'Security blankets' for children's speech therapy

"SECURITY BLANKETS":

Depending on the child's age, there are security blankets to consider - before and upon arriving at therapy. Here’s our list of things we think you should consider:

  • Bring a snack (ask therapist if this is "ok," ahead of time!)

  • Bring a familiar book

  • Bring a favorite toy or game

  • Tell the child "the therapist is NOT a doctor" (i.e. no shots)

  • Assure the child they will not be left alone in the room without parent (discuss ahead of time with therapist)

  • Ask the therapist what the child (and parent!) should expect during the appointment, and relay that to your child

  • Prepare some notes to inform the therapist of your child's interests, hobbies, accomplishments

  • Prepare the child to answer basic questions - and if the child may be reluctant, make a plan with the child how they would like to handle the situation

 

Remember: COMFORT IS KEY to a successful visit!

 

VIDEO: What Is "Word Retrieval"?

Click to start watching

It’s more miraculous that any of us can put a sentence together fluently; then it is surprising that some children have hiccups in their fluency!
— Uri Schneider

See this conceptual slideshow presenting the “speech process”

IDEATION -> KEYWORDS -> SENTENCES -> SAYING IT

(Adapted from our mentor, Dr. Ed Contour)

 
 
 
 

25 ways to ask your kids "how was school today?"

As parents we want our kids to tell us more, but often we’re frustrated by their one-word responses; leaving us curious and pressing for more info.

Make it more fun (and less of an interrogation) with questions suggested by Huffington Post! Click here for the full article.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Where is the coolest place at the school?

  • Tell me something good that happened today.

  • If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

  • If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

  • If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

 
 

Think these could work for your kids? Try it out and let us know how it goes!

VIDEO: Speech Therapy for the Unmotivated child

 
 

We often hear things like:

"My child is not showing much motivation and seems disinterested - but my husband and I really want him/her to do this."

"I'm concerned about my child's speech and I really want them do the work to get better." 

Here are some things to remember during this confusing time!

  1. Stakeholders - Both parents and children have their own valid concerns!

  2. Kids have the right to decline

  3. Watch carefully

  4. Make it inviting

We have a responsibility to make sure that the visit in the office is going to be engaging and pleasant for them
— Uri Schneider
 
 
We hope these tips help you to decide what's best for your child!
 

VIDEO: Debunking 'one size fits all' therapy

Play our video above on this topic!

Here’s a recap!

For different people, different things are going to be helpful. At Schneider Speech, we don't use the term ‘stuttering modification’ or ‘fluency shaping’, instead it's always based on: what are the client’s needs, what are the client’s goals. We can figure out and custom tailor fit the right therapy plan for them once we identify the following: 

  • what their needs are

  • what their communication spirit is

  • what is the nature of their stuttering

  • what their goals are

  • where they would like to be more free to speak and speak fully and express themselves fully we can figure out and custom tailor fit the right therapy plan for them.

 
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Here's some general tips about stuttering therapy: 

  • if a technique doesn't work, it's not worth it

  • if a technique is not acceptable if it doesn't sound better than their other way of speaking it's not good enough

  • don' make it robotic - if it's so effortful they can't remember what it was they wanted to say because they're so focused on strategies, IT'S NOT A STRATEGY THAT WORKS.

  • a good therapist, is going to tune into that and make an adjustment, either to change something about the technique or change direction entirely.

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: Is it time to seek stuttering therapy for my child?

Don’t let anyone tell you “don’t worry.”
You’re a parent, and you have the right to be concerned about your child .
And you have the right to choose what to do.
— Uri Schneider

Things to remember when thinking about seeking speech therapy:

What Type of parent are you?

  • Tolerant Parent

    • Are you able to “watch-and-see” and tolerate allowing some more time, and give your child the opportunity to sort it out themselves?

  • Concerned Parent

    • Are you more concerned, risk-aversive and more comfortable being more proactive rather than applying a more patient approach?

 
 

What ABOUT YOUR CHILD? And They’re Temperament?

  • Is your child reactive and fussy?

