lives. I do this to show everyone how powerful it is when we embrace our vulnerabilities.  Simply, I do everything I do so I can be the person I needed when I was younger. I also do it to be the person another PWS might need. If my voice lets even one young PWS know they’re not alone, then every negative thing I’ve experienced and will experience because of stuttering is well worth it. Ultimately, I want my words to speak the change I wish to see for future generations. 

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Comments

Being the Person I Needed When I was Younger – James Hayden — 163 Comments

  1. James your story resonated with me so much! I as well tried to hide my stuttering and not identify with it due to that fear of shame growing up until I saw the light of how impactful it was for my own self-worth to speak up and to educate others.

    I love your why of doing it for your past self and the future generations. It is a heavy burden for us people who stutter have to take on — to be the educators of this disability but it is through people like yourself that helps encourage others to join this mission that we all know is worth the long fight ahead for the community.

    Thanks for all your great work in the community for sharing your story.

    — Kunal

    • Hi Kunal. Thank you for your kind words about my article. I’m glad to hear my story resonated with you.

  2. Thank you for that James. Your paper really brings out the need to provide children with therapy focused on acceptance and avoidance reduction rather than fixing. Thank you so much for putting yourself out there and sharing your experiences!

  3. Badass, James. I look up to you as one of the people that are actually doing the work to make a difference in the lives of people who stutter, via your book, your essays, your talks and universities, and your leadership with the NSA.

    Keep it up, brother.

    • David, your words bring a smile to my face. Thank you for this comment. It means a lot to me.

  4. Hi James, your story is truly inspiring. I especially felt so sad when I read “The person I needed when I was younger.” Such a powerful phrase. How did you come to that realization and do you think that PWS will eventually come to that conclusion as well?

    • Hi Gina,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I first heard a variation of that saying on the news a few years ago and it stuck with me. The more I got involved in the stuttering community, the more I realized I’m being the person I needed when I was younger and it’s something I want to continue doing. I think if all people, not just PWS, reached that conclusion we’d be better off.

  5. As a future SLP-CCC, I really appreciate reading and hearing the experiences of people who stutter. Your stutter is a part of you and instead it being something therapists teach you to hide…we need to be instead an ally on your journey to empowerment. Thank you for sharing your journey and I really want to read your book.

    • Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for reading my article and your kind words about it. Exactly! My stutter is just one of the things that make me uniquely me and not something that I should be ashamed of and hide.
      I hope you enjoy my book.

  6. Hi James! I loved reading this article! I can only imagine how isolating it would feel not knowing any other PWS. I think it’s amazing that you want to make a more safe and secure environment for children who stutter, showing that stuttering isn’t something to be ashamed of. Thank you for having the courage to share your story!

  7. James, you are such a humble hero. You speak and write with the clarity and conviction of the very best communicators I have seen/heard.

    I loved this line: “If my voice lets even one young PWS know they’re not alone, then every negative thing I’ve experienced and will experience because of stuttering is well worth it.”

    For all the negative experiences (big and small) it takes remarkable humanity to pivot and turn it into a badge of courage and honor by harnessing your experiences to help others. And likely, help yourself as well.

    James you are an inspiration and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations this year.

    Bravo!

    • Uri,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. They mean so much coming from you.

      I enjoyed our conversation as well.

  8. James,
    I loved your story. I think it is amazing how you went from being embarrassed about your stuttering to now embracing it and being a positive impact for other PWS. “I do everything I do so I can be the person I needed when I was younger”. That gives me chills. That is such a world-changing attitude to hold!

    • Hi Brittany,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your kind words about it.

  9. I absolutely loved your story, it is so inspiring. You not only changed your life for the better by embracing your stutter, but you are changing so many others’ lives as well. This is a great accomplishment. I love that you are trying to be the person you needed when you were younger, that is a great way to live!

    • Hi,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your kind words about it.

  10. Thank you for you insight and perspective on stuttering. I had never thought about the fact that most children who stutter have never met anyone else who stutters. As a future SLP-CCC, I hope to spread awareness of this reality and work towards a change.

    • Hi,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. I was in my early 20s when I met another PWS and that was a game changer for me.

  11. Hello James! Your journey is truly inspirational. Being vulnerable is not an easy thing to do, however by taking that leap and doing so, you have positively impacted so many peoples lives. Thank you for spreading awareness and being the green power ranger type hero for young PWS to look up too.

