On today’s episode we are chatting with Ryan Cowley!
Ryan is a sportswriter, originally from in St. John’s, who grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Toronto. Currently, he is a hockey writer who writes about the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings for RinkRoyalty.com. He is also a public speaker, sharing his story of a sportswriter who stutters and is also writing a book on the subject. In this episode, we chat with Ryan about his lived experiences as a PWS, what impact this has had in his career and what he feels has helped him most on his stuttering journey!
Music: Luca Dinu Production Team: Luca Dinu, Dr. Paul De Decker, Greg O’Grady, Katelyn Mayo
Transcript of Season 1, Episode 2: Ryan Cowley
Created by Youtube captioning. Corrected by Luca Dinu
Greg O’Grady: Welcome ev- everybody to the uh Some Stutter, Luh!, Newfoundland Labrador's first podcast about stuttering. My uh m- my name is Greg O’Grady, and and I am the Newfoundland and Labrador Stuttering Association chair, and I am one of the Some Stutter, Luh! (Newfoundland and Labrador's first podcast about stuttering) co-host along with…tags:
Katelyn Mayo: My name is Katelyn Mayo, and I am one of the co-hosts as well. I am an undergraduate linguistics student at Memorial University, and I’m finishing up this semester, and I am an aspiring speech-language pathologist.
Greg O’Grady: And uh and the the the mission of Some Stutter, Luh! (Newfoundland and Labrador's first podcast about stuttering) is dismantling and rebuilding stuttering one word at a time. The mandate of Some Stutter, Luh! is, in the spirit of Newfoundland and Labrador humour, robust and frank interactive discussion, Some Stutter, Luh! podcast aims to rebuild confidence and hope for today's and tomorrow's person who happened to stuttering by dismantling dismantling stuttering myths, stigma, and stereotypes and barriers.
Katelyn Mayo: And the objectives of Some Stutter, Luh! Podcast are supporting, raising awareness and increasing understanding and acceptance of stuttering, providing people who stutter, their families, professionals, students, and the general public with current information, research and resources about stuttering, and promoting the NLSA mission of advocacy and support for people who stutter.
Greg O’Grady: In uh today's podcast, uh Katelyn and I would like to welcome Ryan Cowley. Ryan is a hockey writer who writes about the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings for rinkroyalty.com. He is also a public speaker sharing his story of of a sports writer who stutters and who also is writing a book on the subject. Ryan was born in St. John's and grew up in Ottawa and lives in Toronto with his wife, and so we would like to really warmly welcome Ryan, and thank you very much, Ryan, for being on our podcast today. So just to start things off, Ryan, would you be able to share a little bit about your story as a person who stutters?
Ryan Cowley: Mm-hmm, yes. Uh uh uh yeah um um um um uh uh uh uh yeah, um, of course. Um uh no no uh um yeah, I guess long story short, like like um uh uh um um when we moved from St. John's to Ottawa, I was about three, and um uh if, at that first year uh, I had seen speech uh therapists uh uh uh however like like uh um um uh the reason I saw a speech therapist actually uh uh wasn’t because I had a stutter. It uh uh (no no) um it… Sorry. Uh uh it was basically because I was very, very shy and I just uh and I just didn't speak uh much at all. And um um uh no no um uh and uh I mean uh my mother would make like just a lot of random recordings uh with me and my two older brothers um at that age. And then um um uh… And it's funny, I didn't start seeing a speech therapist for my stutter until I was uh maybe five or six, and um uh… No, uh, and it's funny, like the first time I saw that speech therapist um um um no no uh um I don't think I was even fully aware that I had a stutter because I… We had her appointment, and at the end the speech therapist was like very encouraging, telling me you know, “That was really good,” and and um no no uh um and I appreciate it, but at the same time I was I was confused, because like I I um um I didn't know what she was so impressed about. I was just speaking and I thought it was normal, and uh no no um yeah, and before too long um um uh you know I just I I I noticed that I just uh I just had actual verbal, I had difficulties being in class, whether it's like um uh uh like socially, kids at recess it wasn't a big deal, but like uh uh but like I remember like in class or kindergarten uh grade one, around this time, I had um uh if I had my hand up and uh uh you know I noticed that something that should have taken two seconds to say took me about like maybe 20 seconds to say, so um no no um like you just have a good memory uh, but like um for those early instances, uh I’m kind of fuzzy, I uh but I do remember... I don't remember thinking too much of it. Uh my my parents were understandably concerned because uh because this wasn't was normal, and like uh um um I I mean when I was younger too, around elementary school, I did have have a lot of resource and help with speech therapy uh but like but uh um uh um no uh but [unclear 6:41] my stutter then and I'll admit at times today um uh no no you know it's made me revert to the uh uh to that very very uh uh shy kid I was uh, which I said is the reason I I had speech therapy uh in the first place. So yeah.
