As demand for specialized stuttering therapy at AIS grows, our staff continues to grow! Please join us in welcoming Gregory Scott, M.A., CCC-SLP to the AIS team! We are thrilled to have another thoughtful, warm, talented speech-language pathologist at AIS and we're certain you'll see he fits right in. Gregory lives in Minneapolis, MN, so he is expanding our reach to the Midwest! We've asked him to share his AIS story, and his thoughts on the work we do. Get to know Gregory by reading his bio here and enjoy his story below!
AIS and the art of rocking a block
One of the things that struck me most powerfully about AIS when I first arrived—as an intern, way back in 2013—was how the place seemed to delight in dismantling the received “wisdom” we cling to about what we think is good for us. Each day there seemed to be some new, counterintuitive surprise.
You say you’ve tried your whole life to stutter less? Try stuttering more. On purpose, even. In every sentence.
Nervous about using the phone? Let’s make 10 calls in a row—and make a game out of getting hung up on every time.
Hoping to God strangers won’t notice that your speech was a little bumpy? Try screaming out loud on a crowded New York City subway, announcing to everyone on the train that you stutter.
Sure, it’s classic exposure therapy. Take in a little bit of your worst fear, in the hopes that it softens its grip over you. But the folks at AIS weren’t corny life coaches, there to pump us up about facing challenges in our lives. There seemed to be something more subversive going on.
I felt it immediately, in my first days in the Manhattan clinic.
People seemed to have arrived at AIS because they weren’t quite fitting in elsewhere in their lives. In every person I met, in every first introduction, even, I sensed a flicker of…outsider energy. Oddball status. And this was true not just of the clients. The clinicians, too—even us interns—all seemed to be thinking deeply about what it means to fit in, about the tradeoffs involved in hiding, in passing, in reconciling the people we are with the people we think we are supposed to be.
Time and again, the answer that surfaced was: Don’t.
AIS, I would quickly see, was more about encouraging people to stand out. Their mantra took the standard speech-therapy line, that stuttering’s okay, something we can learn to live with, and gave it a rogue twist. Stuttering wasn’t just “fine.” It was actually essential—as a defining feature of someone’s voice, as unique and rich in personality as a dialect. But it could also function as an important social tool. Stuttering, I saw, cracked open a conversation, letting our wonderful idiosyncrasies surface.
As my internship progressed, I came to think of each moment of disfluency as a little rebellion. A small bomb that made the fluent world stop, hang in the moment, and remind all of us to make space for—and maybe even nurture—the things that make us strange and interesting.
I loved this.
I am not a person who stutters, myself (which I realize makes this all way easy for me to say). But I can think of a million reasons why, at the time, I desperately needed to hear this perspective.
For one, I was miserable in my speech pathology program. I was in fact convinced I had made a terrible mistake in choosing the career path. I was old, having entered graduate school at 30, a grandpa to my fresh-out-of-undergrad classmates. I was also male—one of only two in my entire cohort. My first year, I stood out like a sore thumb, and spent most of the time in a depressive spiral, panicking over how I could possibly tamp down my eccentricities to better succeed in this new world.
In a very real way, my internship at AIS—and the people I met there, working so hard at being exuberantly themselves—kept me from dropping out.
The first week of my internship, I went to a punk rock show in Brooklyn. A grody warehouse affair, just a few subway stops from my Air BnB. The crowd was thick, the concrete floor slippery, and at some point, I stumbled into someone and cut my forearm on a spiked jacket. I came into AIS the next day with a scratch running from my elbow to my wrist. I was mortified. Yet another sign that I wasn’t cut out for this field.
But the AIS staff weren’t upset. They were curious. The director, Dr. Heather Grossman, even approached me and told me that her favorite band was the Clash. (Later that summer, we even went to see some live music together.) I couldn’t believe it. Had I found the punk rock speech clinic? It certainly felt like it.
And it feels that way now, like I’m joining a band of courageous misfits.
My hope, in this work, is to encourage people to bring some kindness, some curiosity—and maybe even some pride—to the parts of themselves they’re not so sure about.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
Gregory Scott, M.A., CCC-SLP
Gregory joined the AIS staff in 2021. He lives in Minneapolis, MN and he is excited to expand AIS services for people who stutter and their families to the Midwest!