Courage To Move Forward – Phyllis Edwards

Phyllis EdwardsAbout the Author:

My name is Phyllis Edwards from New Zealand I am an older lady with a wacky sense of humour. I am also a teacher with a stutter who was able to fulfill her dream of being an early childhood teacher for thirty years with lots of support from friends and my family during my training I have loved being in this role and love to share how I have learned how accepting young children are. I found the discovery of Facebook pages led to me meeting some amazing people who understood where I was coming from. This year’s online paper was about change so my heart was led to highlighting just some of the people and events who have led to me being able to write these papers and hopefully share with others.

I feel that change can be scary, healing, empowering, and life-changing. We need to be open to,  be brave enough to work on, and accept that we need to make these changes, embrace opportunities and experiences that opening doors bring. 

I never really understood how to change, what to think or do, what changes as a child people expected of me. It was one more thing to worry about and I just felt confused, wanting to ‘be good and talk properly,’ but the tongue monster in my mouth just wouldn’t let me. For example, if you spoke properly you got the reward of people listening, if you couldn’t speak properly you got told to hurry up, so you never quite knew where you stood. 

It is always such a joy and positive outcome to see how willing families/caregivers seek to learn and share knowledge, then positively understand and encourage a family member who may have developed a stutter. They embrace the opportunity of being involved, using Facebook pages that support our stuttering community. You can see this confidence-building and nurturing allows children and young adults to open doors and follow dreams.

 If it hadn’t been for my life-changing, accidental discovery of Facebook stammering groups, of people who stammer, and how they were understanding and helping each other my life would not have been so enriched. It all began, when with my still emerging computer skills, looking for a romantic holiday spot for my ever-supportive husband. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a message from a lady called Alexis Parker. We have since become ‘’Sisters brought together by our experiences of being women with a stutter and still being able to follow our goals and dreams.” 

Alexis’s post mentioned she was getting married and was worried about  saying her vows. Without worrying about my skills or even knowing what Facebook page I was on, I knew in my heart what to reply. I replied, “don’t worry, love will conquer all.” Shouting to the lovely Donald I said, “Look, this page popped up, a lady asked a question and I answered,” then I said, “Donald I didn’t know there were all these people on Facebook with a stutter and look, look, they even have special pages and groups.” “What page is it?” Donald calmly asked, “well I don’t know but don’t let me lose it, help me save it or whatever you lot do”. Don looked and said the page was called ‘The British stammering Association Support Group’, The first person to get my questions was Christine Simpson. She is still my very patient go-to person today at B.M.A.S. I also noticed the page was advertising a conference in Cardiff, for people who stutter. With Christine’s patience, I managed to attend the conference, where I met and heard many inspiring people. 

Returning home from the Cardiff Conference I felt a bit down on myself because I hadn’t taken the opportunity or been brave enough to read the poem I wrote on the open mic. Feeling like I needed to talk to somebody, I contacted Anita Blom and asked “Could I please adopt you as my mentor?” Anita was amazing, she seemed to understand the place I was at. One day she said, “maybe you could think about paying it forward.” Who me, I thought, I can’t do that. Then I thought, yes I could try. 

I had the perfect person to ask. Laura Overton, an amazing mum of two and a well thought of speech and language therapist, had always been so supportive and encouraging with any activities and awareness days I organized at work. I asked if she had any ideas for me to try and help others. Laura was back the next day with an email address for START. – STUTTERING TREATMENT AND RESEARCH TRUST.

Excited but nervous, I emailed  START explaining why I wanted to pay it forward and was there any way I could be of use to them. I got a very quick response from Voon Wang, who put me in touch with Jannelle Irvin. The Executive Director and Clinical Leader for START. Janelle gave me her time and was so supportive and encouraging. I learned, to my surprise, that START is the only specialist organization in Aotearoa New Zealand. I was lucky enough and felt privileged to be able to become affiliated with START. One change I would like to see is that START would receive more recognition in NZ for all the support and training programs they offer. I messaged Janelle to tell her about the paper I was writing and ask her if she felt the change I was thinking of was a reasonable expectation. Janelle replied that the change I had mentioned was a good suggestion because part of START’s vision is to grow to have satellite clinics in other parts of Aotearoa. Janelle also gave me an example of how this was happening already when she mentioned a film that had been made last year with ‘Cody Packer, a filmmaker who also has a stutter. Janelle described Cody’s volunteer help as ‘wonderful’’. She felt the film he helped them make was a great way to raise awareness about stuttering and the therapy and support that START can provide

.I have learnt that when we embrace change, other doors open.  Last year I found the ‘World Stuttering Network community page’, where Tom Scharstein was interviewing a young man whom he introduced as Cody Packer from New Zealand. It’s funny I never worry about my computer skills anymore when I see something on these pages that excites and enlightens me. I sure know how to message back fast. I just said ‘Oh you come from New Zealand, that’s exciting. Cody  messaged back straight away and said “yes he did and that he was pleased I had contacted him.’’ Cody quite rightly put it when he said “Let’s catch up and talk about stammering.”  Cody kept his word and visited me If either of us stuttered I didn’t notice or care. It was so natural, we just talked, laughed, and shared our experiences. 