Greg O’Grady: So, Ryan, in terms of like uh, do do you feel that uh, you know, what what advice would you give to other people who stutter in term, whether we're not, we’re overt or covert people who stutter? What advice would you give?
Ryan Cowley: Um uh um no no no no um that is a very good question. Um um uh uh in my childhood and even my adult life, uh the latter more, unfortunately, but it's okay, um um uh whether it's jobs or social situations um um um like like for me, one of my downfalls, for lack of a better term, was that like um you know I I wasn't always the most positive person and uh no uh I know you know and having a speech impediment like a stutter certainly didn't help, and um um I just remember like uh more than I can count, unfortunately, but uh but there are a lot of times where I just backed away from an otherwise worthwhile situation because I just um um you know I just made an excuse. I just said like, something along the lines of, “Oh, well, it's too bad I stutter,” and move on. Um uh and and now with my sports writing uh career um I did say that at first, but um uh uh no no uh uh but I talked to my brother about it, uh Adam, who's who's always been very supportive of me and uh uh um and understanding of my stutter, and like um um no no um you know um he basically said, “Well, you know, in today's technology, there has to be some way to to get around it,” and that led to us talking uh uh you know and we had a few ideas. So um no no you know so in that sense I’m glad that that happened, uh but at the same time, um you know um uh you know you know you know you know uh you know you know... I am sorry it took me that long to be like uh uh uh to be open to ideas. Uh so basically, like long story short, my advice to stutterers is like like um um uh uh no no um like anything you want to do verbally um uh no no no no um like if you want to, if you want to apply to the office down the street who needs a receptionist or uh uh uh uh you know uh or if you want the, if you want the opportunity uh uh uh to be like uh speaking at an event or or at a work meeting or something, um no no um uh no no um uh sorry um uh uh like basically do whatever you can not to resort uh to the phrase, you know, “Too bad I stutter.” Um uh no no um um uh uh pretty much um uh no no I mean aside from determination uh no no um, you know, there's so many ways to do so many different things. Uh no no uh it's like me and my sportswriting. It's like like um uh basically what I do is like, like I do a lot of phone interviews obviously, uh uh and so I I um I basically pre-record my questions uh and to say them fluently uh it helps to [unclear 12:09] me music on like in my headphones. That works for me. That may not work for everyone, but I’m just using that that like like as an example. Um um no no no um uh uh just basically anything you want that uh um uh uh that [unclear 12:34] think is too difficult because it involves speaking, uh uh no no uh uh no no uh there are always going to be ways around it. No no um some are easier to find, some are harder to find uh uh uh but no no uh uh no no uh but whatever the case would be, those uh uh um um um just uh never uh uh give up.
Greg O’Grady: That's good advice. That's good advice.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah, thank you.
Greg O’Grady: Do you have any questions for Ryan?
Katelyn Mayo: I think one question I really like to ask people who stutter, um as somebody who wants to help that community and do everything that I can to be a supporter of that community in the future and an ally, what what do you think helped you the most in terms of like anything, really, in terms of actual speech therapy fluency techniques, or learning to accept your stutter, or to feeling comfortable with your stutter? Like what do you think was like the most helpful resource that you had?
