I never imagined myself running an online ESL training
company after stuttering for the first 11 years of my life. When I brought my
son, Daniel, to kindergarten on his first day of school this past week, I was
reminded of my first years of school and how difficult it was for me to speak.
Daniel's classmates all were excitedly talking at once about their new
backpacks and shoes. As the teacher introduced herself, Daniel shouted out,
"Daddy, I'm going to play with my new friends," then he hugged me and ran off
to explore the new classroom with confidence.
My first day of formal schooling was quite different. I
remember barely speaking to anyone, and when I was called on, it was very hard
to get the words out. And then I would s-t-u-t-t-e-r. I could rarely share my
thoughts and feelings. I suffered from anxiety and stress and often felt
embarrassed and frustrated. I was fearful of being called on in class and
worried that others would make fun of me and laugh when I struggled to speak.
My kindergarten teacher was very understanding and
insightful. She conferenced with my parents and recommended me to a
speech-language pathologist (commonly known as a speech therapist) in Kingston,
Ontario, not too far from where I lived with my family. And so I began the
weekly speech and language remediation sessions that lasted for seven years. I
liked going for the one-on-one therapy sessions, as my speech teacher was very
helpful and knowledgeable. We would work together on certain phonetic sounds
and words. Sometimes we would play language games. It was fun. My teacher was
very patient and told me stories of how she used to stutter when she was my
age, which made me feel better. And always I was given a few weekly homework
exercises that targeted some type of oral communication to help improve the
interruptions, blockage and fragmentation of my sounds.
I couldn't wait to practice the oral exercises the minute I
got in the car for the ride home. I would say the dialogue to my parents until
I had each part memorized. And I was so proud to repeat this with my teacher
the next week as she praised me for my hard work. Looking back, I can see that
through a combination of my hard work, the help of my parents and teachers, and
the professional expertise of the SLP in Kingston, I was able to overcome
stuttering and improve my overall communication. Throughout my elementary
school years, as I continued with the language therapy, I readily formed
friendships and increasingly enjoyed communicating in all settings—home, school
and the community.
Facing this challenge has helped me immensely as an
individual. It has taught me to address problems and try to remedy them with
consulting others, knowledge and hard work. It has taught me to persevere and
not to give up. It has taught me patience in dealing with others and the
importance of encouragement.
It has been about two decades since I was dismissed from
therapy, having met the outlined goals of successfully coping with my
communication disorder of stuttering. Sometimes I still have difficulty with
certain words, but I try to remember the lessons and skills I received from my
speech teacher and I focus intently on what I need to say. I remember that she,
too, stuttered, but now she spends her time helping students much like me.
Today I am comfortable in social settings and with casual and
formal conversations. Whether it is speaking on the phone, directing meetings
with staff members, teaching ESL students or working with contractors from
around the world, I have the language skills to accomplish these tasks. What's
more, my confidence level has soared and reinforced my ability to be a
competent business owner.
Looking back, I am extremely grateful for the early
intervention I received to help me remedy my speech and language problem. I
look forward to hearing my son chatter about his first days of school so I am
continually reminded of the long way I have come, and I always will be
appreciative for the differences that SLPs can make for the lives of their
students. I guess that although I never really imagined myself running an
online ESL training company because of my own background with a speech
disability, now I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else. Seeing
individual student gains in language acquisition (listening, speaking, reading
and writing skills) and an increase in their confidence levels is very