22nd Annual Friends Convention, July 2019

A Keynote Address

The following are excerpts and key points from Michael Boyle’s 2019 Keynote Presentation at the Annual Friends Convention on Saturday July 20th in Rosemont, IL.

The talk was titled “My story of stuttering: Memories, lessons learned, and advice.”

I.   Lessons learned

  • “Success” should not be equated with fluency. Success is doing what you want to do while still stuttering. Or, not having your choices in life dictated by stuttering.
  • Avoid the fallacy of viewing fluency and stuttering as binary choices representing success and failure.
  • “Progress” may actually mean more stuttering. It is difficult if not impossible to go from avoidance to spontaneous fluency. Stuttering needs to be let out in order to know what changes can be made. This process naturally involves seeing/hearing more stuttering.
  • Change is a process that is long term – progress, along with setbacks, are common. Don’t get discouraged with setbacks and think long term.
  • You can accept who you are and strive to make changes at the same time – there is no contradiction between acceptance and change.
  • You can certainly find benefits in the challenge of stuttering if you look hard enough. Instead of asking “why me?”, ask how you can grow from this? How can you use the pain you are experiencing to make you stronger? A better person? If you look for empowering meanings for stuttering, you will find them.
  • You expand your capacities only when you’re challenged. Stuttering may be the resistance you push against to make you stronger.

II.   Advice

  • To the SLPs and graduate students out there: model confronting and dealing with challenges. Go outside the treatment room and stutter, then use a strategy if that’s what you’re working on. It can be hard. Acknowledge the difficulty and do it anyway. A client won’t know how to handle difficulty in real life if they don’t confront what they are scared of. This means YOU need to stutter too. How can they become courageous if you aren’t willing to model courage? Also, understand your individual client. People who stutter are all different. There are times when transformation just requires letting the person know they’ve been heard. They can then open up and often they figure out their own problems.
  • To the parents and family members of kids who stutter: don’t make your love and approval conditional on how fluent your child’s speech is. If all they hear, or most of what they hear from you is that you really want them to use their techniques, or you ask them why they don’t use them, they can get the sense that they aren’t good enough if they don’t do those things. Letting them know they are loved just as they are is very powerful. The starting point is to appreciate them and what they have to say regardless of stuttering. You will support them regardless. It is incredibly difficult to communicate as a PWS. Just doing it is incredibly courageous. Appreciate and acknowledge that for your child who stutters.
  • To PWS: Don’t wait until you’re totally fluent to start living the life you want to live. Also don’t wait until you’re totally okay with stuttering to live the life you want to live. Avoid the extremes in terms of expecting total fluency, or total acceptance as the ultimate goal. Be forgiving of yourself – stuttering can be a very difficult condition to live with. Be forgiving of yourself if you’re struggling to speak. Be forgiving of yourself if you avoid sounds or words and feel good about it. It’s a very difficult and complicated problem. Aim to be courageous. Acknowledge the difficulty and talk anyway.

Author Biography

Michael P. Boyle, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Montclair State University. He teaches graduate courses in stuttering and research methods, in addition to mentoring student research in the department’s M.S. and Ph.D. programs. Dr. Boyle has received awards for his teaching and research from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the National Stuttering Association (NSA). He is an active researcher who has published over 25 scientific articles and book chapters in the area of stuttering. Dr. Boyle received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in communication sciences and disorders from Penn State University.

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