Despite having a stutter for most of his life, like his father Paul, Samuel has never been one to shy away from the spotlight.
Samuel began stuttering at four years of age. Like many children, when he began to speak fluently, his stutter became increasingly evident.
Samuel battled stuttering throughout primary school, and his disorder grew more pronounced during the latter few years of primary school and into early high school. During this time, Samuel participated in various forms of therapeutic speech intervention.
As a teenager, he participated in drama classes and speech elocution, during which he constantly practised poems and read phrases out loud.
As Samuel grew into his own skin and developed a heightened sense of confidence, his stuttering became apparent only in situations where he experienced anxiety or nerves. Today, Samuel’s stuttering is barely evident and only mildly noticeable when he is feeling tired or fatigued.
This is Samuel’s story.
“I don’t notice myself stuttering too often these days. But in the past, my stuttering felt like a ball and chain,” said Samuel.
“In social situations as a teenager and young man, I was definitely conscious of my stutter.
“Sometimes it was just easier not to initiate a conversation with someone I didn’t know,” Samuel said.
“If I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know anyone, and felt not overly comfortable, I would be far more reserved.” Living with stuttering throughout childhood and adolescence is challenging for anyone. For Samuel however, living with the disorder has propelled him to constantly challenge himself and to throw himself into activities that could help him to overcome the stigma associated with stuttering.
“Interestingly, both school and professional environments have always encouraged me to throw myself into challenging situations, rather than to shy away from them,” said Samuel.
Today, as an adult, Samuel works proactively to improve his speech impairment. Six years ago, he participated in another program where he was taught to use linguistic assistance tools to help maintain speech fluency.
“Driven by my ambition of entering public office, I was eager to take up another speech intervention program as an adult, and chose to participate in an initial, intensive stuttering program course six years ago. I’ve since completed another two refresher courses.
“Every intervention and treatment program that I’ve participated in throughout my life has been very helpful, and between the various programs, I can confidently say, I have seen marked improvements in my stutter,” Samuel said.
Samuel’s father Paul, also has a stutter, and like Samuel, has never shied away from public speech. Father and son have shared a similar stuttering journey. The onset of stuttering for Samuel and his father was at a young age and quite prominent in the early years of life. With age, the stuttering has decreased and become less apparent and for both men, their career choices have seen them in the public eye.
“My father, who also lives with a stutter, definitely influenced me to improve my speech. He is a Senior University Lecturer and teaches in areas of construction.
“I’ve always found it fascinating that when my father is lecturing, or discussing civil engineering, he has no trace of a stutter,” said Samuel.
Samuel and his father are the only known members of their family who stutter.
Samuel is participating in the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence for Speech and Language ‘Genetics of Stuttering Study’, aiming to identify the genetic contributions of stuttering. He hopes his contribution will make a difference to those with lived experience of, or a genetic predisposition to, the disorder.
“If this study can help identify people who are at a heightened risk of stuttering, or even provide guidance on how to better manage the disorder this would be extremely interesting and useful,” said Samuel.
Samuel is convinced that having a stutter has made him a stronger, more humble and compassionate individual.
“In the grand scale of things, I think I’ve been relatively lucky with the way that stuttering has impacted by life.
“It has made me appreciate that not everyone is perfect, and that you have to appreciate people for who and what they are, and it has definitely made me a more understanding person,” Samuel said.
“I know that for some people, stuttering can be a real hindrance, so I’m happy to support any research that may help people who stutter, and their families, to overcome the potential burden of the disorder.”