We had an wonderful turnout on Monday night, with 28 people in attendance, including 3 newcomers and many old-timers. We warmed up quickly and got talking about stuttering, the thing most near and dear to our hearts. Thank you Tom Pascal for capturing the highlights of the night and writing this recap. We value your insights, understanding and talent that you bring to our community.
When asked if there was anything on their minds, it didn’t take long for one group’s pensive silence to melt away into a thoughtful, emotive discussion on the nuances of the meanings and effects of self-acceptance in those situations where it might matter, or cost, the most.
One member shared that he was happier and more emotionally free than he could remember, even after suffering the ultimate consequence of prejudice toward PWS in the workplace. Being let go, he has chosen to fight back, and took the opportunity to advertise and educate fearlessly. In doing so, he found a bigger life, and that that he had more friends, both within his former workplace and the larger community, than he’d ever imagined.
Another member spoke eloquently about how his own journey as a PWS will have ultimately made him the best possible father for his son, who is also beginning to stutter.
This was encouraging to another person who had just begun to take stock of the costs of being covert and wondered what moving forward as a proud member of the community will mean for not only his children and marriage, but for his own understanding of who he was. He had always described himself as an introvert, but was this his truth or a story he’d been telling himself? The discussion became peppered with stories of how some found an ebullient personality and visceral, satisfying happiness, brought about by the shared vulnerability we’re all gifted with as people who stutter.
Another group focused on that constant, sometimes deafening static that trickles, and then inundates our headspace as we anticipate a communicative interaction, often drowning out any sense of self-assurance. The conversation quickly pivoted to the professional setting, where this anticipatory anxiety can sometimes manifest itself in a forced vulnerability that many see as the antithesis of competent professionalism. One member, drawing from their experience as an SLP who stutters, wondered what this might look like in a classroom setting where if, when coming to pick up a child for therapy, the SLP stutters in their exchange with the teacher and is met with that oft-parroted, ever-frustrating line “ Did you forget your name?” Some members felt that it would be prudent to address such a lack of professionalism on the part of the teacher after class, so as to spare all involved possible embarrassment and a disruption of the learning process.
Others argued that in fact, there was no more important lesson, both for the teacher, should they wish to think of themselves as a compassionate and learned member of society, and for her young brood, than to know that such comments are in poor taste and that you can, in fact, stand your ground as a professional advocate and a competent adult, stutter or not. Most importantly, this would leave a lasting impression on the child in therapy, at an age where so many impressionable minds look to adults to define the boundaries of what’s possible.
It’s always important to advocate in ways you’re comfortable with. But by addressing such comments then and there, in an educational and assertive manner, you’re able to demonstrate how to win a battle that most children who stutter will find themselves party to countless times in life, the prize being a truly boundless, curious and confident sense of self- not something you could ever hope to recreate in a therapy room. It is by our courage that we will ensure the next generation truly knows no limits.