  • Is your child easy-going and unbothered?

IF Parents and kids are not concerned…

  • If neither parent, nor the child is concerned - it can be a legitimate option to allowing more time. There is no objective need to rush to therapy sooner than later.
    (In some cases there can be reasons to seek therapy sooner than later", but it’s not always true that “early intervention” is always the best policy.)

  • If you choose to “watch and see,” then put a date on your calendar to follow-up (4-12 weeks later). Something like this: “If by this date, nothing has changed, let’s give therapy a try.”

Click here for a practical infographic - when to seek professional stuttering evaluation for your young child who stutters.

For more - see the video above.

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

3 Tips for Active Listening

3 Tips for Active Listening (between adults and kids)

1. Get down to the child's level, shoulder-to-shoulder. Sit down and meet them at eye level.

2. Ask yourself - 'How much am I talking here?’ Optimal balance is 50/50. This way we do half the talking and the child does half the talking

3. We need to start to think about talking with the language complexity that matches the child. Talk about trains, bugs, whatever they want! 

I would like to recommend the book, ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. In this book, you'll see cartoon illustrations and chapters that really talk about a lot of what I’ve just talked about. A second book I would recommend, is the book called, ‘Brain Rules for Babies’, by John J. Medina. It's written in a way that's very easy to consume, but it's written by a scientist, someone I recommend and really respect. 

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VIDEO: Distinctions Between Stuttering Therapy for Children and Adults

Click the image above to play our video

The therapy has to be fit for the person you’re working with

approach for pre-schoolers who stutter

  • Stuttering for preschool children is often just a blip and may resolve on its own.

  • Not a lot of stigma, or judgment; very matter of fact

  • Focused primarily on physical behaviors of stuttering

  • Focus on supporting parents and empowering them to help their children

transition from pre-school to school-age and beyond

  • At some point, in the early school years, children begin to compare themselves to others

    ‘My hair is different’,

    My body image is not the same as everyone else’,

    ‘My skin color isn't the same’

 
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  • The “non-physical”/emotional component of stuttering is introduced

As we move into the school-age, teen, and adult years, we have to think about how the person may be faced with thoughts and feelings around stuttering, and how that affects their overall experience in life and self-image.

Joseph Sheehan’s Analogy of the Iceberg

We think about how each person experiences the “physical” vs. “non-physical” components of stuttering to determine what therapy approach is best:

  • How much of the work is above the surface?

    • Behaviors we can hear or see like a stutter, or a body movement

  • What's beneath the surface?

    • Emotions and thoughts we often can't see, both positive and negative; shame, guilt, confidence, acceptance

 
 

Based on the person, their developmental stage, along with where their “work” primarily lies (above or below the iceberg), we can decide how much of the work will be focused on physical strategies vs. non-physical strategies.

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: Is Therapy Right for a Stuttering Three Year Old?

Click the video above to start watching

The Right Way Vs. the Wrong Way

  • There is no right way

  • There is a wrong way, which is to try to do a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

  • We may be the professionals and we may be the experts, but we're not the boss. A mother's intuition, a father's intuition is the best knowledge and the best guide in the process.

 
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remember what stuttering is

  • Stuttering is

    • a physical issue not an emotionally based issue

    • a neurophysiological issue, which involves the coordination of signals and neurons in the brain setting up the coordination of the speech mechanism

  • Stuttering is NOT

    • a learning disability

    • caused by anxiety

    • caused by parents

 
 

Good Communication Values

  • Plant communication values during moments of opportunity. You don't teach values, you plant them.

  • If we can listen to what the child has to say and practice active listening at the moment that the child is getting stuck, we can send a very powerful message to that young child. And that message is:

“What you have to say is worth listening to, no matter how it comes out. I'm listening to what you have to say more than how you say it”. 

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: Discovering your child stutters: What next?

Click the video above to start watching

So, you or your child stutters.

Before you consult too much with Dr. Google, let us share some helpful facts to steer you in a helpful direction (also see our infographic).

Sometimes the best place to start is to understand what stuttering is NOT...