    • Hi Serena,

      Thank you for your taking time to read my article and for your kind words about it. I agree that being vulnerable is not easy, but I believe vulnerability is a strength.
      Being compared to a Power Ranger has five year old me is smiling from ear to ear right now.

  12. Hi James,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I feel very emotional and inspired by your story. I love the line “I want my voice to be part of the dialogue that changes how we view stuttering. Putting my biggest vulnerability out there is difficult and at times uncomfortable; yet, it’s well worth it. I put my vulnerability out there to show 10-year-old James and other young PWS that it’s ok to stutter.” This line is such an eye opening for me to share stuttering awareness to younger generation. Once again, Thank you so much for sharing this!

  13. Hi James,

    This artcile was exactly what I needed to read. I love how you talked about being the person you needed when you were younger because with all different things in life, so many people need that motivation and encouragement. I know from an early age having a speech impediment stopped me from being who I wanted to be so I am truly inspired with what you said. Thank you for sharing your testimony and being a light for those to see. Truly inspirational.

    • Hi Shelbi,

      Thank you for taking time to ready my article and for your kind words about it.

  14. I really loved this article! I thought it was very powerful, and I cannot imagine how difficult and isolating it must have been to go through your childhood alone. I think it is great that you are dedicating your life to being an advocate for stuttering and making sure no other child feels alone through the process of finding who they are.

  15. Hi James. I enjoyed reading and learning more about your experiences growing up as a person who stutters. As a SLP student, your perspective is inspiring to me. It is very honorable that you are dedicated to spread awareness and advocating for this cause, in hopes of letting other children who may have never met another person who stutters finding that support. Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. Thank you for this! showing our vulnerability is such a challenge! and your rationale for doing so is incredible. My admiration

  17. Hi James. I really enjoyed the article; it was very inspiring to read about your journey in learning to accept your stutter and be more open about discussing it. Your experience was very eye-opening in terms of the need to increase stuttering awareness and bringing about a positive change in the lives of young people who stutter. Thank you for sharing your story!

  18. James, your story is very inspiring and I’m so happy you were able to gain confidence in your stutter. When talking about your experience, you mentioned there was a point when you felt like your stutter was that embarrassing friend. Did you ever feel like your mental health was at risk because of your stutter? I’m aware that stuttering can sometimes make some people feel like they want to just avoid it in general and I was wondering if you ever felt ashamed or even dealt with stress and/or anxiety because of your stutter? I think it’s important to provide these co-therapy strategies for PWS because it is not just the speech aspect that goes into it, but also the psychological aspect a PWS faces.

    • Hi Ivone,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I never felt that my mental health was at risk because of my stutter. I did feel shame and embarrassment because of my stutter and I talked about those feelings when I was in speech therapy during my time in college. I agree that it’s important to talk about the emotions associated with stuttering while in speech therapy.

  19. Hi James,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I think it’s great that you’re being vulnerable and spreading the word that stuttering isn’t bad, it just is. I really believe there’s a special type of ignorance when it comes to society’s views on PWS and we as a whole need to be educated on the subject. I hope when I finish my education and become and SLP I’m able to help in that aspect.

    -Kaitlyn

    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your kind words about it. I love your line “..stuttering isn’t bad, it just is.” That’s so true! With that mindset, I know you’ll be a great SLP.
      I agree that there’s a whole lot of ignorance about stuttering in our society. Yet, through conversations like this the ignorance is slowly turning into understanding.

  20. Hi James, thank you for taking the time to share your story with the world. I would love to listen to your podcasts if possible. I am currently a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. What is your best advice for a therapist working with young students. I do not have much experience in the area of fluency, and I want my students to feel comfortable and encouraged by me.

    Thank you!
    -Kaitlyn

    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Some of the podcasts I’ve been on are: Transcending Stuttering, My Stuttering Life, Stuttering is Cool, and The 20/20 Perspective Podcast.

      Some of my best advice is:
      1. Make sure your child knows that it’s ok to stutter and that nothing is wrong with them.
      2. Conform your plan to your client not your client to your plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
      3. Incorporate their interests into your lesson plans.
      4. Make sure they know that you are someone they can talk to about how they feel about their stutter.

  21. Hi James, thank you for sharing your story! I can’t even imagine being so young and how isolated you must have felt. Your story is truly inspiring.
    If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do specifically to gain confidence in your voice? Did you see a SLP, a therapist, or was it something that you gained over time?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Ashley,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. To answer your question, it was many things that led me to gaining confidence in my voice.