Ryan Cowley: Okay. Uh no no um uh uh it is uh as far as techniques go, um um um um yeah, as far as technique go, um uh it is something that I admit it is tough at times, uh uh uh but once I get into it, I’m fine, um and that is basically to uh uh speak speak slowly. My speech therapist in grade one um no no um and I saw a speech service therapist uh for years, and we have since become friends and remain in touch today, um I've always been a very visual person, so like um uh uh so she did, she had like… She had like one of those like little exercise book that he had a kid had as kids um uh and she would write the techniques in them on a page, and she would draw a picture. Uh no no um uh no no uh and for speak slowly, uh uh no I mean she, like, draws animals, so she drew a turtle for the speak slowly. Uh uh I was even uh uh like saw my Facebook, like and we're actually just just like talking about this maybe a few months ago, and and I was and I was I was joking, but I was serious. Like like uh yeah yeah to this day, all these years later, every time I see speaks, remind myself to speak slowly, I I think of that turtle in the in the like like the green crayon. That's how much I remember it. Um no no um uh and also just good to remember to speak slowly because I remember… Um uh just one example. I was on a podcast, uh one of my friend’s podcast, 2018 I think. Um you know and uh and I would just tell her about my experiences as a person who stutters. Uh it went well, but like but like uh uh, but the thing is, when I heard the recording uh, when she was all said and done, uh no no um no no I mean like the vast majority of what I was saying I couldn't understand because I was speaking so fast uh and that's like, that's kind of one of those things I've like taken into account like like as a public speaker. It just um uh you know you know it's easy to to be up there or uh you know you know or just talking to you guys sitting here and and thinking a lot like [unclear 17:16]... Even when people say, “Take your time,” it's like, you know, uh you think, “Oh, I only have so much time, and I've got to get out,” but the thing is, it’s like like uh you know uh you know once you take the time to speak slowly, it's like um uh, you know, you feel so much better and, of course, uh and of course the faster I speak, uh the more the more I need water so and you know, so it's always good to have a glass nearby, which I don't have… So that's uh that is good practice. Um um no no uh um no no uh but more on that. Like like um um I've said this a lot in recent years, but like um um like for years as a kid, um even as teenager and a young adult, uh like for lack of a better term, I always thought, I always saw my stuttering as a curse, and um you know it's funny. I’m sorry it took so long, but better late than never. Um but no, in recent years, uh uh uh um you know, I see my stuttering as a blessing, as a complete opposite, because like honestly um no no um and I think we're seeing it more and more like uh like like these days when you know uh people especially in the workplace are you know stressing the importance of like inclusion um uh uh um no no um um... I’m just trying to word what I want to say. Um no no it's yeah like uh you know, sometimes it it feels inconvenient to to be a person who stutters, uh but like uh but you know what? And I’m not saying that these afflictions are like better or worse. They're they're just an affliction nonetheless, uh but uh um um uh no no uh um you know, a lot of people who have like different reflections uh uh no no um uh you know, people who don't stutter take speaking, can take speaking for granted, and that's okay. Uh uh um no no um no no uh um you know, I can walk up and down flights of stairs without thinking about it, not knowing that that there are people in wheelchairs who, you know, who can't do that and would even love to do that, and like and like um uh um no no I I mean, I'd go on, but I’m sure you [unclear 20:34] you know what I mean. Um no no no no no no uh um I mean basically like sorry uh um you know stuttering has always like like made me unique. I mean, there’s a lot of things that do make me uh unique, but like um no no no no no no uh but like you know, I spent so many years like like using my sutter as a liability. Well well you know what? Uh especially with the sports writing, how about I use that uh you know well like like as [unclear 21:21] said, it's like um um no no no you know people come up to me after speeches and and no no I mean, I mean maybe I’m too modest to see it, but but they say, “Well you're an inspiration,” and like and I appreciate that, and I say the same thing to them, because like in the last few years I’ve met I’ve met stutterers who are like you know uh you know who are speech pathologists like you, Katelyn, or like um um no no no no I uh um um I I mean I’m just trying to think like like there are stutterers who are like graphic designers or or like aerospace engineers and uh uh uh uh I mean, lots of examples uh uh, but but at the same time, it's like, you know, there's so many people who started from like so many different walks of life, and it's like like um no no um no no and that's how I choose to see it, and, you know, it's all about perspective. And and um I wouldn't say I had the wrong perspective most of my life, but it wasn't the best, so like yeah, uh better late than never, but all these years later it's like, I saw it as a curse. It's not a curse no no no it’s not a curse at all. In fact, it was the polar opposite of a curse. So yeah.
