Nine of us got together in Brooklyn last Monday for our July chapter meeting. We had one first timer, who seemed to merge with the group seamlessly (Welcome, T!).
More than half of us had just returned from the World Congress of People Who Stutter in Atlanta, where over 800 people from our community gathered for a week of workshops, social events and lectures about stuttering. Those of us who attended were sleep deprived and reflective on the emotionally charged week. We talked about highlights from the conference, which included…
- The large network of friends that forms rapidly at self help conventions, especially for first-timers.
- A larger focus on activism than years past, in the form of workshops discussing the disability rights movement and reducing societal stigma.
- A great workshop about history of the National Stuttering Project, from its humble origins in San Francisco in 1977.
- A workshop in which teens and tweens overwhelmingly believed that stuttering is simply a speech difference, whie the 20-S and adults in the room seemed to argue that it was a disorder that greatly affected their lives. This could mean a lot of different things, but perhaps speaks to the self-image of a group of kids that grew up attending self-help conferences and chapter meetings (and are part of a generation who generally giggles at the labels and boundaries us older folks have placed on ourselves and each other).
One of our members spoke about being approached by a mother of a child who stutters and called “inspirational” for asking a question during a workshop. She was not referring to the content of this question, but rather to his resolve to communicate while stuttering. Most of us felt like this kind of “compliment” speaks more to the mother’s fear of stuttering than to the speaker being inspirational or not. This is not to say that she is wrong to feel moved by seemingly fearless stuttering, but the group was unsure it requires an announcement and assumption that the stutterer himself has claimed success just by speaking. This is how we talk — it doesn’t always merit an honor of bravery — just a respectful listener 🙂
Then, we talked about how claiming our existence in the world may be the most effective way to make change. Or “raising awareness” as its often called. Geoff’s plan to approach and train HR departments in the city was discussed (using our newfound connection in Disability work in DeBlasio’s gov’t) AND the idea of a “Stuttering Pride” march was proposed. The group loved this idea – complete with meetings devoted to painting clever banners and marching songs. It would be a fun way to get out there and let people know we exist and are not just huddled away in silence. The loose plan is to hold the march on International Stuttering Awareness Day (October 22nd), invite NSA chapters from near and far and reach out to other local stuttering organizations to make it a non-branded awareness raising events for all!
As our NYC community has had a very busy spring and summer thus far, we will plan to get some rest in August. Then get to work on these new initiatives in late August/early September. In the meantime, we hope to see you at our local chapter meetings!
- Midtown Manhattan Chapter : Today, July 18th from 7:30 – 9pm at 248 west 35th St.
- Brooklyn Chapter: Monday, August 8th from 7:30 – 9pm at 30 3rd Avenue in BK.
Enjoy these sweltering days….