      The first step was going back to speech therapy during college. I went for two years. During those two years, I really TALKED about stuttering for the first time. It was through those conversations with my speech therapists that I started to realize that stuttering may not be the worst thing on the planet.

      The second step was getting involved with the National Stuttering Association a few months after I graduated college. Meeting other PWS and being involved with that organization was huge in my journey towards acceptance.

      Those two things factored with getting older and realizing that stuttering is just one of many things that make me me are why I have the confidence I now have.

  22. Hi James!

    I loved reading your story, thank you for sharing it with us! I think it’s so incredible how you grew as a PWS and started looking at the positive outcomes it could bring you! I’m so glad to hear that you’re using your voice as a platform for other PWS. In today’s age, I think it’s so important for other PWS to know they are not alone, as most of them feel they are. I’m currently a graduate student studying speech-language pathology and I’m trying to learn how to be the clinician my client’s need me to be for them.

    Thank you,
    Miranda

    • Hi Miranda,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for your kind words about it.

  23. Hi James,
    I enjoyed reading your story about becoming the person you needed when you were younger. I have several fluency clients on my caseload right now that I believe don’t know of anyone else who stutters. I can only imagine how isolating it may feel to think you are the only one. What are some positive experiences in your life that you think have encouraged you to advocate for others? Thanks!

    • Hi,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your kind words about it. It comes down to three positive experiences spread out over a 6 year period.

      1. (Fall 2013-May 2015) Going back to speech therapy during my junior and senior years of college. It was the first time I actually TALKED about stuttering and through those conversations I started to realize that stuttering may not be the worst thing on the planet.

      2. (March 2017) In the span of a few days, I guest lectured at my local university’s class about stuttering and spoke at a community event about stuttering. Through those two things, I realized I liked talking about stuttering and I want to talk to as many SLP students as possible.

      3. (June 2019) I gave a TED talk at my company’s inaugural TEDx event. That is the most is the most tangible sign of how far I’ve come in my journey with accepting this part of myself. I stuttered my butt off for 5 minutes, but I did it and didn’t care that I stuttered that much.

      Those three events made me realize that this topic I want to talk about and advocate for whenever possible. I think the more we talk about stuttering the more the stigma around it is removed.

  24. Hi James,

    Thank you so much for your vulnerability and sharing! I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the subject. What can adult PWS do — those who aren’t celebrities and who may not have large platforms with which to communicate with children and other individuals who stutter — to be better role models for children who stutter?

    Also, what are some things that parents of children who do not stutter can do to educate their children about PWS and raise them to be caring, loving, and supportive towards them?

    • Hi,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your kind words about it.

      Fantastic questions. Things AWS can do are: don’t be afraid to openly stutter; talk about stuttering; don’t let stuttering hold you back from living to the fullest; get involved with stuttering support groups. I know these things are far easier said than done, but I think the more we talk about and see stuttering the more normalized it becomes. That’ll show the next generation of PWS that stuttering is just one small part of their story and not their entire story.

      Parents can do a few things. The first is demonstrate empathy not just to PWS, but to everyone who is different than them. Secondly, don’t be afraid to answer their kids questions. If a child asks, “Why does he/she talk that way?” then properly answer the question. Telling a child, “That’s rude to ask,” only further the taboos and stigmas associated with stuttering.

  25. Hi James,
    I really enjoyed reading your article! I am always taken aback by the fact that most PWS grow up not knowing another PWS. Your article reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, “Vulnerability is terrifying. The courage it takes to reveal your heart is one of the most daunting…and yet rewarding experiences in life. It will set you free.” THANK YOU for your vulnerability! Your voice matters tremendously!

    -Anaisa

    • Hi Anaisa,

      Thank you for reading my article and or your kind words about it. I love the quote that you shared.

  26. Hi James,

    You made so many points I wish I knew when I was younger! I have a family member that is a PWS (he also wanted to be a power ranger, but he denies it now). I wish he had more positive role models growing up because my family was not very supportive with his speech. They meant well (or so I think) but in retrospect the way they handled it was humiliating and negative.
    For such a long time he avoided speaking to non familiar speaking partners for so long. Eventually he found comedy and he used it as an outlet. I just hate he had to go through life alone without much support.

