Justin, Leamington Spa
I attended the Starfish course in March 2001. That's almost eight months ago now and the change in me is remarkable. Prior to the course and for as long as I can remember I had no control over my stammer and it dominated every aspect of my life. I don't think about this often now, but I remember feeling that I simply couldn't imagine myself coping for much longer, growing old or having my own family. If you're a stammerer or live with one you'll understand that feeling. The physical side of a stammer is hard enough to cope with, but the emotional turmoil can be unbearable. It's a roller coaster and every time you go down you never quite come back up enough.
The Starfish project has touched every aspect of my life and now I'm a much happier person. I'm learning to turn my fear and negativity around and I actually enjoy situations that would previously have made me petrified. I no longer feel sick when the phone rings and now I can look people in the eye when I speak to them. I've even been on television speaking about my stammer. People say they admire my strength and courage in controlling my stammer, and that brings a smile to my face. I love the fact that I'm finally in control and at last I like myself.
Like most stammerers I've tried just about every speech therapy going but for me the real difference with the Starfish project has been the follow up support and positive attitude of everyone involved. I've never been made to feel a failure if I mess up and with other people's help I've been able to pick myself up every time things have gone wrong. Falling down is an important part of learning to walk and it's just the same when you're learning to overcome a stammer, the important thing is that you get straight back up again and become stronger each and every time. To me that's what the Starfish course is all about. If you're a stammerer you're probably finding it hard to believe any of this, before I went on the course I read other peoples testimonies and was sceptical. When I first spoke to Anne I didn't believe that anyone could really care so much about people who stammer. All I can say is that you don't have to give in to your stammer and there are people out there who genuinely care and can help you. Take the opportunities that the course offers and give it your absolute commitment and you'll get more out of it than you can imagine.
I would like to start this E-mail by saying the ELEVEN proudest and most meaningful words of my life: MY NAME IS DAVE TAYLOR AND I AM A RECOVERING STAMMERER.
I first attended the course in May 2001 and I can remember every detail of the course to this day (ok, its only a few months but its an achievement for me)! I arrived on the Tuesday night with the same feelings of apprehension, nausea, shaking and genuine fear of what lay ahead. These feelings are common amongst stammerers and still common (to an extent) in me today.
The first day, I took longer than most to grasp the technique and by lunchtime I had convinced myself that the course didn't work and wasn't for me; I just wanted to go home. When lunchtime came, I went up to my room in floods of tears and leaned over the sink and looked at myself in the mirror. Why was I being like this? Why was I giving up? This is the moment when my "new life" began. I HAD FINALLY LET GO! I told myself there and then that I was too good to quit, too good to let the stammer win, too good to let myself down again. I went back down, cried some more and continued with the course, since that moment, I have tried never again to look back!
The Starfish Project is a course based upon two major morals, LOVE and UNDERSTANDING. I have never been in a room with so many great people and all those who have helped me (and continue to do so), I thank you from the bottom of my heart although words cannot describe how grateful I am to you all. I am now at university and although I still have problems and odd occasions where I get the "old feelings again", I know that I AM NOT ALONE.
It's a long and winding road to recovery, but at least now; I HAVE A MAP!!!!
One last message to anybody who happens to still be reading this and who hasn't moved on bored; never give up, never be afraid to show emotion (you will never cry as much as "Big Nige"), never let your speech get you down again, never think that you are alone, and never outwardly thank Anne (she hates compliments)! HA! Thank you for your time,
Dave Taylor, Age 18, Kent, RECOVERING STAMMERER
This letter is long overdue!
For approximately nine years Michael was 'fobbed off' by various NHS Speech Therapists in our local area. I became extremely anxious and worried for my son as it became increasingly obvious how his stammer was making his life hell. He was extremely frustrated and his confidence and self esteem was at an all time low. I knew this was detrimental to his development. It was bad enough that his classmates were making fun of him when he was forced by his unsympathetic teacher to read aloud - who then admonished him for taking so long!
It took me eighteen months to find the Starfish Project and I almost cried with relief when you were so understanding and sympathetic at our first meeting.