Cody explained about his filmmaking with START and showed me where I could look at the film ‘First Day’ on the computer. with Zoom. 

My reason for going to the World Congress hosted by the ‘International  Stuttering Association’ in Iceland was, I felt like I had some unfinished business. I hoped I would be brave enough to speak on the open mic this time. I did! By picturing the support I knew I had in the room and back home. It was an amazing experience, which is a story for another day. Because I am bursting today to share examples of two of the amazing workshops that were on offer at the Icelandic conference. They both inspired and educated me. 

‘Mobile device apps for children who stutter’ workshop run by the dedicated speech and language therapist Eric Raj. Eric showed us and talked about how to use computers within his therapy sessions for children and what good results he got. He said he had noticed that when he used certain digital experiences with some of his students they would smile and laugh in a completely appropriate way and he felt working in this digital manner would help the students to relax and feel comfortable. Wow, I thought what a long way we have thankfully come, since my day in the early 1960s when I went to speech therapy. To me it felt like if you couldn’t blow a table tennis ball across the top of a paper washing line you were not practicing your speech homework enough. 

The second workshop was interactive, learning how to create cartoons. It also left a lasting impression, run by  Daniele Rossi. Author of  ‘Frankie Bankie’ books. Daniele said he found Frankie Bankie resonated with children and was yet another way to communicate.

Yet another example is the Facebook page of  Dori  Holte; ’ Voice Unearthed’ says’’ she is grateful for the technology that allows people all over the world to connect and share unique experiences.’’ 

One wonderful example of parents encouraging their children to follow their dreams was when Victoria Wiggins published a poem her son had written. It was amazing and you could also see the love and pride from both mother and son. Sam then encouraged other children supported by their parents to join in reading poems. Sams’s poem was also featured in the 2020 online conference bringing many positive comments. Sam is emerging to be a wonderful role model.

Participating in online conferences is yet another example of how technology lets us share. I have found with my computer skills you are still able to participate and contribute and if what you are saying helps one other person reach their goals and dreams then that is good. I was really worried when I first started writing for the online conference but the comments and questions I received were interesting and amazing. People who had a stutter and understood where I was coming from could relate to me, which was healing and helpful. The questions and comments from speech and language therapists, particularly from newly graduated speech-language therapists showed their willingness to learn and be the best they could be to help people with a stutter.

Another door that opened, as a direct result of writing my first online paper, a lady called Pamela Mertz contacted me. Pamela runs a podcast and group called ‘Woman who Stutter our stories’. She wanted to do a podcast with me. I was so pleased, but I shrieked to the ever-patient Donald, “what is a podcast? I want to do this but I can’t, what if I stammer?” But the podcast was another amazing experience.

I remembered when I first began attending training and seminars to be an early childhood teacher. I could never say my name to introduce myself. To the extent where it did cross my mind to give up on my dream. No, I thought people believed in you and you are starting to believe in yourself, you need to work out a way to solve this. Also, I wasn’t brave enough to tell my friends that I was thinking of quitting, I knew this wouldn’t go down well and they could run faster than me. I call them ‘The Angel girls’, who have always supported and believed me in forever. With their love, humor, kind but no-nonsense words. So when it was my turn, instead of sitting there with muscle spasms in my back I would say “Hello I am not apologizing for it but I just need to share that I have a speech stammer, and oh by the way my name is Phyllis’.

Then not long ago  I learned through discussions on ‘Woman who Stammer’ for the very first time, that what I had been doing was called ‘Declaring your stutter’. So when I saw these positive posts and discussions I thought, oh that’s what I do, but I never realized it.

To end, I want to finish where I started. I  just want to highlight again and say a big thank you to parents and caregivers who are embracing these pages to build an environment for their children, with all the nurturing and self-esteem, lots of young adults and children and will know in their hearts even if you do have a stammer, it doesn’t matter., or as Brandon Muffolette from his Facebook page would say ‘’SoSo what if I stutter’’.


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Courage To Move Forward – Phyllis Edwards — 27 Comments

  1. I love how you accidentally came across the stuttering support group. It is a good reflection to realize when we are open minded, our ability to grow, transform, and make new realizations and progress are unlimited. Thank you for sharing your journey!