    -Anissia

    • Hi Anissia,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. From my experience and through reflecting on my own childhood, your family meant well. Could my family have done some things better when I was kid? Yep. However, they were doing the best they could with the info and resources they had 20 years ago. I’m sure your family was doing the same thing.

      I’m glad your brother found an outlet that works for him.

  27. Hi James,

    Thank you for the amazing read! It didn’t occur to me before about the lack of role models who stutter. It seems that PWS don’t have many places to look but in the community, at each other, at friends and family and people like you who can be the person says that it’s alright! As a future SLP, in the potential absence of role models, how can we uplift and instill confidence in our clients?

    • Hi Jose,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. Only 1% of the population are PWS, so I look to other people in the stuttering community for support on my rough days.

      Good question. You can instill confidence by reminding them that it is ok to stutter and that there is nothing wrong with stuttering. You can instill confidence by also helping them reach whatever speech therapy goals they want to achieve. You can also provide them resources for support groups. Meeting other PWS helped me tremendously. Lastly, just remind them that stuttering is just one of them many incredible things that make them uniquely them.

  28. Hi James!
    Wow, what a truly amazing and inspiring story! I am in my last semester of undergrad studying communicative disorders and sciences, hoping to become an SLP in the near future so it is interesting to be able to read these from a point of view with PWS. Reading about your why, wanting your voice to be part of the dialogue that changes how we view stuttering, is amazing. If you had any advice to a younger PWS who had visions of wanting to make a difference and wanting to make their voice heard as well, what would you tell them or how would you encourage them to do so?
    All the best to you!
    -Desi

    • Hi Desi,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your kind words about it.
      Great question! My advice is simple: Just do it! Your message is worth being heard. Your voice is beautiful and worth being heard.

  29. James,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I cannot imagine what it is like as a young child to feel so isolated. I love that throughout your time you decided to take action and advocate for young children who stutter. It is so important for everyone to continue to raise awareness in order to better the future generations.
    – Maddie

    • Hi Maddie,

      Thanks for reading my article. I agree that making a better for future generations is one of the most important things we can do.

  30. I think your story is so inspiring and allows younger children who stutter to realize that they too have a voice! I admire your courageousness and can see how much you have grown as a person, I hope many are inspired by you just as much as I am! Thank you for sharing!

  31. Hey James, your paper was very inspirational. I’ve been told once before by one of my mentors, to be the person I needed when I was younger a saying a live by. Reading this, brings me joy as thanks to you other people can now understand this concept, and make a change.
    Thank you,
    Carlos

  32. Hi James! I loved reading your contribution and I am so grateful that you shared this with the world! Your confidence is inspiring and truly admirable. I cannot imagine feeling such a sense of isolation at such a young age. Your dedication to advocacy and awareness is so important to bettering society. Reading this was eye opening and gave me a bit of perspective of what it is like to walk in your shoes. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Hi Maddy,

      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  33. Hi James!

    Thank you for sharing your story and being vulnerable with us. I have no doubt that you felt alone before you discovered that you were not the only person who stutters. It is scary to think about being the only person in anything. However, it is inspiring to know that you are striving to be the person you needed when you were younger. I was just wondering if you think your life would be significantly different if you had the role model you needed? Also, do you think you would have benefited from stuttering therapy if it focused on the emotional aspects of stuttering like confidence and acceptance?

    – Kaitlyn

    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. Good questions.

      I had role models in other aspects of my life, but none were PWS. Had one of my role models been a PWS, it would’ve helped younger me immensely. I would not know I’m not the only PWS in the world and I would have someone who truly “gets it” to confide in on my rough days.

      As to your second question, to a degree it would’ve helped when I was younger. Eight year old me would probably want both approaches. He would want to know it’s ok to stutter, but have the tools to not stutter as well.

      In college, my speech therapy was somewhat like this. Yes, I (re-)learned techniques to reduce my stutter, but this was the first time I TALKED about the emotional elements of stuttering. It was through those conversations that led to me becoming confident in my voice and accepting this part of myself.

  34. Hi James!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m currently working as a speech therapist at a school and have very minimal experience working with children who stutter. Do you have any advice on how to talk to younger children so that they feel more safe/open about talking about their stutter?