  • Stuttering is NOT an emotional problem

  • Stuttering is NOT a cognitive problem

  • Stuttering is NOT caused by parents

Stuttering is likely pre-wired, within the child's neurophysiological "wiring" at birth.  Often, stuttering first appears years later during the developmental years of 2-8, correlated to developmental and/or environmental conditions. 

Many kids go through some dysfluency or fluency instability for a period of time and move through it.  The incidence is probably underreported for those who are younger and experience disfluency for shorter durations of time.

Research suggests that five out of a hundred (5%) kids stutter for six months or more, and only one out of a hundred (1%) retain the trait into adulthood.

So, there is a strong likelihood that this is not going to be a lifelong trait.  This can be something optimistic to know, and valuable to keep in mind.

With that being said, when your child is stuttering, you don't care about statistics.  You don't want your child to become a statistic. 

So I think it's really important for people who care for families to remember that.

Parents don't need statistics. They need help as parents and they want to help their child the very best they can.

I think finding what's right for you, finding the right resource of information for yourself is the best thing you can do.  Anyone who knows me, and anyone who knows this issue would agree that binging on Dr. Google is probably the worst thing you could possibly do! 

  • There are good resources out there, and support groups for families who are dealing with this issue with their children.

We are not the only address, but we can be a good one for you.

You can contact us.   Stay tuned as we roll-out more content, videos and free webinars like this!

 

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: Practical Tips to Keep in Mind for Pre-schoolers who Stutter

Click the video above to check it out!

some tips and strategies for working with your pre-schooler who stutters:

1. Understand the whole child

  • What are their language skills?

  • Are they having trouble with language?

  • Do they have trouble understanding language?

Maybe they understand language very well, but they have trouble expressing themselves. You want to understand everything about their language.

 
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2. Look at their temperament

  • Some kids are really rough and tough, ‘rock’em sock’em’. They just keep ticking, no matter what happens.

  • Some kids are really sensitive. They're sensitive themselves and they tend to be very sensitive towards others.

I'd work differently with a four-year-old with an easy going temperament versus one with a tougher temperament.

3. Provide CUSTOM therapy

  • Our goal, whatever approach we’re going to be employing is that we don't throw any approach or anything too rigid on anybody. We try to:

  • tailor fit the right therapy

  • borrow from the best research and popular approaches out there

But none of them are a cure-all for every childSo, it's a real decision-making process, engaging the parents, putting the parents in the driver's seat, and making sure that we're working with the child. 

4. Treat them like people

  • we need to make sure that the communication that we encourage between parents and children is naturalistic, not artificial and plastic.

In doing so, hopefully we can help them with the physical side of stuttering, and also help them with the communication values to keep talking and have the confidence they were born with!

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: What to do When a Parent Wants Therapy But a Child Does Not

Click the video above to start watching!

Let’s review!

What to do when a parent wants therapy but a child does not?

  1. Ask yourself: What's the root of the problem?

    • Thinking about what the child's concerns are and helping to alleviate them can be a big step forward.

  2. Talk about it in a different way

    • Present therapy in a new light! For example:

“Mommy and daddy noticed that sometimes your words are getting stuck. We love you and we found someone who knows a lot about kids whose words get stuck and we want to get some help, some tips, some advice on how we can do the best we can for you. Would you like to come?” 

 
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3. Respect them

  • As they get older, they start to own shares of their life. Allow the child's voice to be heard, even if it's not what we wish to hear.


Now how about this...

‘How do you work with children who might not want to be in therapy?’ 

1. Learn what's troubling them

  • If a child is going through something significant in their life, like a stutter, learn what it is and what it's not. Let them know help exists.

2. Give them an invitation

  • Give a child an opportunity and an invitation. It can be helpful to present therapy as a project: “Would you be interested in a little project? We'll meet for three times and learn a little bit more about this whole speech thing.”

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

VIDEO: It's OK to Talk About Stuttering

Click the video above to start watching!

Here’s a recap of our video!

Talking about stuttering with your teen can be challenging, but it needs to happen! Read below for some tips on approaching this sensitive topic in a safe and dignified way.