Michael came to the course in February 1999 full of enthusiasm and determination to overcome his stammer. You had reservations as he was your first 12 year old! We were all amazed at his commitment to the technique and were impressed at how hard he worked during the course. I felt so proud on his 'graduation' when he walked around Uckfield proclaiming to all, how he was now a recovering stammer. I had to swallow the lump in my throat and wipe the tears in my eyes. As his Mother I watched his re-birth and growth into the confident cheeky young teenager you all met last Thursday.
Life is fraught for young teenagers today. Unless you can 'run with the pack' you will be left behind. Michael is running with the pack and participating in activities that he would never have had the confidence to pursue. He has achieved distinctions in his London Academy of Dramatic Art(LAMDA)exams Grades Five and Six and honours in Group Acting. He is the spokesman for his band 'Dazed'. He readily contributes in group discussions in class and unfortunately has many detentions for talking in class!
We have many Mother V teenager arguments as I try and mould him into a good mannered kind human being. As all Parents will agree its hard work at times!!!!
Anne I am truly grateful to you for helping my son master his stammer. You have given him confidence and helped over and above your 'professional duty'. You instilled in him the belief that he could overcome he stammer. Every day he realises he has to work at his technique and it makes him stop and think before he speaks. Even when he has a 'bad day' (which are few and far between) this makes him all the more determined to stick with the technique as he knows and believes it works so well for him.
Thank you for all you wonderful help over the past eighteen months and to David too. Looking forward to talking to you soon.
Diane, Hemel Hempstead
The Starfish Project has completely changed the way I think about my stammer, in the past I let it run my life and make do. The Starfish Project has taught me I can control my stammer and also achieve the best out of life.
I was very sceptical about going on the Starfish Project course as no other therapies had ever worked, so why should this ?. One of my biggest concerns was how would I cope once the course had finished how would I cope on my own?. The Starfish Project taught me firstly that I am never on my own, as a recovering stammerer the support during and after the course is incredible. It has allowed me to confront my stammer and not hide away from the fear of stammering. I am the therapist for my own speech and recover at my own pace.
It has given me the control and confidence that I can now say what I want, when I want, to who I want, no more avoiding words or situations - in case I stammer.
It has given me the chance to achieve my own goals in life, not the goals set by my stammer.
Speak to you soon,
Diane (Adrian's fiancÚ) would like to add a few words,
The Starfish Project has totally changed my fiancÚ, It has given him a new confidence and a new lease of life. Thanks to the Starfish Project he now feels happy to stand up at our wedding and make a speech. Before he was worried about saying his vows, I can not thank the Starfish Project enough.
I felt that I had to write to yourself and the other members of the group who have helped my son Gavin Sayer when he attended your course in November, 2001. If for nothing else the course was worth it just for the tremendous amount of confidence it has given to him. He was such a different person when he came back from the course. There is nothing now that he won't attempt and I feel so pleased and thrilled for him. It is, like he said on his video, the start of a new life for him.
Friends and family alike have been so impressed by this new-found confidence and, of course, his ability to be an 'effortless' speaker and I have told him not to lose this confidence, even on his bad days. He did a presentation at College and even volunteered to be one of the first ones to do this. He actually looked forward to doing it and he did it well and got good marks for his work.
Thank you again so much for helping Gavin. I can't really put into words how much you have changed his life and how grateful I am for these changes. He is such a confident young man who can look forward to a 'normal' life. I suppose it is an added advantage that Gavin was so young when he came on the course, because now he has the rest of his life to practice the breathing technique.
He has seen speech therapists from being really young, but they never seemed to have much impact on his life. He went to see his speech therapist when he came back from your course and actually asked her why they didn't teach this form of breathing on the N.H.S.
Thanks again for all you and all the other members do. The support list of telephone numbers also helps Gavin a lot to keep his confidence up. He always feels really good after speaking to someone on this list. The only thing that seems to throw him off balance is answering machines, but nobody is really comfortable speaking to these anyway.
Best wishes, Susan Sayer (Gavin's mum)
Wallsall, West Midlands
My name is Philip Baugh, and I am proud to be a recovering stammerer. It is only 2 weeks since my first visit to the Starfish Project, but the change in my outlook on life is immense. To try and explain everything now would take forever, but it is enough to say that I have done things in the past two weeks and I WILL continue to do things that before Starfish would never have been possible.
Previously my stammer controlled my whole life. I felt as if it had prevented me from doing almost everything that I had ever wanted to do. As I say it controlled my life.
