Bulloch County Schools’ speech-language pathologists hosted a “Success with Stuttering” workshop on a recent teacher workday, co-sponsored by the Georgia Learning Resource System and the Stuttering Foundation of America.
The workshop for area students, parents, teachers and speech-language pathologists in private entities and public schools was an all-day event with guest speaker Tim Mackesay, a speech-language pathologist from Atlanta. Statistics estimate that more than 3 million Americans stutter. Mackesey shared strategies to assist kids while providing direct therapy.
Now a motivational speaker, Georgia Southern legend Adrian Peterson took the stage at the end of the workshop to share his lifelong experiences with stuttering.
He writes in his book “Don’t Dis My Abilities”: “The right words were always trapped in my head, unable to make the transition into audible communication. When they did come out, they were jerky and repetitive, with gaping holes in between each laborious syllable. Sometimes, the words wouldn’t come out at all.”
At a young age, sports became an outlet for Peterson’s stuttering frustrations.
“In the classroom I struggled because I couldn’t communicate,” he writes. “But in sports, Iwas more than normal; I was great and my disability didn’t affect me in the slightest.”
Peterson played for Georgia Southern from 1997-2001, leading the Eagles to championships in 1999 and 2000, and the Chicago Bears from 2002-2010, including their Super Bowl appearance after the 2006 season.
Peterson says if he has a theme he would like to share with kids and adults, it’s that “hard work pays off.”
“No matter what you’re going through in life, speech problems, one parent at home, maybe living with a grandmother — whatever it is — hard work pays off,” he said. “I was a 5-year-old kid from Alachua, Florida, with a dream to be an NFL player and I accomplished that. I never dreamed I’d be a motivational speaker, when, at the age of 5, I might say five words without stuttering. Now I get up and talk for 45 minutes or an hour without stuttering.”
Peterson credits the encouragement of his parents and family, the help of speech teachers, his perseverance and his faith with his great success, both on and off the field.
“God blessed me with an incredible sense of determination and with the strength to carry on through the trial and the storm,” Peterson says in his book.
And recently, Peterson has needed that strong faith for another storm. Peterson’s son, 7-year-old AJ, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in mid-June.
“Faith is believing in something you can’t see,” Peterson said. “My faith gets me through.”