1. Don't ignore the elephant in the room!

  • The worst thing to do is to pretend the stuttering is not there. That sends a message (and transmits a value/judgement) that this way of talking is a "no-no," taboo, we don't talk about it.

 
 

2. Talk about it, in a way that is respectful, dignified and nuanced

  • Use descriptive language - not judgmental language.

  • If we can use words that are descriptive and just acknowledge what it is, we can talk about stuttering in a respectful and sensitive manner

    i.e.: “It must be hard sometimes, would you like to find some ways to learn how to make it easier to talk about it?” 

  • Being insensitive can lead to negative outcomes including poor self-image, reduced confidence and ultimately, a young person who retreats into a safer shell of silence.

Uri Schneider, Co-Director Schneider Speech

PODCAST: Building Relationships in Stuttering Treatment

What is the importance of “building a relationship” (between therapist and client) in stuttering therapy?

Lee Caggiano (Friends) and Phil Schneider join Peter Reitzes (Stuttertalk) to discuss the ins-and-outs of building relationships in stuttering treatment.

Check out more StutterTalk podcasts featuring Phil!

Visit our own podcast page here

  Phil Schneider

Phil Schneider

  Peter Reitzes

Peter Reitzes

Speech Therapy 2.0

Let’s get personal. Yesterday, I met with 4 clients on three continents. Technology is amazing!
But the most invigorating moments aren’t generated by tech.

The great moments are more often the subtle ones, face to face, one on one.
I want to invite you in, to appreciate the subtlety of my day yesterday.


I met an 18 year old young man who is struggling with his speech. As a result, he is starting to avoid conversations, acting shy and worrying about his future employability.

I asked him, what was most helpful in our meeting today?
He said: "I thought no-one would understand. I thought it was just me."
He appreciated the understanding I afforded to him. And in our meeting, I had the fortune to introduce him to a friend of mine, another young man who stutters. And that friend shared his own journey which resonated with this 18 year old!

I met another new client, a college-age young woman who is almost unintelligible. She lives the definition of resilience, but her deepest wish is the ability to speak for herself, and claim the independence she craves. And one of the keys to unlock her independence is her ability to speak for herself, and to be understood.


You see, what strikes me is the subtlety of these two meetings - two different people with different circumstances... they both come for "speech therapy." But what they really need isn't "speech therapy." "Put your tongue here..." "Slow down..." "Take a deep breath..."

What they want is:

[1] To be heard and to be understood - without judgement or whitewashing the real speech struggles. To be afforded the opportunity to own and wrote their own story. Often with the support of family, friends and sometimes... abcaring professional too.

[2] Real life change - the ability to communicate with greater success and more ease! In real life; not only in the speech therapy office. To be able to order food, enjoy friendships, meet new people, and pursue a career.


What these clients need (and deserve) is a guide. A speech-language pathologist, with a caring heart, problem solving mind, and championing spirit to unleash their fullest potential... and give them the greatest gift! An incubator for their improvement, growth and increasing independence!

This is what we do at Schneider Speech with each of our clients.
Younger kids, teens, adults and parents!

I can tell you, it's effortful and exhausting, even though it may appear fluid and informal.
That's because it's not your grandma's speech therapy.
It's speech-language therapy 2.0
Speech-language therapy with soul.
As we have learned from our teachers, clients mentors - first and foremost, Dr. Phil Schneider.

We feel privileged to do this every day with each of our clients.

If you know someone looking for this kind of help, let them know we're here.
Kew Gardens Hills, Queens,
Roslyn, Long Island
Cedarhurst, Long Island
Flatbush, Brooklyn
Upper West Side, Manhattan
and
Riverdale, Bronx

VIDEO: Stop Bullying with George Springer

George Springer has earned the MVP award in Major League Baseball - but he's also earned our respect for his consistent courage as an articulate spokesman and stand-out role-model for kids and young people who stutter.

