About the Author:
Daniel Chan lives in Sydney, Australia. He is a Mechanical Engineer with both a Bachelor and Master Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is the Engineering Manager at Leussink Engineering. He is married with two boys. Daniel has stuttered all his life, but now has the confidence and strength to lead an almost fluent life.
He enjoys playing the saxophone, particularly jazz music. After having provided his two boys the opportunity to learn the saxophone, Daniel has taken it upon himself to start saxophone lessons again, and is looking forward to each and every lesson.
Daniel also enjoys new technologies. He has installed a 12kW solar power system to his house and recently bought an electric vehicle.
M M M My n n n name is D D D Daniel C C C Chan.
A number of years ago this is how I would have started off my speech with a severe stutter. I would not have been able to put together a clear and logical sentence.
I would be overwhelmed with anxiety. My heart would be thumping away, as I would be completely traumatised, with the fact that there would be a large audience like yourselves in front of me waiting for me to spit out my words. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
I remember when I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked me to get up in front of the class and to tell some news. I would very quickly shake my head sideways and say no. So from the very young age of five years old, I had already feared public speaking.
Strangely enough, when it came to school plays, I really enjoyed participating in them. I played Jack, in Jack and the Beanstalk. I had the time of my life. In fact, I still carry the three magic beans with me in my pocket today! It was as if my stuttering would magically disappear when it came to performing in plays. But, when the play ended, and we were back in the routine of normal school work, my stuttering would re-appear.
Later on in life, I learnt that this is a basis of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming. When you take on an acting of another character, this character does not have the emotional baggage of a traumatic speaking situation, and hence a stutterer is able to speak a lot more fluently, without the cloud of anxiety hanging over his head.
My high school years were a lot more difficult. Peer pressure didn’t help with my speech either. A memory that sticks strongly in my mind is a speech I had to give in class. I was the last person to give their speech. I still remember the nervous tone of my teacher’s voice as she calls me up. As I walked towards the front of the class, I thought to myself, “How on earth am I going to get through this!”. I was stuttering pretty badly, and my teacher saw the torment I was going through, and politely told me I can sit back down without me finishing my speech.
But this wasn’t the only issue burdening me. There was this girl in the class I really liked but always struggled to find the courage to ask her out. Walking back to my seat, demoralised, I glanced towards her direction to see what her reaction was. Her facial expression was of total shock. All I wanted to do is to crawl back into my shell and hide forever.
Do you remember the days long before the Opal cards and the automated ticketing machines, when you had to line up in the queue to ask to buy your train ticket? This simple task was an absolute nightmare for me. Standing in the queue my anxiety was building up, as I wondered how badly I would be stuttering as I asked to buy my train ticket. I was next, and not a sound would come out. I could feel the urgency in the people behind me as they needed to buy their ticket to catch this train that was pulling up into the station. I was finally able to spit out the words to buy my ticket. As I walked away, I looked downwards to avoid making eye contact with the people in the queue behind me, as I had caused them to miss their train. However, I am pretty sure they got to work by lunch time!
Leaving high school, going to university and joining the workforce, I knew I had to overcome the adversity of my stutter to be successful. I needed to face my challenges head on. I need to overcome the fear and anxiety within me. I needed to get out of my comfort zone!
To overcome my stuttering I learnt Smooth Speech and am a member of the Australian Speak Easy Association. After the 2 week intensive Smooth Speech course, I felt as if I was cured, and was invincible. I had the freedom to say whatever I wanted, whenever I like. However, we do need to constantly maintain our fluency.
My two boys know their dad has a stutter. For me, to set them an example that I can overcome my stutter is such a great delight, not only for myself, but for my boys as well. When I order their meals going through the McDonalds drive through, I will try my best to speak as fluently as I can. Once I have, I am rewarded with cries of joy, and a few of their french fries.
Just as, with the seeds of life in my pocket, I have continued to grow, pushing my boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone to deal with those demons that lurk within my mind. I have been able to grow stronger and speak more confidently in my everyday life.
I stand here today, no longer fearing the anxiety and trauma that I once used to. I leave you with a quote, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”.
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