  2. Hello Kunal, Thank you for your positive comments yes yuo are right in what you say.I always appreciate the people I met along the way who also helped me see that yes we can grow as

  3. Thanks for the Franky Banky mention and for enjoying my workshop in Iceland! I remember your open mic and how everyone in the room, myself included, were touched by the fact that this was your first time attending a conference. Glad to have you!

  4. Thankyou for your kind comments I just wanted in this topic to express how much I had learned and gained from meeting you guys and the experiences i was lucky enough to have .And I could feel the support of every one in that room just willing me on to suceed because you all understood. So i guess I wanted to say also that although I was willing to change and open doors the support and knowledge you guys gave encouraged me to continue on through those doors. It was also lovely to catch up you when I was writing the paper thank you . I was going to highlight each of you more but as usual my word count got out of control .x

  5. Hi Phyllis! I was taking notes as I was reading – things to check out (START and Eric Raj’s app) and then I see me mentioned and I was delighted!! I love your warmth and humor and “realness” and I’m always wondering, “what fun is she planning now?” Fabulous!!

    • Hello Dori Thank you for that i liked the topic of change and I wanted to express how you guys had helped me to embrace and learn from the changes I felt I still needed to make, and I felt I had the support to do this. I love what you do encouraging parents to relate to you and your page .

  6. Hi Phyllis,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I read the introduction and was hooked. I love how you you said that change can be scary but empowering and healing. That is one of the most real things I have read in a long time. I think it is so cool when we find outlets to help us grow in ways that we never thought we could. Thank you for sharing this with us, it is very inspiring to read.

  7. Hello Sheibi thank you so much for your kind comments. Yes having the outlet of writing it down has really helped me, but with out the people who taught me to believe in myself as an adult, and the experiences I have had and the awesome people I have met since I discovered face book communities , I would never have been able to share as I do, so I totally agree with your wise words when you say that the outlets we find do help us grow in ways we never thought possable.

  8. Hi Phyllis,

    Love your paper, but more importantly, I love your willingness to embrace your stuttering and be open to it instead of shrinking behind it. You are right, it takes courage to face what we used to think were our “demons” and now just accept stuttering as part of your, our, lives.

    And thank you for mentioning me in your paper.


    • Hello thank you for that and I wanted to share how I realised that without you guys who supported me i would never been able to embrace and share it as i do. You guys were a life line to me .xxxx

  9. Hi Phyllis!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so happy that you acccidentally found that Facebook group because of the positive impact it has had on your life. I also appreciate you stating how scary change is because it truly is scary. However, it takes one moment or one thing to initate that change. I was just wondering if you wished you had found that Facebook group earlier? Also, I wanted to know if you were scared of change because of possible negative experiences (i.e., reactions of listeners)? How important would say it is to look past one’s negative experiences to create change for the better?

    Thank you!
    – Kaitlyn

    • Hello Kaitlyn thank you so much for your kind comments Yes it was so life changing when I discovered those pages. I loved your questions and yes I think the thought of change for me was scary. But you are so right it does only take a moment or thing like for me discovering all these other people on these pages were leading full lives and following their dreams and not letting having a stutter hold them back . Although I had acheived my teaching goal because I had a group of supportive friends who taught me to believe in myself. But yes I do wish I had found the face book pages earlier as it brought some inspirational people who understood where I was coming from into my life. Yes in answer in to your second question I think in my day your home environment may not have had the support for them to respond to your feelings about your stutter .So my self esteem was not where it should have been untill I was an adult. This is why I try and reach out and write these papers and share where I can. I agree with you it is important to look past these negative experiences but as I said I did have supportive friends but the actual discovery of so many other people who really understood and they were acheiving goals and doing great things helped. Feel free to ask an more of your well thought out and understanding questions questions.

      • Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Phyllis! It is so inspirational to know that you share your experiences and insight to help those that are in similar situations as you. I hope to inspire others as much as you when I become an SLP 🙂

        • Hello Kaitlyn , it was interesting last year comments were all positive I also noticed the questions from SLP students and therapists also showed such empathy and understanding .Feel free to stay in touch and if their is ever any way I can help just let me know.

  10. Hi Phyllis- we have a mutual friend in Alexis!! I finally met her last month at Starfish

    Great post! I too found all the stammering pages purely by chance. My life has never been the same or as quiet since!!!
    The online support is fantastic. Had I had that growing up in the 80’s I’m sure I wouldn’t have suffered as much as I have.
    I loved your post – well done 👍

    • Hello Cheryl I posted a comment on your page after I had read your paper but wanted to say thankyou again for your positive comments on mine .Yes we are lucky we do have a mutual friend with our lovely Alexis she has always been such a supportive part in my journey to change .