 
 

Reigning World Series MVP George Springer joins the Shred Hate campaign to stop bullying and encourage young fans to "Choose Kindness"

 
I want kids to be themselves. And enjoy their lives.
— George Springer
 

Clients’ Voices: Ali Nicklas Talks about #Failure and #Resilience

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  Ali Nicklas, Founder and President, Different & Able    anicklas@differentandable.org    www.instagram.com/differentandable

Ali Nicklas, Founder and President, Different & Able

anicklas@differentandable.org
www.instagram.com/differentandable

 

INTRODUCTION:

Good evening. Thank you Dr. Kinsey and Renata Henry for this opportunity. And thank you to the graduating class. It is an honor to be here at Hewitt, speaking with you, at your alumni induction dinner.

FAILURE:

I was told that the “word of the year” is “failure.” I know a little about that. I’ve done it several times. At this point, I would say I’ve learned to “fail very well.”

I want to share some words about my experiences at Hewitt, my journey and my failures.


TIME AT HEWITT:

It’s been 10 years since I graduated in the class of 2008, but my memories of my time here, are as vivid as ever. I remember my first day of Kindergarten, coming into my classroom, greeted by Ms. Notham and meeting the kids in my class. As much as I remember the visual scene; I also so remember the visceral feeling. It felt warm and inviting. It felt like a community.

I came to Hewitt as a child with a unique set of gifts, as well as a unique set of challenges. I had physical differences and learning difficulties unlike many of my classmates.

I worried if I would fit in. I wondered if I would measure-up to my parents’ and teachers’ expectations. I questioned what my future life could look like. Would I fail? Would I be able to make-it through and succeed? And it was scary at times.


CHALLENGES @ HEWITT:

Due to my learning challenges, geometry was really challenging. I thought math was about numbers, and then it became all about shapes and figures. (Until we got to algebra and that’s when math became all about letters a, b, c and x, y z.) I remember my teacher sitting down with me, telling me “don’t give up” - “you got this!”

Sports were also harder for me. I couldn’t run as fast as some of my peers because of my physical differences. I remember how my teachers supported and motivated me to “stick with it” and persevere even though it was hard.

There were many times I was overwhelmed. I wanted a pass. I wanted to quit.

I am where I am today, because I didn’t quit.

I am where I am today because of my teachers.

I am where I am today because of my family.

I am where I am today because of my inner resilience - I would show the world who I am on the inside!

And I am where I am today because of my differences.

Along the way, I learned how much, one-person can make a life-changing impact for another person. My friends, my teachers and my family, made the difference for me. And I am forever grateful, and ever-eager to give back.


GOALS AND PURPOSE IN LIFE:

So, it’s no surprise, I dreamt of a career of helping others, and paying-it-forward.

In the upper school, I enjoyed electives like “Anatomy and Physiology” and “Intro to Psychology.” I dreamt of becoming a doctor or psychologist.

So, when I went off to college, I registered for the courses in sciences and psychology. But it wasn’t what I expected! I didn’t enjoy the course material and by all measures, I failed the class. Suddenly, I was confronted by the fact that my dream of becoming a doctor or psychologist wasn’t looking likely. I was back to square-one. I wondered, and I feared:

What course of study was right for me?

What career should I pursue?

Was I going to be a failure?

It was then, I remembered geometry, gym class and the many times I struggled and even failed tests. In fact, it got so rough, there was a time in Hewitt middle school when we were considering whether Hewitt was the best place for me. Needless to say - I dug deeper, and found resources and success I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Sometimes, failure is like that: it forces you to dig deeper than you think you can. To tap into a reservoir of otherwise untapped power and ability. So, following my “failed attempt” with the sciences and psychology, I pivoted to linguistics and language disorders. These classes interested me, I enjoyed the material and I was excited by the career of speech language pathology. I declared my major in Speech Language Pathology. I graduated Marymount Manhattan College with my BA in Speech Language Pathology and thought to myself, grad school is the next step in my path to career success.

Well… I was in for a big surprise.

