Prathusha Ravi has a mission – to make every person she coaches to overcome their stuttering want to “grab the microphone.”
Ravi knows from personal experience what a monumental step this can be. By the time the 26-year-old Düsseldorf, Germany-based internal auditor for the accounting firm Ernst & Young was 6 years old, she’d already experienced the trauma of her father dying in an accident. But her stuttering didn’t begin until she was in the 4th grade. It was while trying to say the name of her friend Kokila that she became blocked on the first consonant, resulting in teasing from one of her classmates.
“I still freshly remember that he imitated me in front of everybody,” said Ravi. “It is etched so deeply in my mind that I’m not able to forget.”
A Defining Moment
Just before her first stuttering incident, her mother had decided to remarry. “He was very strict
with me, and it was not a friendly or supportive environment for me to grow up in,” she said. “I
couldn’t face him at that point, because if I had to go ask him a question, the fear of asking the
question was itself so much that I would rather stutter than have that fear of stuttering. So, it
was very hard for me.”
Though she was a good student and grasped concepts quickly, Ravi said she felt incapacitated
when she knew the answers to questions in class but was unable to answer because of her
stutter. Meanwhile, as her stepfather became more abusive, her situation at home deteriorated.
“We didn’t have time to think about my stutter at all because my mom was very busy fighting
with my father for my freedom and rights,” she said.
That changed when her stepfather passed away in 2016. “After that, my entire environment
changed,” she said. “I became more calm and relaxed.”
Reaching for Cure
That new feeling allowed her, at 20, to finally seek treatment for her stutter. Unfortunately, what
she found was a local speech therapist who focused on breathing and mouth exercises – one
involving trying to speak while holding pebbles in her mouth. Another practice involved
breathing in, then talking while she exhaled. “That didn’t work either when I was anxious,” she
said. “Later I realized that if breathing is involuntary, then speaking should also be involuntary.”
And like many stutterers, Ravi found that her stutter came and went depending on the
circumstances, and traditional therapies didn’t address the mental and emotional issues that can
accompany and exacerbate stuttering. So, like many others, she took to the Internet to try to
find support groups to help her through that part of the process. That’s when she came across
Lee Lovett, founder of The Lovett Method.
“My first impression [of The Lovett Method] was the tagline: ‘If you can say one word anywhere,
anytime, then you can say any word anywhere, anytime,’ and it absolutely sold everything for
me,” she said. “I randomly chatted with Lee on Facebook, and it was so surprising that he
actually replied to me and then agreed to a session free of cost. I did the sessions initially with
him and in a week, I could see great progress.”
She was impressed that Lovett himself is an ex-stutterer who cured himself using the techniques
he now shares through the World Stop Stuttering Association, Ravi said. In addition, she noticed
that where traditional speech therapists would focus only on performing exercises properly,
Lovett would interpret situations in which she would stutter to try to get to the root causes and
potential solutions using The Lovett Method “crutches” – techniques designed to help stutterers
work around and eventually conquer their stuttering.
This aspect of The Lovett Method – addressing the anxiety, depression and social isolation that
can accompany stuttering – is the hidden benefit of the program that traditional speech therapy
doesn’t address, she said. The Lovett Method’s goal is not just to improve speech, but to build a
love of public speaking and improve the students’ lives through mind training – daily positive
affirmations designed to help students stay on track and shed the baggage of a lifetime of
WSSA students also benefit from group sessions, such as crutch practice to the weekly
SpeechAnxietyMasters (SAM) clubs that meet on Saturday and allow students from around the
world to witness each other’s fluency and support each other.
The Joy of Coaching
It was participating with other recovered stutterers, then seeing positive results from helping other stutterers in India, that eventually led Ravi to become a WSSA coach herself. “Every time they came back and said something positive, like, ‘Oh, my God, I used that crutch in the class and it really worked,’ that sort of feedback made me really happy,” she said. “If I am able to make one person happy by changing their life, that is the biggest motivation for me to go forward as a coach.”
The result of her commitment to coaching? She’s now the coaches examiner chair for WSSA and vice chair of SAM.
“My goal is to make my students say, ‘Give me that mic. I want to talk,’” she said. “We are the living proof that this method works. If we can do it, you can also do it.”