Lifelong stutterer makes tremendous progress, becomes a donor to help others access program

John Carnegie overcame his fear of speaking at work and on the phone through the three-week intensive program at ISTAR.

Jon Pullin - 25 May 2022

For as long as he could remember, John Carnegie had a stutter. 

It was on his mind every day throughout his life. For the first two years of high school, he only had a few friends and would often fake sick to get out of presentations. 

At work, he was known as the quiet one in meetings. The thought of stuttering in front of a group was paralyzing. As a civil engineer in the Northwest Territories, he preferred to take on jobs that required little interaction with others, often on remote highways. 

Carnegie knew his stutter was holding him back in his career.

In early January 2021, he began researching speech therapy in Calgary and came across the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR). Because Carnegie’s work schedule involved two weeks on and two weeks off, an intensive program at ISTAR was perfect for his situation. After an online video consultation with a therapist, he was accepted into the three-week intensive program.

At first, he was nervous about having group sessions. Having not met many others with a stutter, he wasn't sure how the other participants would react to his speech. 

After the first class, he was no longer nervous.  

“I completely enjoyed the small group sessions because I got to meet other individuals who stutter. Having the opportunity for all of us to share our experiences in the group made the sessions less intimidating and helped us bond. Holly was the best speech pathologist I have ever worked with. The time she takes for each individual, making sure we get our breathing down and use light touches, gentle starts and blending, is why I found the three-week intensive course so effective,” says Carnegie.

“The group made it easier to learn new skills because we practised together and supported each other.”

They spent the morning sessions learning new techniques. In the afternoons, they practised what they had learned by having conversations with volunteers. As part of their learning, they also practised having phone conversations with local businesses, helping them overcome their fear of talking on the phone.

When he went back to work, Carnegie noticed a tremendous improvement in his speech while on the phone and on the radio. He no longer felt tense before calling his supervisor. He could confidently supervise co-op students without worrying about speaking to them. The self-assurance he gained enabled him to take on new challenges in his engineering career. 

“After the program, I continued with maintenance sessions with Holly every three weeks. I practise what we learned in the program every day. And I plan to take a refresher course in the fall to maintain my improved speech,” says Carnegie.

His experience moved him to become a donor and help support other speech clients at ISTAR.

“Afterwards, I met individuals who were enrolled in the intensive course through donations ISTAR receives. One individual, in particular, told me about all he had been through and how he was able to complete the program through the generosity of donors. I empathize with the pain and embarrassment he’s been through. I became a donor to help people like me overcome that pain and not let a stutter hold them back,” says Carnegie. 

For more than 31 years, ISTAR has changed lives by helping improve the speech of people of all ages.

ISTAR is heavily reliant upon donors. Any gift will help others access training that is potentially life-transforming.

Donate today and give the gift of speech.