However after my 3 days on the Starfish Project, I feel as though I can do anything that I set my mind to. I am now in control of my stammer, and therefore my life.
It is very early days for me, and if I said it was always easy I would be lying. But one thing I can say, and truly mean, is that my fear of stammering has gone.
Before Starfish I was a rather overt stammerer, there was no way of hiding what I was. Since I have returned home I have done things such as be interviewed by the local paper, made dozens of calls to total strangers, and I am genuinely looking forward to my first (post Starfish) job interview. I have had bad days, when I have come home and questioned myself and my recovery, but with the support of the phone list I always end the day convinced that I am going in the right direction.
You may well be asking "what magic was used in those three days?", but all I did to get to where I am now was to do as I was asked for 3 days. That's it. As simple as that.
I will have my downs as well as my ups, but every step I take is a step forward. I can say my name with pride and confidence.
I will be eternally grateful to Anne and to everyone connected with Starfish, but the person I owe gratitude most to is myself, for giving myself a chance to have the life that I deserve.....that we ALL deserve.
Thank you Anne, and all those other Starfish out there. I am proud to be part of such a wonderful community.
Everyday is now a step forward.
Hull, East Yorkshire
Taking part in the Starfish Project has changed my whole outlook on life, it has unleashed the real Robert Hilton and I like him! When I decided I wanted to go on the Starfish Course I decided I must give it 100% commitment and focus, my goal was to improve my speech and that is what I have done. When I first spoke to you on the telephone, I could tell I was talking to someone who cared passionately about the work they were doing and that made my mind up, that this was the right course of action. In the past I have had speech therapy but it never seemed to achieve anything, in the therapy room things would be fine but out in the real world, my stammer was still the same. The Starfish Course provides people with the chance to gain competence in the breathing technique and then put it into practice in the real world and that is the key to success, transferring the technique into the real world. The 3 days I spent on the course have really motivated me to move on and push my speech even further, I am running a telephone practice workshop at this year's British Stammering Association conference in September and I will also be doing some public speaking at the conference, all of this would have been impossible before the Starfish Course.
Since leaving the course I have had some relapses with my speech, but I have always had the technique and the telephone support people to help pull me out of my problems, and this has really helped improve my speech.
Thank you Anne, for helping me find my true voice and making me feel happy and content.
p.s. to all people thinking of enrolling for Starfish Project, go on the course and give it 100% focus and commitment and you will be rewarded.
Robert Hilton was featured in the Channel 4 film on stammering - part of the award winning Embarrassing Illnesses series. The film showed Rob before, during and after his Starfish course.
Rob Hilton's speech opened the B.S.A. National Conference 2000
I am 27 years old, and I think I have stammered since I was about 7. Ever since, my life has, literally, been ruled by my stammer. I have experienced the feelings that most stammerers do; the loneliness, the insecurities, the lack of confidence, the feelings of being different, wondering why this happened to me, the belief that nothing is 'worth it' anymore etc etc etc. I have tried so many therapies, including hypnotism, speech therapy (in three different hospitals!), group therapy; the list goes on, and on, and on. So really, I can't tell you why I even went on the course; I thought I'd tried everything....
I saw an article on The Starfish Project in a newspaper and kept it for months. Eventually, I could not take any more, so I decided to ring and enquire about it. I spoke to Anne Blight, for a lady who has never stammered, believe me, she knows more than me! Yes I know, we've probably all been to speech therapists, but this lady is different, the passion, empathy, support etc she gives, really is... unbelievable!
Anyway, I spoke to her, and booked myself on the course in 6 months time. As the time drew closer, I questioned whether to go, because I 'knew'/thought it wasn't going to work (I can't believe how close I was to not going!).
I traveled down on my birthday, in February 2002, with little or no hope, still not believing this could possibly 'work'. This was my last attempt of overcoming my stammer. I went on The Starfish Project expecting nothing, and came home with everything! It was the best birthday present I could ever have asked for, and without a doubt, better than will ever be matched again.
