About the presenter: Alan Badmington is a former police officer and lifelong stutterer from Wales, UK. He is a highly successful public speaker, having won numerous trophies and appeared as a finalist in the 2005 and 2008 Association of Speakers Clubs UK national public speaking championships. Alan regularly addresses diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness about stuttering, while his media involvement has further brought the subject to the fore. He has given talks to SLP students in the USA, as well as undertaking presentations/workshops at NSA/BSA events. He was a keynote speaker at the 7th World Congress for People Who Stutter in Australia in February 2004, where he won the Oratory Competition. Email: alan@highfieldstile.fsnet.co.uk

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

Thanks To My Stutter, I'm Never Lost For Words

by Alan Badmington
from Wales, UK

I am aware that some people regard their stutter as a gift. Whilst I wholly respect the sentiments they express, I have never viewed my own stuttering in that light. It has created far too much heartache and disappointment for me to ever consider it in such a vein. However, I readily acknowledge that the difficulties I encountered throughout my life have certainly equipped me with skills and attributes that I might, otherwise, not have acquired.

As someone who commenced stuttering during early childhood, I developed a host of strategies to protect myself from embarrassment. I avoided words that appeared to cause me particular difficulty, and developed the expertise to (almost unconsciously) substitute synonyms that I felt more confident in using. I became a 'walking thesaurus'. Habitual use of word substitution meant that I amassed an extensive and varied vocabulary, which I put to good use in many different situations.

My struggles with the spoken word encouraged me to cultivate useful writing skills. In many instances, transferring my thoughts to paper was the only effective way in which I could meaningfully express myself. The written option allowed me to communicate exactly what I wanted to say. I could select words without the usual anticipatory fear associated with stuttering. My past oral exchanges were littered with words that I considered to be inferior or, in some cases, totally inappropriate. I succumbed to mediocrity simply because I did not want the listener to see/hear me stutter.

Over the years, my writing skills have taken me in many interesting and exciting directions. I have edited several magazines; held the secretaryship of numerous organisations; and undertaken the role of advisor to a fictional crime series on British television. I have also written humorous verse and other poetry. During recent years, I have composed several poems about stuttering, which are used in many parts of the world.

In addition, my slogans have enabled me to win hundreds of prizes (including cars and exotic holidays) in consumer competitions. My reputation as a wordsmith has also created many other opportunities. Over the years, I have been invited to prepare speeches/poems for use by other people at a variety of events. While it was flattering that they should wish to present my material, I always harboured a burning desire to perform it myself (but my self-image did not then incorporate that role).

Everything changed in 2000 when I discovered new ways of dealing with my speech blocks and words that held a particular emotional charge. The resultant fluency, and greater self confidence, provided the springboard for change. Speaking in front of groups had always figured prominently among my list of fears. In order to overcome that trepidation, I joined the UK-based Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC). I have never looked back.

A half a century of stuttering provided me with the motivation to sample the experience of addressing an audience. I yearned to become a public speaker. My literary dexterity, coupled with the ability to tap into my over-flowing word reservoir, proved invaluable when I needed to write my own speeches, contributing immensely to the success that I have since enjoyed in public speaking contests, competing with fluent speakers.

For the past seven years, I have undertaken an extensive series of talks to diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness about stuttering. In addition, I have addressed speech-language pathologist students at several US universities; participated in radio programmes about communication skills; hosted a charity concert; provided after-dinner entertainment; and spoken at stuttering-related conferences/events on three different continents.

After a lifetime of dreading public speaking, it is now one of my favourite pastimes. Plucking whatever words I wish and saying them without anticipatory fear, is exhilarating. The debilitating oral shackles (that had inhibited me since childhood) have finally been removed.

As I reflect upon the changes that have occurred, I realise the sizeable extent of my past dependence upon avoidance. It crept insidiously into my life and became an integral part of my daily existence. I was totally oblivious to the fact that, whenever I changed a word, I fuelled my fear of saying that word. I believe that my previous avoidance strategies undoubtedly exacerbated my stuttering behaviour. However, I recognise that those very acts of word substitution have been instrumental in paving the way for me to venture along paths that I would not have trodden.

It is ironic that my current oratory successes are due, in no small measure, to my past speaking difficulties. My writing skills and vocabulary have been enhanced considerably by the experiences that I encountered. Although my vocal struggles created considerable anguish over the years, I acknowledge that I have cause to be grateful to my stutter for ensuring that I am now never lost for words.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

SUBMITTED August 24, 2008
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