Blog by James Hayden
March 8, 2019

“James, learn how to celebrate the small victories of stuttering.”  

It was a phrase I heard a million times when I was in speech therapy, but never listened to. I had people in my life show me and celebrate with me the small victories of stuttering, but how quickly I forgot those lessons and those times.  

You see, back then I believed there were no small victories with stuttering. I either won or I lost. I was either completely fluent or I stuttered. There was no middle ground. I remember many instances where I would practice a presentation in the confines of my speech therapy room and I was fluent. Then D-Day would arrive, and I would stutter on every syllable of nearly every word. I was mad at myself and I would let those stutters ruin my entire day. I was mad because if I presented it perfectly in speech therapy, then why couldn’t I do it perfectly when it mattered?  A few times I asked myself, “is this whole speech therapy thing worth it?” 

My pride and anger at myself and my-rekindled friendship with stuttering prevented me from seeing the small victories. When my presentation went as well as my practice session did, I didn’t celebrate it. Because I expected fluency out of myself, I didn’t see the need to celebrate it. One Sunday I read the readings at Mass and was fluent. After Mass, a friend pulled me aside and told me how proud she was of me. My response was, “we don’t need to make a Broadway production out of this.”

It’s been nearly four years since my last speech therapy session and “celebrate the victories of stuttering” has a whole new meaning to me. Instead of it being a phrase I avoid and get angry at, it’s now one of my go to mottos. “Celebrate the small victories of stuttering” means:

  • Not letting a rough phone call get to me and ruin my day
  • Being ok with stuttering on the phone
  • Maintaining eye contact with my audience when I’m stuttering
  • Ordering through a drive thru
  • Using Siri
  • Taking a phone call at work in an open space and not in a private work space
  • Not substituting my words or switching my words around when I’m in the middle of stuttering
  • Not chewing someone out when they finish my sentences or make some rude comment about my stutter
  • Being an advocate for stuttering
  • Wearing stuttering related t-shirts in public
  • Posting stuttering related articles on social media

These were things I would have or not have done a few years. Sometimes I’m fluent and other times I’m not. Yet, I’ve realized that phrase is not always about fluency. It’s about being ok with who you are and how you speak, stuttering and all.

And yes 21-year-old James, speech therapy is and was well worth it.