After spending the entirety of this week telling clients and colleagues about Katherine Preston’s book, “Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice”, I figured it only made sense to shamelessly plug it on my website! Besides being beautifully written, I found this book to be a wonderful resource in informing people who stutter (PWS) and parents of PWS on the trials and tribulations often experienced in a person’s search for fluency.

For much of my childhood I made promises. I promised myself that I would change, that I would rid myself of my stutter. For much of my life I believed, unfairly, that it was simply a matter of willpower. Over the years I would watch myself fail at fluency, and every morning I would wake up with the dangerously impractical resolution that today would be different, that I would be stronger, that I would force my speech into submission. I stubbornly clung to that hope that one day I would wake up and the stutter would have simply disappeared. (excerpt from “Out with It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice” by Katherine Preston)

This is a common sentiment of PWS, that somehow it is their fault that they are not fluent. PWS often feel they are too lazy or not working hard enough, a feeling sometimes shared by their parents as well. Parents often become frustrated their child is not trying or, in the case of a child receiving speech therapy, they are not practicing their strategies frequently enough. This feeling of frustration is usually not due to insensitivity, but rather stemming from a desire to shield their child from the potential pain of bullying and prejudices.

Katherine Preston spent a year traveling the United States, interviewing PWS, therapists and researchers. In doing this, she found her voice. Travelling the country may not be an option for everyone but, in my humble opinion, speech therapy can be a close second! I strongly believe that when you find the right fit between therapist and client, participating in speech therapy can be invaluable in empowering PWS, helping them become better communicators and boosting their confidence to participate in all of life’s adventures. However, speech therapy can also have a downside, if the rationale behind seeking it is skewed. When a PWS or parent seeks therapy as a cure, they are setting themselves up for possible disappointment. Research tells us that approximately 80% of children who stutter will outgrow it, however where does this leave the remaining 20%? Often, both the PWS and their family are relentlessly chasing fluency, some finding it temporarily, only to be let down when their fair weather friend disappears when they most need it.

However, when a person is ready to seek speech therapy with reasonable expectations, they can and will reap the rewards.  I believe a person (and their family) is ready for change when they begin to measure progress not only by a decrease in stuttering, but also by a change in the way they stutter and a change in their attitudes about speaking.  It is then when they are ready to:

— learn strategies with the understanding that the techniques may not be infallible but are capable of making speaking easier and more forward-moving, even despite stuttering.

— neutralize their thoughts/feelings about stuttering that so often make entering speaking situations difficult or result in the situation being avoided completely.

— better understand what stuttering is and be equipped to teach others and debunk common myths.

Katherine Preston did a beautiful job in sharing the journey she embarked on that began as a search for fluency and resulted in a paradigm shift that allowed for more than just a change in the way she speaks, but a change in the way she thinks and feels!

Please share your own journeys below!