    • Hi Kaylie,

      Thank you for reading my article. From my experience, the most important thing is that they know the door’s open. You could tell them, “I know stuttering is weird and you might feel different than the other kids in your class. If you want to talk about those weird feeling, I’m more than happy to talk to you about them.” Leave it at that. Let the child decide if/when/how they want to talk about their stutter. I know younger me would’ve liked to know that door was open, but he most likely would not have gone through the door.

  35. Hi James!

    You have truly inspired me with your life experience. I don’t stutter, but I have a niece that stutters and seeing her go through these similar battles. My question to you is, what is the best advice you can give a family member to be a better support system? How can I make her feel not alone on this? Hope to hear back from you! Seriously inspirational!

    • Hi Karen,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. The best advice is just let her know that you are there for her. Non-PWS will never truly “get it”, but knowing that you are someone she can talk/vent to on her rough days is key. Also, you can be an ally by advocating for PWS in your area. There are many great resources out there on how to be an ally.

  36. Hi James thank you so much for sharing your story it really moved me .I am an older lady who only realised through accidentally finding these face book pages of stammering communities that I wasnt alone. I had fulfilled my career dreams with support from caring friends who believed in me .But Over the last three years I have been writing papers and articles because I wanted to be able to share with young people my story so they could learn at a much younger age then me that having a stutter doesnt need to stop you following your dreams. I struggled because my early years were not that good and quite negative had an impact on my self esteem now days having discovered amazing people I didnt want to write to much about the negativivty .On reading your wonderful insightful paper I can see you have done so much to help others .So thank you .

    • Hi Phyllis,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. Keep writing! The world needs to hear your story.

  37. Hi James,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I loved reading Dear World, I Stutter: A Series of Open Letters from a Person Who Stutters. I do have a question for you: how do you think SLPs could better help clients on the emotional aspect of stuttering?

    Thank you again for sharing your story,
    Abigail

    • Hi Abigail,

      Thank you for reading my article and for buying a copy of my book. I appreciate your support of my work. Great question.

      The first step is establishing trust between the client and clinician. That takes time and if it’s not there than all is for not. Once that trust is established, the clinician can introduce the stuttering is like an iceberg analogy. That opens the door for conversation between you and your client. They may not want to have that conversation immediately, but at least they know the door for that conversation is open. From there, let them dictate if/when/how that conversation or conversations are had.

      Looking back at it, I think my SLP using that analogy is what got those conversations started.

  38. Hi James,

    I really enjoyed reading your story. I found your topic to be something that could be generalized across many situations, and provided a very positive, yet realistic outlook on the situation. I am happy to read you speak with pride and confidence now, as I’m certain there are so many people that would benefit from hearing your words to also gain a new confidence in their voice.

    Thank you for sharing your story,
    Madison

  39. Hi James,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad you learned to accept your stutter and can now be an inspiration to so many people. My question to you is, was there a person or specific moment in your life that helped you when you first started to accept your stutter?

    • Hi Destiny,

      Thank you for reading my article. To answer your question, it was a two events that helped me accept my stutter. The first was going back to speech therapy when I was 20. While I learned and relearned techniques, I TALKED about stuttering for the first time ever. It was through those conversations, over a two year span, that I started to come around to the idea that stuttering may not be the worst thing on the planet. The second moment was getting involved in a support group and meeting other PWS. The second moment watered the seeds of acceptance that were planted by the first moment.

  40. Hi James,

    Your story is truly inspiring, I love that you strive to help other PWS feel not alone, help spread awareness in any way that you can, and also gained the confidence to be more comfortable with your voice and using it in a positive way. My question that I have for you is, you mentioned that stuttering was something you did not want to acknowledge however you started to become more comfortable with your voice and ultimately speak out for the greater good. Was there a specific moment that made you change your mind about stuttering such as a motivational speaker, or a book, or wanting to stand up for someone?

    • Hi Demi,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your kind words about it. Good question. What did it for me was actually talking about stuttering with my speech therapists when I was in college and getting involved with a support group after I graduated college. Those two experiences changed my mind about stuttering and my continue involvement in the stuttering advocacy movement has only made my beliefs about stuttering stronger.

  41. Hi James,

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I think it’s inspiring that you strived to become the person you needed when you were younger. As an undergraduate SLP student, I think it is crucial for PWS to have a platform to share their own experience and bring awareness to stuttering. I am sure many will find your article helpful and inspirational.

    • Hi,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it. I agree that it’s important for PWS to have their voices heard on any and every platform.

