Stuttering Didn't Stop Rob Love

Stuttering Didn't Bench Bob Lovealt text

NBA All-Star Bob Love will lead the 2007 campaign for NationalStuttering Awareness Week, May 14-20.

Love knows first-hand the experiences of someone who stutters. Hehas overcome considerablefrustrations and setbacks since his gloryyears with the Chicago Bulls.

"Bob is more than a great basketball star and community leader,"said Jane Fraser, president of the 60-year-old Stuttering Foundation. "He was chosen to serve as chairman because his courage in copingwith his speech impediment serves as an excellent role model for themillions of people worldwide who stutter."

National Stuttering Awareness Week was established by Congress in 1988 to promote public information and understanding concerning thiscomplex speech disorder.

"I know how important it is to receive speech therapy at an earlyage," Love said. "My grandmother Ella used to swat me in the mouthwith a dishrag and say 'Spit out those words, Robert Earl,'" he recalls.

"That approach didn't work, but it underscores thepublic's misunderstanding of stuttering,"said Love, who now speaks out about stuttering awareness regularly.

Difficulty in finding a job for those who stutterwas no surprisetoLove.

"After my retirement from the NBA, reaction by potential employersto my speaking difficulty turned the usually tough post-sports careeradjustment into a living nightmare," Love relates. "I had a collegedegree and a well-known name, but personnel managers seldom call backsomeone who stutters on the telephone. For years, I was either inpoor-paying jobs or out of work."

By the end of 1984-  some seven years after millions had watched himplay NBA basketball-  Love took the only job offered to him. He wouldwash dishes and bus tables for a Nordstrom department store in Seattle.

Yet it was here that Love's story began a slow, grinding anddifficult turn for the better. First, there was the corporate managerof Nordstrom's restaurants, who offered to have his company pay forspeech therapy. Enter speech pathologist Susan Hamilton, whowould guide Love through countless hours of therapy in which helearned to manage his moments of stuttering and speak more fluently.

"Gradually, I learned how to work on my speech and prepare mentallyfor speaking situations," Love says today. "I began accepting a fewspeaking invitations and told whoever would listen about the trialsof those who struggle with stuttering."

Adds Hamilton, "More than 20 years after his first speech therapy,Bob's story continues to inspire people in all walks of life anditprovides hope to children and adults who stutter. He reminds us speechpathologists of the importance of life's work, and challengesus all to work on our individual problems so that we may experiencethe hidden gifts of those who stutter."

"My message to young people and parents isdirect: Don't wait, like I did," Love emphasizes. Speech therapy duringchildhood has the greatest chance of success."

Today, the comeback is complete. Bob Love rose from dishwasherto motivational speaker and director of community relationsof the Chicago Bulls.

In 1988, the National Council on Communicative Disorders awarded himits Individual Achievement Award.

And, in 1990, the NBA Players Association chose Love to receive theOscar Robertson Award for achievement outside basketball. Today, BobLove remains very active with the Bulls. He travels to schools andother places discussing issues important to children and adults alike.

"There is no 'cure' for stuttering, but therapy and hard work oftencan help those affected to speak more easily and fluently," notesFraser. "Bob Love joins an impressive list of famous people who havenot let stuttering hold them back from important careers andrewarding lives. Now he is helping others."