The following story is a personal story written by David Shapiro, author of Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom and was printed in The Staff, March 1995, a publication by Aaron's Associates. It is reprinted below with the permission of the author and Janice Westbrook, publisher of The Staff.

A Way Through the Forest: One Boy's Story With a Happy Ending

by David Shapiro

Once there was a boy who was 9 years old. He was not unlike many other children. He usually was happy and lived with his parents, sister, and brother in a house surrounded by a forest that had lots of streams and even a few lakes.

The boy had many friends to play with. His best friend, though, was Buddy, a funny looking dog that had long black, white, and brown hair all over its body and always a wet nose. Buddy and the boy were friends for a long time, in fact, ever since Buddy was a pup and the boy was 3 weeks old. As they grew together, they took many long walks in the woods, and they even fell asleep together in the sun by the stream. Everyone knew when they saw the boy that Buddy was not far away.

One place you would not see Buddy was in school. The boy had many other friends in school, though. He especially enjoyed playing with Billy on the playground and in gym, art, and music. These were the boy's favorite times in school because he felt that he was good at what he did. He could kick the ball higher and farther than most other children; he could run very fast; and he could climb the ropes almost without using his feet. Music was fun too because the boy liked to sing.

But the boy often did not like going to school because it was hard for him to talk in class. The boy stuttered, and he knew it. Even when he knew the answer to a question, he would not talk because he was sure the children would laugh when he tried to speak.

One time, even the teacher laughed. When the boy tried to take his turn reading out loud, he simply could not say the words. He knew the words, but the sounds just wouldn't come out. Sometimes, trying so hard, the boy sounded like a little grizzly bear.

When the teacher said, "You do know how to read, don't you?" or "You do have a name, don't you?" (when the boy could not say his name), the children laughed. Only Billy never laughed. Billy was the boy's friend.

The boy acted like a good sport, but inside he cried. It hurt to be teased so much. He was a smart boy too. He always got good grades--usually 90 to 95 in all of the subjects, but a 65 in oral reading. That hurt too.

One thing the boy especially did not like was being pulled from the playground, gym, art or music to go to speech class. These were activities in which the boy felt normal--almost like the other children.

Over the years, the boy worked with many different speech therapists. They usually were nice. There was one that the boy did not like because she always told the boy to read. The boy knew he couldn't read out loud. Why didn't the speech therapist know that? He surely wished he could be playing with Billy or with Buddy. One time, it was so hard for the boy to keep trying to read to the speech therapist that he started to cry and ran out of the room. That was the last time he went to that speech therapist.

One day when the teacher talked to the boy's parents about how hard it was for the boy to talk in class and how unhappy it made the boy feel, the boy's parents decided to take him to a different speech therapist after school. The boy thought that might be a good idea--he didn't like to stutter one bit. "Wouldn't it be wonderful, " he thought, "to be able to talk to anybody, just like talking to Buddy?" He never stuttered when he talked to Buddy.

Anyway, the new speech therapist was a man. He didn't tell the boy to read. In fact, he didn't tell the boy to do anything. He asked the boy what he wanted to do. "This is surely different," the boy thought. The boy said that he'd like to walk by a stream, just like he does with Buddy. So that is what they did. Sometimes they talked, and sometimes they didn't. The boy felt that he found another friend. In a funny way, it was like being with the boy's grandpa. The boy and his grandpa often took long walks. That made the boy feel special. Sometimes they talked, and a lot of times they just listened to the stream and walked. That was what the boy was doing with his new speech therapist.

Time passed, as did Buddy, Billy, the boy's grandpa, and the new speech therapist. Although it has been over a quarter of a century since the boy's last walk with the speech therapist, this boy remembers it well. If they could walk together again and " if words could make wishes come true, " these would be the boy's words of thanks, and among the thoughts he would dream possible for other children who stutter.

The boy reminds other children, parents, and speech-language pathologists that things that are most meaningful and difficult to achieve often take a long time to accomplish, and those that are seemingly impossible might take a bit longer.

Remain positive. Admit honestly to when and what you don't know. Know when to seek help. Recognize feelings for what they are and are not. Continue to believe in yourselves and the healthy process of constructive change. You're in good company. Good luck.

added September 1, 1998