I succeeded in receiving admission to graduate school at Lehman College, AND coursework continued to be of-interest, AND even I performed well on coursework, BUT... the clinical practicum was really challenging for me. As hard as

I tried, I wasn’t finding my way and I wasn’t meeting my professors’ expectations. I tried my hardest the first time, and even after failing my practicum, I tried again, repeating the practicum a second time, and failing again. Double fail.

I realized I wasn’t able to succeed in the training - and the graduate program wasn’t a good fit for me. So I made the difficult decision to accept my failure, and I terminated my studies in Speech Language Pathology. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a bright time for me. At this point, I had failed in my first pursuit of medicine and psychology. And now I had also failed in my pursuit to speech language pathology. 2 strikes. I didn’t know what to do. What kind of future was in-store for me? I was a flurry of ideas, doubts and challenges during this time.


STARTING D&A:

And then, a few experiences coincided:

1. My friend Valentine was creating a website for her nutrition practice.

2. And I was discussing my situation with a friend who is a speech therapist, and he suggested there might be a way to “give back,” doing meaningful work, making a difference and really achieving everything I wanted to achieve as a speech language pathologist - even if I wasn’t going to be a speech language pathologist.

And from these different experiences, conversations and insights, Different and Able was born in the fall of 2017.

I decided to use social media and a website to provide support and resources for people with “differences.” My passion grew; I invested more and more time collecting resources and personal stories; meeting leading professionals and celebrities; and starting a proper non-profit organization to grow Different and Able. My failures. My “near strike-out” actually laid the foundation for my foundation.

Through the Different & Able Foundation I am:

  • Empowering people who live with physical, learning, speech, emotional and medical differences;

  • Offering hope and inspiration, professional resources and a community of ongoing support;

  • Building a more diverse and tolerant community, with bridges of access for all people, irrespective of the differences in their abilities.

The website will launch soon. For now, you can follow-us on Instagram @differentandable

Now you see, I may have failed courses but I learned many lessons. I learned to reach high. I learned to work hard, and then when it gets tough… work harder. I learned to listen to myself. And I learned to lean-on others and listen to others’ journeys. And I learned that when you reach your limits, that’s where the real growth begins.

At my Hewitt graduation, I remember the speech delivered by Carolynn Erisman, the then Assistant Head of School. She called it: “Life is not a straight line”. Life isn’t a linear equation. It isn’t a straight line from here to who you become. Lean-into-it.

As the saying goes: “You may try and fail. Just make sure, you don’t fail to try!”

And if you do try, I promise you will find your meaning and purpose. And when you do, and whatever you become, come back to Hewitt to share your story so some 12th grade girls, and even younger ones, can learn from your life journey and find what path they choose to try.

The Alchemist’s Secret - Teen tells his story

Meet Andrew Carlins. 

He stutters.  And I am the speech-therapist.  But this guys leaves me speechless - every time. 
His parents (shining examples in their own right) brought him to meet me in the Long Island office.  And the journey continues years later.  And so much more yet to come.
As a high-schooler, he participated in our panel Q&A events; he collaborated in designing and traveling to Israel to conduct epic research; we co-presented the research at the National Stuttering Association Convention in Atlanta, GA - and we "bowl" together at the annual Paul Rudd SAY Bowling Event.  He continues to shine, and finds time to serve as a mentor for our teens who stutter.

He has an amazing way with words, and moves me every time.  Enjoy.

Uri


The Alchemist’s Secret

Alchemists look to change iron into gold, trying to perfect the imperfect. We are all alchemists trying to refine ourselves; however, only the few who learn the alchemist’s secret are successful. I achieved my revelation through overcoming my greatest obstacle: my stutter.

We are all alchemists trying to refine ourselves.
— Andrew

Imagine you have a question, but when you try to ask it, the words get trapped in your throat. Your ability to express yourself is attached to an iron chain around your neck. Others laugh as you struggle to break the chains that keep your voice trapped within, itching for freedom.

Welcome to the world of a stuttering child. Scratch that.

Welcome to the world of a stuttering child who allows that stutter to overpower his voice.