Greg O’Grady: Ryan, I’m wondering now, well, as as as a person who stutters, do do you feel that people who stutter have a good insight as to to the emotional component because we know about the the stuttering iceberg that ten percent of the uh uh the tip of the iceberg is the physical aspects and…
Ryan Cowley: Yeah.
Greg O’Grady: ...the secondary aspects of stuttering, but 90% of the emotional component is below the surface, but based on my experience (and this is me, Greg, speaking), that I feel that it should be the opposite, that one percent of the the tip of the iceberg is the actual physical. 99 of the the lower tip, below the surface, is the emotional. And I feel that sometimes we as people… Well, we, as people who stutter, are not really aware of or in touch with the emotional component or do you think we avoid it or… What's your thoughts about the emotional component of stuttering?
Ryan Cowley: Um yeah yeah no no uh no no uh um no no um um uh no no no um no no you know it's funny like uh um um the emotional uh that is uh very uh important actually, because like um um no no no because like I mean, uh I mean there were a lot… There have been a lot of instances, like growing up uh uh uh, where it’s like no no no uh um uh yeah sorry, a lot of events growing up uh where it’s like um, and especially in school unfortunately, uh uh uh um no no no uh uh no no no no um uh you know you are going to come across uh uh, you know, like kids and classmates you aren't, who are, for lack of a better term, like not the most sensitive. Uh so it's like um no no no no no I I know you know I mean there yeah there have been times I've been mocked and made fun of it, and and as you can as as you can imagine, that you know that um no no no no uh you know, that unfortunately had a pretty devastating emotional impact. Uh um yeah, [unclear 26:25] because of those instances especially uh yeah, the emotional component is is very important um uh, but the thing is, and like um uh… Yeah because I remember at those times, like like when it happened and even like a few years after, just like uh no no um um no no um you know just a range of emotions oh you know you know uh you know um you know, more than not, you know, I was [not 27:13] feeling very like angry, very reject, dejected, and like um uh uh no no uh you know the levels on my confidence, self-esteem were very low. Um um no no um and maybe I just appreciate this more just uh just being an adult, getting older, but it's like like um um no no um I mean there's no it's no excuse, really, but at the same time, it's like, I, you know, when you think about it rationally, um no no no no no no I I mean I know as a kid I've said and done stupid things and like and like no no no no uh uh no no and I’m sure I've hurt like like people's feelings uh you know and and I may not even have been aware of it so um uh uh you know so looking in hindsight as an adult, it's like like um uh uh, again, no no excuse, really, but at the same time it's like uh no no um no no um you come to kind of appreciate um uh uh just where that's coming from because like no no no uh because it's like what my dad always taught me. It's like um no no it's not so much making the mistake. Uh I, you know, it's whether or not you learn from that mistake, and and like um um um you know that's what matters and like uh um um no no uh uh he he he you know also it like it also comes with uh with I guess ignorance, for lack of a better term, because like if um um no no uh because, I mean, there have been instances where like even young children, if they hear me stutter and I look at them, and they're smiling in amusement, um um um you know, like, you you can be taken aback, but at the same time it's like uh uh uh um um no no no um um no no no um, you know, more often more often than not, with children it's, no no uh uh it's just a result of lack of education, lack of awareness. I mean, I mean, that's all. Uh like, what does bother me is like, um uh you know like getting that kind of reaction from older people. It's like like um um um I could... I remember I remember I wanted to buy a new cell phone just like maybe four or five years ago, and I walked into a store and I was having trouble. Uh I was just trying to ask for something, and I was like really getting stuck, and uh um and in the the sales girl and there was another guy working, uh uh uh he, you know, it's I just, you know you know I just I just, [unclear 31:15] smiled amusement like over at her colleague there, and I uh uh... I mean, I obviously wasn't in the mood to say anything or like or like confront or anything, uh but at the same time, it's like, like um no no um you know like like I really felt like saying um, “You know, you do realize this isn't a joke? I’m not doing this, you know, like like like uh... “ Yeah. So um uh yeah, so I I um yes and so um yeah, yeah um so the emotional aspect is uh very important, yes.
Greg O’Grady: Ryan, as, you know, at at this point in your life, where are you now in in terms of accepting your stuttering? How would how would you uh, where are you now in terms of accepting? [unclear 32:45]
Ryan Cowley: Uh uh yeah yeah. Yeah, that’s also a good question. Um uh I guess [unclear 32:51] on a scale of one to uh one to ten, uh 10 being the most accepting. Um um um uh um um um uh uh uh uh uh seven.
