I no longer have to fight my own voice

The article's author, Abdiwali Abdi

28th July 2020

Abdiwali Abdi had a difficult time at school with his speech. Here he writes about the support he got from a patient teacher and how adopting a positive mindset has helped him succeed at work.

Having suffered from a stammer for most of my childhood and throughout high school, I felt I needed to share my story after watching the documentary, Stammer School: Musharaf Finds his Voice. It resonated with me, watching these three brave individuals (including Musharaf from Educating Yorkshire) on their journey. This was probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to watch.
 
I remember the first time going to speech therapy when I was in primary school. I thought I was the cool kid that got to leave school early, not knowing it was actually my school that wrote a letter to my parents explaining that I needed speech therapy to help with my stammer. I didn’t think much about it at the time and looking back now at my childhood videos it seems funny to watch me take half a minute to say a six-word sentence.

It felt like a wall and pretty much always resulted in conversations moving along before I could add my input.

One of the most annoying things about my stammering was that I could always tell I would stammer on a word before I even started the sentence. This really took control of many aspects of my life. It felt like a wall and pretty much always resulted in conversations moving along before I could add my input.

High school

Going into high school was an absolute NIGHTMARE though. It didn’t help that any small additional pressure would only make things ten times worse. I didn’t really explain it to many of my classmates and teachers at the time and many just thought 'He’s too nervous’'or 'He’s talking too fast', not knowing it was something I had been suffering from. Some teachers could clearly see there was something wrong but would still pressure me and belittle me in classes.

Woman on a bench looking at the camera, with the text 'Share your story' above her.

 Few of us like to read out loud and it’s daunting for most of us but believe me, when you’ve got a stammer this becomes an impossible task. My GCSE teacher always used to say, "I don’t know why you don’t want to read out loud…can you give it a go?" With the whole class watching me this was terrifying. But, I was not going to back down. I had no choice but to read on, stammering on every word and trying to force each letter out. This would always end after me reading only two lines as my teacher would pity me and ask another student to take over. At that point, I felt stupid and small. That same teacher was adamant that I did Foundation English GCSE. I had to fight against this and ended up achieving an A in English Literature. I never got to actually tell her, 'See, I made it'.
 
But there was one teacher, Mr. Kelly, who taught me English in 2013. He had so much patience and supported me throughout with no pressure at all. I never got the chance to fully tell him how much that meant to me and that I am forever grateful.

Where I am today

Coming out of high school I took a job at an NHS call centre and in my mind I was questioning why on earth I had applied for such a job. There were times when I thought I couldn't do it as my face tensed up and my jaw locked when trying to speak to a patient. But remembering to focus on the message and not fight my stammer significantly helped me.

I remember to remind myself how having a positive mindset has helped me to conquer many tasks such as presenting in board meetings. 

Even though my stammer has improved over the last 3 to 4 years, which I credit to the support from family and friends, I still have times when my stammer gets in the way of things. I now work in a project manager role at a large UK bank. Some may think that, once again, I might not be the right match on paper, but I've taken the attitude to embrace who I am and be proud of my voice. I remember to remind myself how having a positive mindset has helped me to conquer many tasks such as presenting in board meetings. 

By no longer having to fight my own voice, I have opened the opportunity to focus on the message I'm sending out.

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