Felix celebrates International Stuttering Awareness Day by educating his colleagues

Last Tuesday was International Stuttering Awareness Day and one of our clients, Felix, decided to send an email out to all his work colleagues to “put himself out there a bit more and to raise awareness”. We think this was a wonderfully proactive step on Felix’s part. He received some great feedback from his colleagues including how brave he was for sharing his story and they really appreciated his honesty. Here at START, we know that being open about stuttering can be scary but also liberating and it can also help to alleviate some of the anxiety and fear that comes with hiding stuttering. Being open about the fact you stutter is also a great opportunity to educate people about stuttering. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Felix and allowing us to share it with the wider START community.


Kia Ora,

As most of you already know or might find out now… I am a person who stutters. I have stuttered since I can remember and have seen many Speech Language Therapists throughout my life. Being able to communicate and participate in life is easily something that most of us take for granted but can seem like a massive obstacle for a person who stutters.

Unfortunately, there is very little awareness but quite a few myths and misconceptions out there about stuttering. The best way to tackle these myths and misconceptions and consequently live a happier and fuller life as a person who stutters is to start conversations, raise awareness and communicate openly about stuttering to normalise and de-stigmatise.

So…why do we hear/know so little about stuttering? Well, stuttering is invisible until you hear
someone speak and people who stutter are masters of disguise which can leave other people in their life completely unaware of their stutter. People who stutter have learned ways/strategies or adapted to lifestyles (usually avoiding words or situations or even saying nothing at all) which allows them to hide their stutter. These behaviours can be driven by feelings of shame, embarrassment, frustration, fear of judgment, low self-esteem, anxiety, experiences of discrimination and bullying, etc. This has huge impact on the quality of a person’s life and their well-being.

Stuttering is not a physical or cognitive disability. Stuttering is not a reflection of a person’s
intelligence. Trust me, a person who stutters knows exactly what they want to say, they just find it difficult to get the words out sometimes. This goes beyond the hesitation or repetition everyone experiences sometimes when speaking. In fact, people who stutter often bring very valuable strengths and qualities to the table, such as resilience, empathy, compassion, listening skills and creativity. Some of the brainiest and most famous people in this world stutter/stuttered, e.g. Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, King George VI, Bruce Willis, Elvis Presley, Ed Sheeran, Tiger Woods, etc.

Personally, I think my stutter is here to stay despite the support I have received throughout my life. I am not at peace with my stutter. It is omnipresent in my life and I am still on my journey of acceptance. But I try to look at stuttering from different perspectives. I believe stuttering has shaped me, helped me grow, formed the person I am today and has created/opened opportunities for me which might have not presented itself if I did not have a stutter.

So…I am sending this email to raise awareness and start conversations. Here are some facts about stuttering:
– Stuttering affects 1% of the entire population.
– There are more than 45,000 people in beautiful Aotearoa who stutter.
– People who stutter are no more or less intelligent than people who do not stutter.
– Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.
– There is no “cure” for stuttering but treatment to help a person who stutters to say what they want to say.
– Genetics are involved in the cause of stuttering, which means there can be more than one family member who stutters.
– People do not stutter when they sing – it is not entirely understood why.
– People who stutter often do so on the words that carry the most important meaning in a sentence or if a specific response is needed, such as saying one’s name in a meeting or phone call.

And how can you support a person who stutters? Well here are some tips:
– Be patient. Don’t finish the sentence or word, this can be very disempowering and unhelpful, especially if the listener guesses wrongly.
– Be a good listener. Focus on what the person is saying, not how they are saying it.
– Remember that stuttering varies. Don’t be surprised if a person stutters more in some situations than others, such as using the telephone, speaking in front of a group, introductions, etc.
– Remember it is OK to stutter. Don’t give advice such as “slow down” or “take a breath”. Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently until the person has finished speaking.
– If you are not sure how to respond, ask the speaker. This might involve asking if there’s anything you can do to make it easier.

This email is only a snapshot to give a brief insight and raise awareness of a topic which is very close to my heart and affects a lot of people. Please don’t be shy if you want to find out more about stuttering. I also have some resources if wanted. I am always happy to have a chat. You know where to find me…

Happy International Stutter Awareness Day everyone!

Cheers,
Felix
#keepcalmandstutteron


*Photo featured is a stock image, not an image of Felix

Speaking on the international stage as a person who stutters

Phyllis shares her experience speaking at International Stuttering Association’s World Congress 2019

In July 2019, Phyllis Edwards travelled to Iceland to attend the International Stuttering Association’s World Congress 2019.  The theme was Embrace Your Stutter

Phyllis lives in Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast just outside of Wellington, and first made contact with START last year.  She works for Castle Kids Kapiti and is very keen to share her story of growing up with a stutter in order to help others (particularly women) on their own stuttering journey.  She has kindly offered to share with us her experience of speaking at an open microphone session at the World Congress. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have.