Greg O’Grady: Okay. Good, good to hear. Good to hear. Yeah.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah.
Greg O’Grady: Well, I’m telling you Ryan, I mean, this you know, this you know, this has been really interesting, and the more that I’m sure Katelyn will support this more that we're listening to you. You really are help, you really have helped our mission of dismantling and rebuilding stuttering one word at a time, and then this is what the stutter…
Ryan Cowley: Thank you very much.
Greg O’Grady: Some Stutter, Luh! [unclear 33:51] thank you. You see, this is what Some Stutter, Luh! is trying to do in Newfoundland.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah.
Greg O’Grady: We're trying to challenge the stigmas associated with stuttering. We're trying to sort of build awareness, education, and understanding, and acceptance, and so some stutter, this is our opportunity now to really uh promote the voice of people who stutter and our families and our allies in Newfoundland and Labrador. And, you know, Ryan, we we have so much… I have so many questions for you, but we we will be having you back again.
Ryan Cowley: Yes, of course. I’d love to.
Greg O’Grady: But Katelyn, do you have any questions before we uh sign off?
Katelyn Mayo: No questions that I can think of, just a big thank you for coming on and sharing your stories, because I think-
Ryan Cowley: Absolutely.
Katelyn Mayo: I think that's uh something that we uh we're trying to do with this podcast is, there… It's one thing to kind of share research and resources and things like that, but I think almost even more effective way is just sharing stories. Like you might not think they're anything, they're just your experiences, but I think that they do a lot in educating people on the experiences of people who stutter.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah. Yeah, well…
Greg O’Grady: And also…
Ryan Cowley: [unclear 35:02]
Greg O’Grady: And also uh Ryan, you see, I’m a firm believer that, you know, the more that we, as people who stutter, share our own lived experience, this is where we where we find uh support, motivation, and inspiration and and you you know you you know you you know you you you you know you have been an an inspiration.
Ryan Cowley: Okay. Well well well well well uh thank you, Greg. Um yeah yeah. I really appreciate that. Oh, uh one more thing, though. Um you mentioned the, just help eliminate the stigma. Um um one thing I've always had difficulty with, and that's something I've been uh I've been working on especially uh hard recently, um no no uh uh now, this results from something that, you know, that people will uh people assume that, you know, it's because you're being dishonest or lying, but like um uh but like with my speech, especially when I am stuttering, uh uh no no uh and as you can probably notice, uh uh uh from our meeting here, uh you know uh uh uh uh I've always had a hard time with eye contact or or or I guess in my case uh a lack thereof uh, so basically I want to say like no no um um no no uh if you are speaking with me, and and I do have a hard time speaking and I’m and and and I’m not looking you in the eye, please don't take it personally. Yeah yeah, so there.
Greg O’Grady: That's that's great words of wisdom. This certainly is, Ryan. Well, uh Ryan on on on behalf of behalf of some- Some Stutter, Luh! uh Newfoundland and Labrador’s first podcast about stuttering, thank you so very, very much for being our guest today and…
Ryan Cowley: Absolutely.
Greg O’Grady: ...supporting us. And uh so we actually learned a lot, and you really sort of you know are a role model for people who stutter, seriously.
Ryan Cowley: Well well well well well uh um thank uh uh you very much, Greg. I appreciate that.
Greg O’Grady: Okay. So we’ll, you know, we will have you back on again, for sure.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah. Yeah, okay. Great.
Greg O’Grady: Thanks a lot.
Ryan Cowley: Yeah, absolutely. Nope, not a problem. This has been an episode of Some Stutter, Luh!, Newfoundland and Labrador’s first podcast about stuttering. Uh Some Stutter, Luh! is hosted and produced by Greg O’Grady, Katelyn Mayo, and uh uh uh uh Dr. Paul De Decker. Some Stutter, Luh! is available on Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, Google Podcast, Pocketcast, and and and uh and Radiopublic. To ask us a question, send us a comment or suggestion, or uh uh or or or just get in touch, find us online at some @somestutterpodcast on Instagram or @somestutterluhpod uh uh on Facebook. Thank you for l- l- listening.