Last night we had a great meeting and a great turnout – fourteen of us, two first timers to the NSA community (welcome Preston and Abdul-Rahiym), thirteen PWS, and one incredible speech pathologist who continues to expand her knowledge on the intricacies of stuttering.
For intros we kept it light and went around saying our names, briefly what brought us here tonight, and one thing that has kept us warm during this frigid winter. Marc W. expressed how Stavro is keeping him warm, which is obviously a ridiculous comment, but Chani kept the vibe classy by saying how she simply ‘bundles up’ before going out in these subarctic temperatures.
Then what ensued was one of the most dynamic NSA meetings I’ve ever been a part of. One member seemed surprised that some of the people in the group were not here to become fluent. Girish explained how for him, ‘chasing the fluency god’ was a path he wasn’t convinced he wanted to go down anymore. Similarly, John Paul expressed how he has stopped ‘fighting’ for fluency. It isn’t worth it to him anymore, and he’s even become a much better communicator in return. Michael T. suggested what works for him is to openly stutter, even voluntarily from time to time. This was a lot to take in for some of us, and as the discussion progressed, it appeared that being a confident person, even an effective communicator, didn’t seem to necessarily require fluency.
We continued to elaborate on this last point; does being an effective communicator require fluency? A book can be written on this. Actually, books have been written on it. ‘Out With It’ by Katherine Preston is a fantastic one. Marc W. feels he’s a very effective communicator, but of course, like many of us, we encounter challenging situations, and sometimes we can be left feeling frustrated. We are human after all. But going back to the notion of being a full-time covert stutterer wasn’t even an option.
I suggested, what are some factors that even affect our perception of our own stuttering? Well, stuttering isn’t talked about much in our society. Perhaps partially due to this, there is a lot of misinformation on it out there. Anyone of us who has asked a friend about stuttering can attest to this. Furthermore, only 1% of the population stutters, and I would guess a significant number of these people are probably covert. And whether we like to admit it or not, the media’s portrayal of what beautiful is, what is expected from us, is something that can influence us and can even condition our beliefs overtime. But Hollywood isn’t real life. What is real are the people who come to our support groups every month, and the thousands of people who have attended the NSA conference year after year. These are some of the most beautiful people I have ever met.
One of our members suggested how his speech therapist told him to never avoid situations, and to not avoid words. Eric J. shared his views on this, explaining to be careful not to be too hard on yourself. In a perfect world it would be nice to go out there, advertise to each and everyone, but sometimes we may encounter a couple bumps on the road, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be such a bad thing. Preston, one of our first-timers brought up a powerful Muhammad Ali quote, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” We’re all on a journey, and for the people that attended this meeting tonight, we are here to grow and change some of our perceptions. Together we can do this, because together we are strong.