I can now speak using a breathing technique that I am proud to use. I don't join my words together, sounding stupid. I don't walk out of the hospital unable to speak, having spoken well within the hospital. I now speak with confidence and a degree of 'fluency' that I have never known, or thought possible! I now have the ability to hold a conversation (without choosing any words), I can now order myself a McDonalds (ordering what I want), I can now use the phone in, my, office at work (rather than getting up and walking into an empty office). By the way, I only applied for this job because I thought I wouldn't have to use the phone!
Somebody who doesn't have a stammer, will never know the half of what it feels like. Yes, there are, 'more important things in life', that could be wrong. However, understanding, and believing that, has never helped me, The Starfish Project has!
Please don't get me wrong, it is not always easy. However, it is nowhere near the struggle I had when I used to stick my tongue out at people, and push my head back to say one word, or say my name. Nothing is easy, and if you want something so bad I'm sure, like even a 'fluent speaker', it has to be worked at.
I came off the course (only a three day course; not weeks of therapy) only three months ago. A lady who I work with has introduced me to temps by saying, "this girl is a not the same girl she was a few weeks ago". Most of the temps said, "I would never have known you have a stammer" (I cant tell you how that feels!). The greatest thing I can say, is that I have actually been told to, "shut up", because I talk too much! ( saying every word I wanted to, not what I could say)... three months ago I'd have given anything for that!
I have changed my whole attitude, not only my speech. I would love to invite every stammerer in the world go on this course, because I'm sure afterwards they would thank me for it! Yes, most stammerers have tried 'everything', but you have probably not 'tried' The Starfish Project. For me, and yourself, I beg you to 'try' The Starfish Project, and I can almost say for certain 'it will make a difference'.
The Starfish Project... what can I say... except go for it, have you anything to lose?
I would like to thank the Starfish Project for helping to give me the life I knew I could lead. You have provided me with a 'technique' that is very workable. Now it is up to me, to prove to myself, that I am the person I knew I could be all those years ago.
With very best wishes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
PS Its so 'good to talk' !!!!!!!!!!!
Rowlands Castle, Hampshire
It's the day after finishing my first Starfish course, and I just had to get these words on paper before I burst. Every word that follows is absolutely genuine with no exaggeration.
The three days on The Starfish Project course have been amongst the hardest three days of my life, because I faced my stammer head on, and best of all, for the first time in my life, I was actually winning.
Before I start rambling, I would like to say that, I have never, ever, ever, met anyone who has as much passion and devotion as Anne Blight. In today's society, money and financial gain seems to be the only incentive for anything, yet here we have a person who needs no incentive other than the fact that she is changing people's lives, and gives up her free time to help people like myself, and all she expects in return is that you give it 100% commitment
I have never felt so many mixed feelings in all my life and been so inspired by the stories and advice of the recovering stammerers who come back on courses from time to time to 'top up' and help 'first-timers'. May I also say that without these people, Anne's job would be made even more difficult than it is already.
I found myself at the end of the course, on the third and final day, making a presentation speech to the others in the group, and speaking to complete strangers in the street. If anybody had asked me to do those three days earlier, I would have been mortified. I'm not saying that it was easy for one minute, but all I will say is that nobody could have wiped the smile off of my face!
In front of me I have a long and winding road to recovery, a road that I feel I have just turned into. Every so often I will find a colour slide, just like the one that David told us about, and I will pop it into my mind. By the time I reach the end of that road, the old black and white negative slides will be scattered along that road, and I will have picked up all those colour positive slides
For those of you who are reading this (if you have read this far), it is never too late to get help with your stammer. For those of you who stammer and are not bothered with it you are the lucky ones. But ask yourself this if your stammer did not bother you, would you be reading this? Don't be ashamed, don't let pride get in your way, no matter what walk of life you are from, help is only a phone call away, make that call
On my course alone there were three accountants, a laboratory scientist, a financial director; and a six foot three rugby playing, eighteen stone chartered building surveyor. If there is one thing for sure it's that stammering knows no boundaries.
Thank you for reading this whatever your reason.
Thornton, Fife, Scotland
Hello, Just a few words to express my gratitude and thanks for all of your help and support on my recent attendance to the Starfish Project fluency course. The best thing l can say is that l wish l had done this years ago!!.
The tools l have been given have allowed me fluent speech for the first time in a long time. The effort put in and the support given by Anne, David and Richard is something that l will cherish for the rest of my life and all l can say is thanks.If anyone who has a speech problem is thinking about attending the course l urge them to go for it. The course is intensive and it is hard work but if the work is done the results are amazing.One of the hardest parts is initially having the courage to get in contact and organising to go.