As a fifth grader, I was a full time stutterer and a part time entrepreneur with a business selling sports memorabilia to my friends. To build my inventory, I consciously decided to write letters to several teams, fearing I would stutter if I attempted to call. I thought the letters were convincing, but, based on the lack of responses, the teams did not.

Welcome to the world of a stuttering child who allows that stutter to overpower his voice.
— Andrew

I walked into speech therapy that week frustrated and disappointed. I wanted so much to be free of my stutter, which seemed to keep my business, and me, from growing.  My speech pathologist suggested I call the sports teams to personalize my request. He insisted I start each call by bluntly saying that I am a stutterer, predicting positive results.  Surprisingly, the more forthcoming I was, the better the outcome. It rained memorabilia during the following weeks.

I distinctly remember my first call to the Long Island Ducks. I hoped no one would answer, counting each dial tone and anticipating the relief of the voicemail recording. My desires went unfulfilled as I heard a respondent on the line.

“Hello. M-my n-name is Andrew,” I said stuttering as my chains tightened. I continued, “I-I-I am a st-u-uttt-erer a-and I am int-e-e-e-eeres-s-s-s-s-sted   i-i-in y-your mem-mem-memorabilia.”

As the pitch progressed, the chains of my stutter stopped burdening me. I was so focused on achieving my goal that others’ perceptions ceased to bother me.  For the first time, I spoke freely. I controlled my voice. The iron chain around my neck turned golden, as I realized my disfluent speech could not silence my voice. Only I could.

Surprisingly, the more forthcoming I was, the better the outcome.
It rained memorabilia during the following weeks.
— Andrew

Although I still occasionally stutter, I speak confidently wearing my now golden chains, proudly. My gift of stuttering inspires me to use my voice to empower others to find theirs. I act on my inspiration by giving back to the stuttering community. As a member and mentor of the not-for-profit organization Stuttering Association for the Young and a researcher leading an international stuttering research project, I raise awareness that stutterers are not alone and that there are multiple treatments that lead to success. Throughout my journey, I have had the privilege of ringing the NASDAQ bell announcing National Stuttering Awareness Week and presenting my research findings at an International Stuttering Conference. Reflecting on my experiences, I realize millions stutter, including Joe Biden, but only the extraordinary are "stuttering alchemists" who embrace their perfect imperfection and stutter well. I now know the alchemist’s secret, and I hope to empower others to learn it too.

For the first time, I spoke freely. I controlled my voice.
The iron chain around my neck turned golden,
as I realized my disfluent speech could not silence my voice.
— Andrew

My stutter no longer defines me, but my journey with it still shapes my worldview. I have come to understand that accepting oneself entirely leads to courage and self-confidence, which are gateways to success.

Since this essay is my first impression, I would like to introduce myself in a fashion I found successful years ago, that also takes into account my experiences and current self-perception: “Hello my name is Andrew. I am a stutterer….I am also a scholar, a musician, a poet, an entrepreneur, a researcher,  an athlete, an actor, an advocate, a mentor, a leader, a listener, a brother, a dog-lover, an individual... and an alchemist.”

 
 Andrew, Tammy (mom) and Uri at Paul Rudd Bowling Event for Stuttering Assoc. for the Young (2013)

Andrew, Tammy (mom) and Uri at Paul Rudd Bowling Event for Stuttering Assoc. for the Young (2013)

 
My stutter no longer defines me,
but my journey with it still shapes my worldview.
— Andrew
 Andrew attends Duke and studied abroad in Ireland (2018)

Andrew attends Duke and studied abroad in Ireland (2018)

Andrew Carlins is a student at Duke University, studying Financial Economics, Environmental Science and Policy and Ethics.  He is concerned with refugee rights, environmental economics and getting to know people.  At Duke, he mentors refugee students in Durham, NC, and engages city officials on behalf of refugees.  Andrew shows them that a stutter doesn’t have to hold someone back, and can actually make someone a better, stronger listener.
Andrew is proud of his stutter and grateful for the opportunity to share his experiences with others.  Feel free to email anytime (carlins101@gmail.com) with questions or thoughts.  Andrew would love to hear from you.

*This was also submitted as his college essay.