My Journey Towards Being Free to Stutter

November 16, 2011  |  Posted in: Blog,Members' Blog - Stuttering Perspectives   |  By:   |   1 Comment

Striving to be stutter-free or free to stutter is the dilemma that many people who stutter (PWS) often deal with at some point during therapy. While becoming stutter-free seems like the ultimate goal; being free to stutter represents the alternate, overlooked path that is rarely considered as a goal in therapy. In a sense, it represents the opposing ideals between change and acceptance. I’ve always desired a stutter-free life and never thought about accepting my stutter. However, when I began my first session of speech therapy, I was faced with the challenge of openly stuttering… and liking it! When I first heard this I said, “Wait… come again? I’ve been stuttering all my life and I’m ready to become fluent… and you want me to stutter no-holds-barred? Are you crazy!?” I knew the purpose of this exercise was to desensitize myself to the fear of stuttering, but to bravely pet this ferocious beast that has wreaked havoc on my speech and my emotions all these years was asking a lot. But I was desperate for help… so I bought into the idea, closed my eyes, and took the plunge…

Fast-forwarding five years later: That ferocious beast that I was once hesitant to embrace is now an erratic house pet that occasionally causes some mischief (but is still loved anyway). In the five years since I’ve taken that “plunge” to openly stutter and desensitize myself, I’ve been more inclined to advertize my stutter to people, and less afraid of speaking situations. Although this was good progress from where I was prior to therapy, I still held a few reservations about some speaking situations and knew that I was not where I wanted to be- I hadn’t hit my stride yet.  In fact, I still did not know what “my stride” was. Was it to still achieve complete fluency? Or did I want to say “to hell with it” and stutter all the time, because that’s who I am? Then I thought: Is this carefree attitude really what I believed? Or is it a front? With all these questions running through my mind, I knew this would be a long process and further action was necessary.

Fortunately, over the course of the next year, a sequence of events played out that collectively served as the turning point in the road to hitting my stride (…or whatever that was to be). First, the movie, King’s Speech, hit theaters and inspired me more than I’d ever expected. Not only did I relate to some of King George VI struggles with stuttering, but also watching him confront these struggles while considering the enormity of that final speech made me put my daily struggles with my stutter into perspective. I realized that if King George VI could step-up and speak to millions of people, then I could certainly step-up and speak in front of 20.  So next, I took action and joined my local Toastmasters Club, where for two nights a month, I got up in front of 20 people and spoke. Meeting after meeting, I slowly built up my confidence to where I was actually looking forward toward public speaking. Then – the pinnacle of my summer – the NSA conference in Fort Worth, Texas, made the biggest impression on me. Everything from the workshops, the new friends I’ve made, the speakers, and the overall atmosphere solidified my identity as a person who stutters. It was at the conference where I finally felt like I hit my stride; where I finally felt free to stutter.

Today, I can say that I am truly comfortable with my speech. Fluency is still the idealized goal, but stuttering is OK whenever it happens. Unfortunately my newfound comfort with stuttering isn’t shared by every listener I come across. This always leads me to ask, “why can’t stuttering be seen as a normal convention of regular speech- like having a different dialect or a foreign accent?” If stuttering was viewed this way, “people who stutter” would just be “people” and life would be a lot easier. It takes small steps, however, to change the public’s perception of stuttering. Take Phil Garber for example, and the bravery he showed when standing up for his right to speak in class. The step he took to bring this issue to the press is only the start of the process of changing the public’s perception. It takes the collective efforts of persons who stutter to go into those everyday speaking situations and make the plunge to show that stuttering doesn’t have to be weird or uncanny… being free to stutter without judgment is just at good as being completely fluent in my eyes.


Disclaimer: Please note that the information and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Blog section of the NSA Queens Chapter website do not necessarily concur with the views or beliefs of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) or the Queens Chapter of the NSA. They are the opinion of each individual contributing author who attends the Queens chapter.

1 Comment for this entry

  • David Alpuche

    November 16th, 2011 on 2:09 pm

    beautifully well written piece, I share the feelings, this here’s conference was my turning point too.

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