Written by Makenzie Cochran
So often, many well-meaning people tell those who stutter to just breathe, talk slower or overcome their anxiety. I truly believe most of these people don’t mean to belittle stuttering; it’s just that they don’t quite understand it.
Over the years, I’ve read some truly heartbreaking stories. One courageous lady in particular recounted a time when she was taken into custody and questioned by airport security because she hesitated when the officer asked her where she was going. They assumed she was hiding something. She tried over and over again to explain her condition to them, but they didn’t believe her.
Reading accounts like this has sparked an unquenchable flame in my heart to raise awareness for stuttering. Today, my desire is to share five wishes from the heart of someone who stutters.
1. Stuttering isn’t mental.
Many people might think that stuttering is all in the mind or that it’s something we can control. Everyone stumbles over their words sometimes, whether they’re tired, excited or nervous. However, stuttering is something entirely different. It’s not caused by an anxious spirit, and it can’t be calmed in the same way someone can calm his nerves. Stuttering is completely medical, just like deafness or blindness.
“Everyone stumbles over their words sometimes, whether they’re tired, excited or nervous. However, stuttering is something entirely different.”
2. Stuttering doesn’t affect academic performance.
A few years ago, my mom took me to the public school in our district to receive speech therapy. The therapist tested my sound pronunciation and then gave me an academic assessment test. After reviewing my test scores, she looked at us and said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you. Your test scores are way too high to justify needing therapy.” She was right. My stutter doesn’t reflect on my report card, but does that mean it’s not a real problem? People who stutter have to fight their way through oral reports, science fairs and, hardest of all, speech class. I’m choosing my words carefully, so I don’t sound too proud. Please just know that report card reflects incredible perseverance in the face of adversity.
3. Stuttering comes and goes.
It’s just like how someone who suffers from chronic migraines doesn’t always have a headache. In fact, some people don’t even develop a stutter at all until later in life, as I did. There are days when words tumble out as smooth as silk. There are other days when trying to speak is like trying to swim upstream. The words just don’t come out. But the stutter is just as real on the good days as it is on the bad days. If someone doesn’t stutter in front of you, they might just be having an exceptionally smooth day!
4. Stuttering doesn’t affect our ability to thrive in the world.
Does stuttering pose a huge challenge to success in life? Absolutely. But only if you allow it to. Here I am — a person who stutters on my own name sometimes — in the middle of a communication-driven world, dreaming big dreams for the future. Impossible, right? Not in a world of possibilities. It’s so hard sometimes, but I just have to keep trusting. I have to keep dreaming, even when I don’t see any reason to dream. Even when we can’t see it, there is always a reason to dream.
5. There’s a real person behind the stutter.
Behind that trembling voice is a valiant heart — a heart that refuses to give up, a heart that refuses to be defined by adversity and a heart that desperately longs to be understood by the world. Someone who stutters may be quiet, but please, please, please don’t mistake “quiet” for “unfriendly.” Get to know him as a person. Please don’t treat me differently because I stutter. See me, not my stutter.
If we can just keep educating people about stuttering, the beautiful voices of thousands of people will finally be heard again. This is my greatest wish.
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