  42. Hi James,
    Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. You mentioned using social media to promote stuttering awareness, which I think will reach many people. However, what is another way PWS can reach more children to let them know that they are not alone and that it is okay to stutter?

    • Hi,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      Another way adult PWS can reach more children who stutter is by getting involved in stuttering organizations. This form of outreach allows the kids to see and talk to an adult who stutters and see that it’s going to ok. The adult can give back in the form of mentorship.

  43. Hi James, thank you for sharing your story with us. Your story is definitely inspirational! I can’t imagine feeling isolated at such an early age. I am impressed with your strength and determination. I am an undergraduate student studying to become a speech language pathologist. What suggestions do you have for helping young children who stutter?

    • Hi Celine,

      Thank you for reading my article and for tour kind words about it. A few things:

      1. Make sure they know it’s ok to stutter.
      2. Incorporate their interests into the therapy exercises.
      3. Mention the stuttering iceberg and let them know that you’re more than happy to talk to them about what’s underneath the iceberg. From there, let them dictate if/when/how that conversation happens.
      4. Conform your plan to your client and not your client to your plan.

      • Hi James,

        Thank you for getting back to me. Your tips are very helpful! I will keep these in mind in the future, especially your suggestion #4 – to conform my plan to the client and not the client to my plan. It is important to listen and to let them decide if/when/how conversation happens.

        Celine Bilsel

  44. Hi James!

    Thank you for sharing, you have such a gift for speaking and writing. Your voice is so powerful and strong! You spoke to my class recently, and it really resonated with me when you said that you changed your definition of success in regards to your stutter once you started to be comfortable with your voice. As a person who stutters, do you have any advice to give current and future SLPs who may have clients who stutter?

    Virginia

    • Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad to hear that you got something out of my presentation. Good question. A few pieces of advice:

      1. Remind them it’s ok to stutter.
      2. Let your patients either help you set or fully set their goals for speech therapy. By doing this, they feel a sense of ownership in the process.
      3. Conform your plan to your client not your client to your plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
      4. For younger kids, incorporate their interests into your sessions.
      5. Mention the iceberg and let them know that they can talk to you about it. From there, let them decided if/when/how y’all have that conversation.
      6. Be there for them when they just need someone to vent to about whatever is on their mind.

  45. Hello James,
    i wanna first start off by saying how moving your story was. I’m the oldest of 19 cousins and 1 of them is a person who stutters, PWS. she was the same as you when she was younger, feeling shame and embarrassment from it. however, she has just recently in this past year gained confidence and started advocating for herself in high school!! she has come so far and i attribute it to people like you who talk about it to remove the stigma and taboo surrounding it. thank you so much for becoming a role model to the younger PWS. what would you suggest for non stutterers to do to help with this? I would love to help boost her confidence even more and make her feel even more safe but also not overstep.

    thank you again,

    Annika Paz

    • Hi Annika,

      Thank you for reading my article and for your kind words about it.

      Great question! Continue being an ally for her and for other PWS. My biggest piece of advice would be let her know your someone she can talk to about stuttering and leave it at that. From there, follow her lead on how stuttering is approached in your family. She’ll show you how she wants to have that conversation in her own way.

  46. Hi James,
    Thank you for sharing your story and it’s amazing how you were able to be comfortable with your stutter. Thank you for inspiring other kids who stutter.

  47. Hi James,

    I think it’s so powerful how you learned to take your power back and embrace your stutter. I know there are people out there that are so glad you’re not only your own voice, but you speak up for other PWS as well. It saddened me to read that you felt like your stutter was that one embarrassing friend you never acknowledged, but it made me happy to hear you are now thriving and more confident with your stutter! Keep being the person you needed when you were younger!

    Take Care,
    Julianna Arellano

  48. Hi James!
    I thin it’s amazing how you were able to get your confidence back and embrace your sutter. I know it’s difficult for PWS and everyone has a different journey with it. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and message!

  49. Hi James!

    Your story is truly inspiring! I think the change you want to make is wonderful and I’m sure you’ve already helped so many people! As someone who is studying to become an SLP, I want to be someone that PWS can go to. Although I do not stutter, I still want my future clients to know that I am there for support and to help them gain confidence in their voice. Your article is so inspiring and it will help make big change!

    • Hi Tara,

      Thanks for reading my article and for your kind comments. With your mindset, I’m sure you’ll be a great SLP and ally for PWS.