Thanks so much Phyllis for sharing so openly and honestly with us all.


Here I am sitting in the second row from the front in the Ork Hotel Conference Room feeling both excited, nervous and blessed that I got here. I am glad I hadn’t managed to talk myself out of it like part of me had tried to do.

In fact, I did quite a bit to try and prevent my being here. First, I had sent an email to Gina, our travel agent saying “Please tell me it is not possible for Donald and I to go to Iceland”.  Gina, unfortunately, emailed back saying “Phyllis it is very possible”. Then, as we were going in to our annual bank review the ever-supportive Donald said “Phyllis I am going to ask to put the money for the trip on to our mortgage.” “No“ I protested. “Yes” said Donald “I believe in you.”

Try as I might to self-sabotage, I still made it to Iceland.

At least I was dressed for success. I was wearing a comfortable top given to me by our manager Tess, designer undies made with love from my trusty YouTube friend Lauren, and jeans from my friend and ex-supervisor Karen. My plan was if I wore clothes from people who believed in me, I would believe in myself too.

Then it all began.

The woman hosting the session said Anita Blom (international speaker, person who stutters, and my own mentor), would be sharing her keynote address after the open mic. Two people who I thought were amazingly brave got up and spoke. Then I heard the host offer one more chance for people to speak during this open mic session.  “Who would like to speak” she asked.

My hand (that is known for having a mind of its own) shot up and I heard this voice calling out “Me, me please my turn”. The woman smiled, and held the microphone out as I rushed up. I opened my mouth and I heard this person saying “Hello, my name is Phyllis Edwards from New Zealand. Thank you for having me.” I then heard a fluent voice talking over me – I realized it was me speaking. “Oh no,” I thought, “What do I do now if my mouth won’t work?”

Suddenly I had this picture in my mind of the friends I knew were supporting me back home. I
thought of Alexis Parker, my adopted English sister who also stutters, Janelle from START, who I am proud to be affiliated with, and Anita Blom who had mentored me and suggested it was my turn to pay it forward. She mentioned this after I contacted her when returning from the British Stammering Association national Conference held in Cardiff Wales. That time I had left feeling disappointed in myself for not speaking during the open mic session. But not this time.

This time I felt strong and supported and wanted to do this for me and for others. I started sharing about my mum telling me my dad would come back if I talked properly, and about thinking I had a ‘tongue monster’ in my throat.  I was able to share about being lucky enough to have been able to follow my dream of being an Early Childhood Teacher with a stutter. My story came flooding out of me.

I finished by sharing how at age 65 I realized that if I hadn’t had a stutter, my life may have gone in a completely different direction.  I would not have amazing supportive close friendships, be in a job I loved where children and parents accepted me. These children have touched my heart and have taught me having a stutter didn’t matter. They have showed and taught me love, acceptance, and generosity by building these relationships with me. Also, it’s worth noting that without my stutter I might not be the interesting, quirky, prank-playing wife, mother, and friend I am today.”

And just like that, I thrust the microphone back into the host’s hand afterwards. All I wanted was to sit back down, curl up in my seat and listen to Anita’s keynote address. It seemed like it all went quiet, but then I heard what I thought was an earthquake. There was lots of noise, and I remember thinking “Oh that’s me! I have caused an earthquake or broken something!” I remember clutching the hands of the woman sitting next to me and then I slowly realized people were clapping and cheering and I saw some people standing up in my row. ‘’

It was awe-inspiring. Dropping back down into my seat, I was still quietly crying, feeling
overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to share my story, and overcoming my fear of standing up there with that microphone.

All at once I felt humble, lighter, healed, and relieved that I hadn’t broken anything or caused an earthquake.

If sharing my story can help just one young woman realise what I have realised at an earlier age than me, then to have a stutter may not be such a bad thing.


We couldn’t be more proud of you Phyllis, and we know the strength of your story has the power to change the lives of people who stutter.

Ricoh – Helping kids achieve their best START

In September last year, START sent out an appeal letter with the goal of raising $7,200 to help 10 Kiwi kids access treatment for stuttering. In response to this, Mike Pollok, CEO of Ricoh, and former START Board Member, reached out to us and generously offered to contribute 50% towards our goal. We are very grateful for this considerable contribution.  We are delighted to share with you the story Ricoh published in their internal staff newsletter – The Ricoh Review.


In September 2018, the Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust (START) approached its supporter database with the goal to raise $7200 to provide specialist speech language therapy to ten Kiwi kids who stutter.