  11. Hello Phyllis!

    I enjoyed reading your article and you truly made me feel like I have met you before. Everything you’ve done is truly empowering. My question to you would be, as a person who stuttered her whole life, what advice would you give to parents with children who stutter? How can they make a positive impact with their child and allow them to feel secure and safe? I hope to hear back from you soon 🙂

    • Hello Karen, Thank you for your kind comments and yes I felt the same feelign you did. I think mine was also because I have been writing these papers for 3 years. And this year felt like a different experience the topic was about change, and I wanted to highlight some of the people who had helped me build my self esteem up which allowed me to grow. I loved your question because I felt you had understood where my paper was coming was .Just the caring nature of your question also made me think that you will be making a positive impact with your child.I can see you accept your child having a stutter you just want to give the best support to your child. A lady called Victoria Wiggins and i have asked victoria if I could put you in touch with her because Victoria is in my paper I wrote because I just loved how she encouraged her son Sam to put his poems on face book .Sam has a poem in this Isa on line conference if it helps .I think the best thing I could to say to you is carry on how you are going because look at what acceptance you are showing . Also if yuo want too I encourage you to contact victoria Sams poem is in the ”Kids corner” so there should eb a comment space there.Thank you again for commenting and feel free to ask any questions and stay in touch .I just feel with parents like you Victoria and others these children will learn at a much earlier age then i ever did that having a stammer doesnt ever need to let you stop following your dreams and these children today are learnign this message I feel because they are being taught to embrace change because parents are building up their self esteem by acceptign them as they are .

  12. Hi Phyllis!

    I am a speech-language pathology student and I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences and the impact that connecting with other people who stutter has had. What advice or encouragement would you give to a teen or young adult who stutters but is intimidated or too nervous to attend group therapy or connect with others who stutter?

    Thank you!

    • Hello Sarakc thank you for your question I appreciate all the questions and comments get .I noticed on my other papers that questions from students also indicated how interested students were to get this process right. So in answer to your question, to give the student every encouragement and opportunity to attend group therapy by encouraging them, but building up their self esteem so they realise at a much younger age then I did that as Brandon says on his page which is named ”SoSo what if I stutter” .Your question of connecting with people who stutter I am writing from the heart now as you know through my paper I found these stuttering community face book pages such an eyeopener for me and I dont even have very good computer skills .I was also moved by the groups where the admin include young people , encouraging their peers. Another idea is maybe if they are anxious about connecting with others who stutter they cna post on the pages and reply to the answers when they feel comfortable.As i sya I loved your questions if you have any other questions or their is any way I can help feel free to ask.

  13. Hello Phyllis! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I believe that it is important for society to build these communities where people who stutter feel welcomed and feel like they belong. As a future speech-language pathologist and someone who has family and students who stutter, I want to make sure my therapy room and classroom are a safe space and a safe community for my students and patients. I was wondering if you could share with me anything you wish professionals knew about people who stutter. I have talked to multiple people who have had negative experiences with therapy and I would hate to put any of my clients or students through those experiences. If you could gave any advice to professionals in the field about a more personal point of view on how to provide a safe environment, what would you tell them? Once again, thank you so much for sharing. Your words are truly inspiring!

    • Hello Ivone , thank you so much for your kind comments and for your well thought out question. I can see with your empathy , your desire to help people, your experience and understanding also of knowing people who have a stutter , that you will provide a safe environment for your students and answer to your other question just from seeing the questions speech language therapists have asked me in these comments in the last 3 years I can see it is a totally different environment for both the children and their families .In my day a long time ago I had experience of going to a speech therapist as a young child and I remember I never really wanted to go , as to me at eight years old I felt like I was being taken there because I couldn’t talk properly .I think as I said you will provide a safe environment I would say build up self esteem one step at a time encourage them to look at the face book pages and that may help .If you have any further questions or I can help in any way just ask me. With what you have said and the questions you asked I think you will de really well at building the environment you are looking at building .Oh and also the the workshops I mentioned in my paper both were building up the kind of environment you talked of .

  14. Hi Phyllis!

    After reading your paper it really made me think about how everything happens for a reason. You were meant to find that Facebook page, and I’m glad to hear you never lost it! That moment really bloomed your involvement in the Stuttering community, and because of that you are able to come here and share your knowledge! I hope you keep encouraging others and continue to share your life as a PWS.

    Take Care,
    Julianna Arellano

    • Hello julianna, thankyou for your kind comments and your encouragement yes I also believe everything happens for a reason .I am also grateful for the people who inspired me and now as ”Anita Blom ”taught me I can pay it forward”.

  15. Hello Phyllis,

    What an evolution! I want to tell you how brave you are and despite being nervous with the different situations we were in, you pushed on forward and that’s a lesson that we can all learn from. Your story is very inspirational and I am thankful for this conference for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow.

    • Hello hkurtu thank you for your kind message I really appreciate it. I feel I am grateful that I can learn and grow from the comments and questions I receive.I am also grateful for the people I met on the way who helped me push through .

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