I’ve always been someone who stutters. That will never change. However, what has changed are my perceptions surrounding my stuttering. While I considered it a source of embarrassment when I was younger, I’m now more open about my stuttering and, in some ways, I’m proud of it.
Yes, you heard me correctly. According to the National Stuttering Association based in New York, one per cent of the global population stutters and I’m proud to be a member of that minority.
Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD), recognized annually on October 22 to raise global awareness of stuttering.
Last year, for ISAD, I published a blog post about the benefits of stuttering. And for National Stuttering Awareness Week, which is celebrated in May in the U.S., I blogged about the misconceptions surrounding stuttering. This year, keeping in line with my optimistic views on stuttering, I’m taking another approach: despite the struggles, it really is a good time to be someone who stutters. Here are my reasons.
1. The King Speech was released in 2010.
The film brought stuttering to the forefront. While the film – and stuttering overall – gained media attention across Canada and the U.S. during the weeks surrounding its release, it also created an opportunity to start conversations about stuttering. If I had a nickel for every time someone mentioned how great the film is when I brought up my stuttering…well, you know. However, while the film opened the doors to conversations about stuttering, it’s up to us stuttering folks to keep the doors open and maintain that momentum.
2. We live in an age of social media.
Stuttering can be isolating for us as we live in a fast-talking world with people who are fluent. However, thanks to technology and social media, that one per cent of people worldwide who do stutter now have the opportunity to connect. For instance, because of my involvement with Stutter Social, an international online support group for people who stutter, I have connected with others who stutter from countries such as the U.S., India and Croatia via Google+ Hangouts.
3. There is a flurry of resources out there to support people who stutter.
In 2011, I attended the NSA’s annual conference, which was held that year in Fort Worth, Texas. It was my first conference for folks who stutter and even my first time meeting others who share the same trait. Yes, to my surprise, there are conferences catered to people who stutter. From the Canadian Stuttering Association to the British Stammering Association, there are associations and support groups worldwide. In fact, meeting and building friendships with other stutterers is what put me on the path towards acceptance.
4. We live in a more accepting society.
I also believe that, overall, we live in a society where people seem to more accepting of individual differences. When I was a child, I used to agonize over the thought of what people may be thinking upon hearing me stutter. Recently though, I’ve realized that most people honestly don’t care. They look past my stutter and listen to what I have to say.
5. Stuttering really is a cool trait to have.
As I previously said, as someone who stutters, I’m part of a minority. It gives me something interesting to talk about. To be honest, I don’t consider my stuttering to be a disability or a crutch. Instead, it’s something I simply happen to do. It’s a trait or a characteristic, and an unusual one at that. Besides, for those of us who stutter, we’re in good company. In addition to everyone’s favourite Looney Tune, Porky Pig, who stutters, other not-so-fictional known stutterers include U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and James Earl Jones (yes, the voice of Darth Vader).
In short, being someone who stutters as well, it keeps life exciting. And it makes me memorable. Instead of simply being Samuel, I’m Samuel, the guy with the cool stutter.
For those like me who stutter, I encourage you to try to see the benefits and to be open about it. And for those who don’t stutter, I encourage you to learn more about an issue that affects people from all parts of the world and from all walks of life. Feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences as someone who stutters.
In the words of Porky Pig, “th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”