START was established in 1995 by a group of people who had experienced stuttering first-hand—either themselves or as parents of children who stuttered. Based in Auckland, with an office in Greenlane and a satellite clinic at Massey University in Albany, START is a registered charitable trust and the only organisation in New Zealand that specialises in the treatment of stuttering.

START changes lives by providing specialist treatment and support to
people who stutter and their parents, families and whanau. A team of specialist speech language therapists provides both one-to-one treatment sessions and a range of group treatment options. START also offers a mentoring programme for adults who stutter, as well as hosting a range of social events for people of all ages.

“Half way through our campaign, we were approached by Mike Pollok, wanting to make a meaningful contribution towards our appeal,” says START Executive Director, Janelle Irvine.

“On behalf of Ricoh, Mike generously offered to contribute 50 per cent towards our target of $7200.”

“Having been involved with START for many years as a trustee, I witnessed first-hand the transformation in young peoples’ lives when they were able to speak fluently for the first time,” says Mike.

“Ricoh is a communications company, albeit a business one, but what is more intrinsic to human communication than the ability to speak fluently—something so many of us simply take for granted.”

“With the addition of the $3600 donation from Ricoh, START raised a total of $8695, which means we are now in the position to help over 10 Kiwi Kids who stutter. We are extremely thankful to Mike and Ricoh for helping us exceed our target,” says Janelle.

Ricoh’s donation, along with the other funds raised, will go a long way to helping other children who access START’s services, such as Addison, as well as their families.

“When our son, Addison was three-and-a-half, we noticed him having problems with his speech. Over a matter of weeks, his speech deteriorated to the point where he was struggling with almost every sentence and was trying to force words out,” says Leighton Duke.

“As parents it was hugely painful watching our young son struggle in this way and we felt hopeless not knowing how to cope with the challenges he faced. Eighteen months down the track, Addison is a confident speaker thanks to the support START has provided and we are now armed with the tools to help our son. We can’t begin to thank the START team enough; to again see smiles and hear our little boy express himself and his big thoughts freely!”

“As well as the generous financial contribution, Ricoh has a long-standing history of supporting START by providing a printer/photocopier/scanner at no charge, which is a hugely generous donation and a much-appreciated support to our organisation,” says Janelle.

Reflecting on 2017 – Merry Christmas from START!

This year has been a big year for START! We’ve had lots of opportunities to help people across New Zealand who stutter and it’s been a wonderful journey – thanks for being there with us the whole way!

We’ve found that technology has been a great way for us to reach people , not just those who are Auckland-based, and we can’t wait to continue to see how it will help us grow.

We also published a book! If you haven’t heard yet, for International Stuttering Awareness Day this year, we asked the kids we work with to submit art and writing that discusses their unique experiences as children  who stutter. We received some incredible submissions, and compiled them into a book which you can now purchase! ‘My Stutter’ is a charming little book filled with some amazing pieces on what it’s like to be a Kiwi kid who stutters.  All proceeds go towards supporting us to help those who stutter in New Zealand, and you can pick up your own copy here:

So what is next on our agenda?

Well, firstly it involves a holiday break.  START will be closed from the 21stnd of December until the 9th of January 2018. We’re all looking forward to spending some quality time with our friends and family, and enjoying the Kiwi Summer.

We will also then be closed again from the 18th until the 29th  of January. Why?

2018 involves some big changes and improvements to our organisation – one which we’ve been excited to tell you for a while, and now we finally can!

START IS MOVING!

We’ve loved spending the past 20 years at our site  in Parnell, and we know how convenient the central location has been in the past. However, as Auckland continues to grow and become the bustling metro it’s becoming, START has grown as well.

Travelling across the city is no longer the easy task it once was, and while our Albany clinic has been a great help for many of you, we’re looking to make things even easier for our clients.

This is why, in 2018 we’ll be moving in with The Hearing House at their fantastic new premises in Greenlane! This is a wonderful  opportunity for us to work alongside a similar charity, as well as become more accessible for our clients who might not be as central as they used to be.

We’ll also be looking into establishing more satellite clinics for our clients’ convenience in the future, however we’re firm believers in taking one step at a time!

We will miss our lovely Parnell office, however as the only organisation in New Zealand specialising in helping those who stutter, it’s important that we continue to encourage our charity’s growth as much as possible!

Our new office will be based with The Hearing House at The Stitchbury Bidwill Centre, 251 Campbell Road, Greenlane.which is very close to  the the Greenlane off-ramp. Our clients who live West or North will continue to utilise our Albany  office.

If you’re more of a visual person, hopefully this map helps you!

There will be limited parking available for our clients onsite as well as on-street parks available.

Once again, thank you for joining us on our journey, and thank you for all your support, particularly with our first published book – ‘My Stutter’!

From the entire team here at START, happy holidays! We hope you have a fantastic new year, and can’t wait to see you all in 2018!