TODAY

TODAY   |  July 11, 2013

Woman writes inspirational story of living with stutter

Growing up in England, Katherine Preston dreamed of a magic cure for her stuttering  that would end the bullying and laughter  when she couldn’t even say her own name. But by writing the story of her life, she found a way to embrace herself as she is. NBC’s Jamie Gangel reports.

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>>> roughly 4 million americans and 60 million people around the world stutter. despite years of research little is known about the cause. in her new book "out with it" katherine preston tackles some of the myths and misconceptions. today our national correspondent has her story. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. growing up in england katherine preston dreamed of a magic cure for her stuttering, a cure that would end the bullying, laughter, looks when she couldn't even say her own name. but in writing the story of her life preston found something she never expected. katherine preston is smart, funny, and loves to talk.

>> i do love to talk.

>> but at the age of 7 she developed a profound stutter.

>> just an every day -- every day -- every day person.

>> reporter: ps are hard.

>> i know it.

>> reporter: and has spent her life battling embarrassing moments and myths.

>> this is not about being shy.

>> not at all.

>> reporter: this is not about not being intelligent.

>> no. it's just a -- a brain issue that just isn't quite working in the right way.

>> reporter: not quite synced up.

>> exactly. something going on with me.

>> reporter: today katherine preston can laugh about it, but growing up every day was a painful challenge.

>> the worst as a child is anyone who laughs at you.

>> reporter: to avoid stuttering, she would compensate by using easier words. you became a human thesaurus.

>> i d exactly.

>> reporter: she would even change her own name. what would you say your name was?

>> oh, anything. anything that would be easy. however, you realize that people out there don't have any idea who you actually are. and that is an unhealthy way to be.

>> reporter: throughout the years she tried various forms of speech therapy . some worked for a while but then she would relapse.

>> it just seems to hamper every way thai wanted to interact with the world.

>> reporter: in her last attempt she sent an e-mail explaining why she was speaking so slowly and loudly. a result of the latest messathod she was trying. the response she got back was not what she expected. everyone started telling her their problems. you sort of became everyone's therapist.

>> it was this kind of eye-opening moment of oh, wow. i have a stutter, but everyone else has something else. it was as if i wasn't alone anymore.

>> reporter: another empowering moment?

>> don't -- tell me -- my stammer --

>> reporter: watching "the king's speech."

>> i have a voice!

>> it was acted in such an accurate way. i mean, he is so brave and i think that it was the first time i had ever seen a stutterer in the role -- .

>> reporter: all of which inspired her to write "out with it." was it painful to write?

>> at times. it was hard because you're dragging up memories that have been kind of hidden.

>> reporter: but along the way there were several pleasant surprises. while researching the book she met her fiance jeremy coen, who also stutters.

>> struggled with the development.

>> there isn't anything i'm able to kind of hide from him because he holds all of the depths of stuttering and he loves me anyway.

>> reporter: everyone would like a jeremy .

>> everyone would love a jeremy but they aren't able to have him. he is all mine.

>> reporter: katherine had another epiphany. she came to embrace her stuttering. you identify yourself as stutterer and speaker.

>> i am proud of who i am and even though the world has been where i was for ages it is actually now a pride -- you wear it proud.

>> reporter: what would you like people to take away from this book?

>> i'd really, really like everyone to be aware that we all have a voice. we all have a right to be heard. and that we are all perfectly imperfect.

>> it is such a wonderful book. she is such an elegant writer. the exact cause of stuttering is unknown. researchers believe there is a genetic and a neurological component. there are speech therapy treatments, but some people find them very successful but they don't work for everyone and at the moment there is no magic cure. this book is fabulous, savannah.

>> isn't she lovely? thank you.