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BASED UPON YOUR EXPERIENCES, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL CHILDREN WHO STUTTER?


Saying that we can all overcome our disabilities and rise above the challenges is a cliché that doesn’t always offer much comfort. This trope, while well intentioned, all too easily glosses over the daily grind unique to every individual. It assumes that we overcome our disabilities as rugged individuals with some mystical inner strength innate to those with disabilities. It also ignores that fact that, disability or not, we succeed as part of the communities that nurture, support, and challenge us. I suggest that we place this aspirational story within the reality of our support communities. Find people that believe in you. Surround your inner drive to succeed with those people that cheer you on. Look for those people that will speak truth to you and those willing to walk with you on some part of your journey when the road is easy and when it is difficult.


BASED UPON YOUR EXPERIENCES, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO STUTTER?


My mother and her fellow educators demonstrated how adult leaders need to thoughtfully and, when necessary, forcefully advocate for stutterers who face the institutional misconceptions that limit their opportunities. There is nothing easy about this. Research-based understanding of stuttering has advanced since my elementary school days, but parents and teachers must be willing to find the point where accepted theories shift from helping most children in the aggregate to impeding an individual child whose experience may not align with the majority data. With all the pressures facing parents and educators alike, the heroic attention necessary to defend one child against the best-intentioned institutions can be more exhausting than a stuttering disability. I stand humbled in the memory of those who helped me.


2


"THIS IS THE MINUTE-BY-MINUTE MONITORING OF EVERY MOVE THAT PLACES ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER, OR THE CASE OF A STUTTERER, ONE WORD IN FRONT OF THE OTHER. WE SHARE THIS HABIT OF LIVING. WE ALSO RELISH THOSE SWEET TIMES WHEN SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, LIKE A PIECE OF MUSIC, TAKES IT AWAY, EVEN FOR A MOMENT."


WHAT ELSE SHOULD WE KNOW?


Every time I speak, half of my brain is thinking about the words I am saying, reading the response of those who are listening, and making the necessary adjustments to move my ideas forward. The other half of my brain is devoted to the continuous control of every muscle that makes those words. There are always two parallel thought paths in my head that remain dependent upon each other. People who find themselves as separate from the mainstream, whether it be due to disability, race, gender, economic status, etc., carries two parallel paths in the minds and hearts. We go about the business of advancing our projects and ideas while at the same time monitoring/controlling the mechanics, the assumptions, and the barriers inherent to our particular challenge. This is different from the occasional moments taken by every thoughtful human for self-examination. This is the minute-by-minute monitoring of every move that places one foot in front of the other, or in the case of a stutterer, one word in front of the other. We share this habit of living. We also relish those sweet times when something beautiful, like a piece of music, takes it away, even for a moment.


Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall Performance of the Kyrie with the Nyack College Choir


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