Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD), an annual day intended to raise public awareness of stuttering. The event has taken place each year on October 22 since 1998, when it was launched by the International Stuttering Association, the International Fluency Association and the European League of Stuttering Associations.
In recognition of the event, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some thoughts about my stuttering, being someone who has stuttered since around the age of three or four years old.
Over the years, I’ve realized that there are benefits to stuttering.
- Having compassion
For starters, I’ve come to the realization that being someone who stutters makes me a more compassionate person. It allows me to sympathize with others.
- An interesting trait to have
Although this may sound weird, I think having a stutter can make you more interesting. People have asked me questions, ranging from “Do you stutter more in certain situations?” to “When did you start stuttering?” Although most research out there shows that stuttering has neurological roots, there’s still a lot of mystery to it.
I don’t even know when I specifically began stuttering. All I know is that my stuttering fluctuates between periods of fluency and periods where I get stuck on a certain syllable. And, although stuttering isn’t caused by stress, stress can certainly exacerbate it.
- Being part of a supportive community
Perhaps most of all, it allows me to meet and connect with other people who stutter. In 2011, I attended my first annual conference for the National Stuttering Association (NSA), which is based in New York and is the largest organization of its kind. To be honest, before then, I never knew such a thing existed.
Since 2011, I’ve become involved in the NSA, the Canadian Stuttering Association and Stutter Social. I’ve met other stutterers from all walks of life, and from virtually every part of the world, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, India, New Zealand and Croatia.
And in the few weeks preceding ISAD, stutterers, their friends and families, researchers, and anyone with a stake in stuttering came together for ISAD’s annual online conference, hosted by Judith Kuster, professor emeritus at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
I’ve definitely become involved in such a close-knit community of likeminded people.
In the past, I’ve considered my stuttering to be an obstacle. But since then, I’ve learned to accept it and I realized it’s only an obstacle if I let it become one. I don’t consider it a problem anymore – simply a trait. And I’ve decided to see the glass as half full instead of half empty.