The feelings l had after the course were of excitement and a little apprehension,of not knowing what to expect since l was now a recovering stammerer.This apprehension goes as you start to use your fluency in everyday situations.Over time,if the new tools are used all the time, the bad habits you developed as a stammerer will disappear as your new habits become natural.
If anyone would like to contact me to speak about the course please feel free.
T: 01592 774837
Brighton, East Sussex
I'd like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your help. I have told you so many times how much this means to me, the confidence I have lacked in all those years, and to have a proper conversation with my family and friends.
God bless you, once again thank you, you are a very special lady.
Thank you so much for giving me my fluency, I feel so good now, and there are so many things that I'd like to do and I am GOING to do.
If you are reading this then it means that you haven't lost hope, yet.
I used to be a stammerer and now I am a recovering stammerer.
You could not believe what this means to me. Although I still occasionally stammer, I'm not afraid anymore to pick up the phone and tell anyone my name, to go into an office and tell them that I'm looking for a job.
Most important thing to me, is that now I can explore my potential and tell the people that they are wrong when they are. If my boss fires me, I don't lock myself at home and hope that some friend is going to find me some other crappy job. I get in the world and look for a better one. One that I'll love to do.
The most important thing is that I have got back my self-esteem and it feels great.
You want to know how all this happened? I'll tell you if you give me a call. Call Anne at "STARFISH PROJECT" or if you want ask her just to give you my number. There is a condition - you have to make the call your self.
Now I have to go guys, I'm a busy man now.
I forgot to tell you something. When I sit down at the dinner table now I thank God for the food I'm about to receive and for putting Anne on this world so I can say loudly my prayers (or swear).
I'm joking guys, but I can tell you that if there was a stammerer's bible, Anne would definitely be on the first page of the Book of Revelations.
Talk to you soon!
Newton Aycliffe, County Durham
I have just had my 46th birthday, and as long as I can remember, I have had a stammer. I used to hate the word "stutterer", as I regarded "stutterer" as a cruel harsh term, "stammerer" seemed more "soft and gentler" term but I still didn't like using it. I tended, whenever I talked about "stammering", to use the phase "speech impediment" as this to me could describe a host of aliments, without using the terms I dreaded "stammerer" or "stutterer", the listener could put their own interpretation on what I suffered from.
I have a good life, a lovely wife and daughters, a nice home, cars and a well paying job. My stammering has not held me back too much, although it must have influence some decisions on my part and by others. In the autumn of '99, I sat back and thought, what would make my whole life more complete, and I decided , that if I could fix the 10 to 15% of the times that I stammered then that would be it.
Having surfed the internet and found information on the condition, and read many papers, I sent an e-mail to the "Starfish Project".When we made verbal contact, Anne was very friendly, and understanding. She understood how my stammer affected me and also the difficulties I had fitting into the "Starfish Course" timetable, because of both work and social arrangements. They made all the hotel arrangements, which was good value for money .There were three people on my course (the maximum would be 4) and this number was ideal for one to one attention from Anne, and making friends with other attendees was easy.
The course was excellent, I came away not cured, as no cure is promised, but more comfortable, knowing that I had a technique, which I could use to help me. I would advise any person who stammers regardless of severity to attend the course, and share your experiences and feelings with those that understand and care.
Ken - East Grinstead
Having seen four or five different speech therapists over a number of years, I wondered if the Starfish Project course was going to be the same, two months of help then sliding back to my old ways of not talking or stammering. The Starfish course is not the same. There were a small group of us on the three day course which gave us new ideas and breathing techniques plus afterwards the backup of people to telephone to practice and also to talk over any problems. With all this on-going support my speech has improved greatly, so has my self confidence, and I am now proud to call myself a recovering stammerer. I would recommend this course to anyone who has speech problem, a whole new world of talking awaits you!
Sue - Ken's wife writes
The most wonderful experience happened after the course, when after 15 years of marriage, we went out for a meal and my husband was able to order different courses, choose the wine and ask for the bill, with not a hint of a stammer - only those who live with a stammerer would understand what a tremendous feeling that gave both of us.